Posts Tagged 'reptiles'


Chelydra serpentinaA young Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) tests the air. Neither a wizened old warrior the size of a European subcompact nor a silver dollar-sized baby, this one was about 4″ long. Chelydra serpentina

Morning Stretch

IMG_5694Upward-facing turtle, with a keen eye on the photographer.

Frog, Turtle, ‘Gator

Lithobates catesbeianusBig Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus).Chelydra serpentinaBigger, much bigger: Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Possible looking for a place to exit the water and lay eggs (you need another reason to enforce the leash law in our parks?). Judging by the shell, I’d say I’ve seen this giant before. Also, even enormous Snappers start small; here’s a baby I found in Mass a couple of years ago.Alligator mississippiensisAnd much bigger still: an American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)Alligator mississippiensisSteady! Not in Brooklyn. Spotted on my Texas trip last month.


Anolis carolinensisThe Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis).Anolis carolinensisAs you might infer from its binomial name, a native of the south. In fact, the only anole native to the continental U.S. There are at least half a dozen non-native species in Florida. The southern-most tip of Texas also has the introduced Brown Anole (A. sagrei), who don’t observe any genus-loyalty and eat the Greens. Anolis carolinensisI tried to get a shot with the pink throat fan extended, as here, but from the side to best show off this mating and territorial marker (males have bigger ones, yadda-yadda).Anolis carolinensisAnother was flashing until I got the zoom on him.

The Morning Rush

rush hourNot exactly going anywhere at the moment.


There were a lot of lizards, which you would expect for a desert. They are tough subjects to photograph, though, being such dashers and darters. I got a few:r2lizardr1

r4This Garter subspecies was unfortunately run over by an earlier vehicle. Still kicking here, but extruding innards elsewhere, so it may not have made it.


Elaphe obsoletaAn albino version of the New York native Black Rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta) being held by one of Prospect Park’s “Pop-Up Audubon” staffers recently.

This is the largest snake species in the state, reaching up to six feet in length. They get bigger in the South. Constrictors, Black Rat snakes squeeze their prey to death, and will eat anything from eggs to other snakes, with small mammals, including bats, a mainstay. That last menu item is a good clue for where you might find these snakes: they are excellent tree climbers. Generally a woodland species, they are also fond of barns and their attendant mice and rats, meaning they are a good friend of the farmer.

This guy normally lives in the Audubon Center at the Boathouse, which, unfortunately, will not be open on weekends in the near future. Instead, “Pop-ups” (a trendy term for “temporary” and subject to the weather; last Saturday’s was cancelled) will be positioned around the park under a flimsy tent — without the restroom, water fountain, cafeteria, air-conditioning, and safe space services that the Boathouse also provided. This is a bad state of affairs, particularly when one sees private parties using the facilities for weddings and the like. Now, the Audubon Center will be open later in May on Thursdays and Fridays, but weekends are the park’s busiest times. The fact that the Boathouse will be open on weekdays suggests that this decision isn’t one of funding, but one of fundraising. Money is to be made renting out the Boathouse for persons of means.

This is, as I have noted for many years, the inevitable result of privatization. Those with money get the goodies, and, perhaps more importantly, control the agenda about those goodies. The Prospect Park Alliance — an unelected entity, it must be remembered, that of necessity follows the course of which people will fund what projects — was set up to help fundraise for the park. It has done very many impressive things, remaking the park for the better after the disastrous abandonment of the urban by tax-supported white flight, subsidized suburbanization, and the long counter-revolution against the public sphere, that profoundly successful assault on American democracy. And, over time, under the administration of neoliberal tribunes like Koch, Dinkins, Giuliani, and Bloomberg, the Alliance and similar entities has been progressively pushed towards funding the majority of the park’s operations as public monies, and oversight, have been withdrawn.

Of course, compared to Central Park, which has reveled in the millions of the super-rich, Prospect is barely a glimmer in the eye of our masters of the universe. Meanwhile, parks without wealthy neighbors — in the Bronx, Queens, other neighborhoods of Brooklyn — simply hope to have a few drops of largess dribble down upon them, trickling down from the heady heights. When parks manifest the great gap between haves and have-nots, we know how far into the hole of injustice we’ve fallen.

Maryland Monument Memorial Parking Lot

Maryland Memorial Parking Lot

In a related notion, park lawns are much too precious to withstand large political demonstrations, but more than a week-long occupation by the likes of the disastrous Great Googa Mooga Shit Pile, this year boasting of its “temporary cell towers” so that 30,000 food lovers can Instagram pictures of their meals to their friends — that’s their example — why, sure! ConstructionLast Friday, preparations for this Friday’s GGMSP were underway at 7 a.m.

As a side-note — the snake of the minority constricts the majority of us — it should be noted that philanthropy is tax-deductible, which means that it is not actually charity, that is, given, sacrificed, without any promise of give-back. It’s a system that results in even more of the tax burden being pushed upon those who can not lawyer-, accountant-, and Congressperson-up.

Gifts of Sight and Sound

Sayornis phoebeSaturday was an epic day of nature exploration here in the wide world of the Borough of Brooklyn. In the morning, I took a friend and her mother birding in Prospect Park. We saw some 44 species of birds, a good-turn out for our visiting Virginia birder. In the late afternoon, I joined two other friends to explore Dead Horse Bay and the North Forty at Floyd Bennett Field. 50 species noted, with some overlap. All told, I spent about 9 hours walking, wandering, watching, and listening. return a gift pondThis is Return-A-Gift Pond at Floyd Bennett Field. Near sunset, there were 23 Black-crowned Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) hanging out here (another friend had counted twice as many earlier in the day; check out his picture of this same tree absolutely fruited with the birds).Ardea albaThis single Great Egret (Ardea alba) was completely outnumbered. Now, Night-herons, as their name suggests, do their best work after sunset. And after sunset, the spring peepers emerge. Vocally, that is. There are a few off-trail wetland spots in the North Forty, but the majority of these little frogs are right there at Return-a-Gift, throbbing the night with their calls. Even with the nearby sounds of Flatbush Avenue and frequent JFK jets blasting overhead, the sound of the massed frogs was profoundly impressive. I made a recording.

But this was not the only sound of twilight. The choral frogs were seconded by soloist American woodcocks (Scolopax minor) a-courting. We heard their “peent” calls on the ground and then the dry whispery twittering they do in the air. It’s the males, showing off — I suppose “sounding off” is a better description. It was all about the sound for us hominids, anyway, although we did see one in the sky, with the curve of the moon behind him, and then we saw one plummet back down to earth just above the lighter path in front of us a couple of times.woodpecker nestA male Downy Woodpecker scooted out of this nest hole complex, attempting to draw us away, we thought, so it was a command we complied with.

Something unexpected: I heard the briefest bit of what I thought was the crowing of a Ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). I haven’t heard this sound in something like 35 years (they were common around the house when I was in high school), but it is distinctive. The species was introduced to North America as a game bird; there was an effort once at Green-Wood Cemetery to release them there for ornamental purposes. They are generally wiped out by predators, including cats. Anyway, I wasn’t 100% confident that that’s what I heard, but later I had found out another birder had heard the bird there earlier, and that was enough for me.

Waiting for the fairly reliable Q35, our binoculars all packed away, we watched something with huge wings fly heavily across Flatbush above us in the nine oclock dark towards us the Bay. Egret, heron, the Owl of Minerva? Whatever it was, it was a great nightcap.


Something I was not aware of. Didn’t think we had any lizards at all up here in New York, except for the introduced Italian Wall Lizards. But there are actually four species in the state, three natives and the Italian, which I’ve seen in Queens. Both the Five-lined Skink and the Eastern Fence Lizard are found in the Hudson Highlands (although why the parks people had to go to Ohio for a picture I don’t know). Now I have to find them. Stay tuned for a sunny day in the spring.

Lil’ Snapper

A baby Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) has the unfortunate characteristic of blending in quite well with a road. South Cross Road, in Bradford, Mass., to be exact. While in the area last week, I saw several Painted turtles and a few others I could not identify who didn’t make it across that road and other death strips. This little one, though, had a helper… your friendly blogger.Remember, if helping a turtle across a road, move it in the direction it is heading. Given several decades of staying off the roads and out of a Great Blue Heron’s gullet, this guy might become one of the giants.Snappers have small plastrons, or bottom shells, compared to our other turtles. What they lack in protective defense, then, they make up with strong jaws at the end of a long neck (note that species name serpentina, like a snake) as well as sharp claws.

And check out the tiny freshwater clam hitching a ride there at the shoulder. There’s never a malacologist around when I need one.


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