Posts Tagged 'reptiles'

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A 73-degree November day early this month kept the lizards slithery.

Have we seen the last of them until the spring?

I saw my first years ago in a Queens cemetery where Harry Houdini is supposedly buried. (Well, he got out of a lot of things, right?)

Podarcis siculus. iNaturalist’s lizard crew marks them as the subspecies campestris, Northern Italian Wall Lizard, offshoots of the pet trade.
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Speaking of the pet trade: flea treatments for dogs and cats are poisoning the UK’s waters, threatening other insects, and fish, and so on down the line. People evidently apply these pesticides prophylactically, even with no evidence of infestation. I imagine the same here, where pet ownership has skyrocketed in recent decades and dogs, particularly, have been transformed into members of the family, with all the rights they’re entitled to against the planet’s unvoiced claims.

Lizards

A small one.
A smaller one.
An adult.

Seeing more of these Northern Italian Wall Lizards. They’re quick once they move, but if you catch them before they move…. They’re one of the reasons the American Kestrels like hanging out here, by the way.

Lizard, Abbreviated

Northern Italian Wall Lizard.
Lost its tail. The replacement growth is never as long as the original.

Podarcis siculus ssp. campestris got to America via the pet trade. They have expanded out from several areas, including on Long Island.Note that this article says there’s no evidence of birds eating these lizards. But in fact, there is. I’ve seen a photograph of an American Kestrel taking one to the nest in Manhattan. AND I’ve seen it personally, right here with the local #BrooklynKestrels..

Lizards!

Two sightings of Northern Italian Fence Lizards in Green-Wood this summer.
I first became aware of this introduced species when a picture of an American Kestrel carrying one of the lizards made the rounds of the birding crowd years ago. The lizards seem to have gotten here via the animal slave — oh, sorry, I meant pet — trade.
I saw my first ones in a Queens cemetery, where Houdini is supposedly buried (hey, he got out of everything else, right?). They are a regular sight at the NYBG in the Bronx.
A couple of years ago, a very trustworthy source (Reader, I married her) spotted one on the edge of Green-Wood. But I hadn’t seen one in the scales in Brooklyn myself until this summer.

Diamondbacks

It’s hard to see through the intervening plants, but this terrapin is just starting to dig a hole for her eggs. We were on the path. This is an excellent example of why people need to stay on the path out at Jamaica Bay, as well as Salt Marsh Nature Center where Killdeer and Oystercatchers nest in the grasses. These are places where humans don’t need to be the priority.It took just under half an hour for the whole excavation, laying, burial. Her back feet are surprisingly long. She extends them way back to paddle back the sandy soil she first dug up. All done, she headed back to the bay. She never sees her own eggs.

Unfortunately, the road and bridge connecting these formerly isolated pieces of land in the bay mean the Wildlife Refuge is crawling with raccoons. The raccoons eat the vast majority of Diamondback Terrapin eggs laid here.

More about these Diamondback Terrapins.

Herps

We were hoping this Northern Watersnake would keep coming, passing under the boat launch dock we were standing on.But this Nerodia sipedon wasn’t playing. Instead it took shelter in these rocks, amid crabs, oysters, and periwinkles, peeping out occasionally to see if we were still there. Can you spot it?Here’s what we thought was a big Ratsnake (Pantheropphis obsoletus) soaking up the rays off the path. The cloudy eyes means this one is getting ready to shed.As you can see from the duckweed and young damselfly, these Acris genus cricket frogs are small, around an inch or so from bow to stern.But they pack a big voice. May not have noticed them if not for that, and the splashing.Tried to get a picture of their throats extending like pale balloons as they called, but no such luck.

All in southeastern Virginia.

Skinks

Three species of Plestiodon skinks are found in southeastern Virginia.Juveniles of the Common Five-lined (P. fasciatus) and Southeastern Five-Lined (P. inexpectatus) have these amazing blue tails.Adults are harder to ID if they’re not in the hand. I originally thought this one might be a Broad-headed (P. laticeps) because of the red in the head, but all the males of these three species seem to get this coloration during mating season. (There’s a tick crawling on this one’s head.)“Skink” comes from the Greek skigkos which made it to Latin as scincus, “a small N. African lizard (Scincus officinalis), formerly used in medicine” (OED). Tail of skink? We found ’em in three separate locations. It’s a skinky state.We watched this one scout every nook and cranny in this rotting log.

Lizard

An Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) that liked this log so much we saw it going out and coming back on this path in Virginia.I least I think it’s the same specimen: the lighting, distance, and angle causing the color variation here. These critters perch hunt, meaning they sit and wait for something (“wood-boring beetles, ground beetles, leaf beetles, weevils, click beetles, rove beetles, blow flies, stink bugs, leafhoppers, ants, moths, short-horned grasshoppers, longhorned grasshoppers, roaches, spiders, millipedes, and snails”) to amble by — which is another reason I think it’s the same animal.One of the spiny scaled lizards… They get as as far north as southern New Jersey (dry piney woods are their favorite habitat).

How About Some Turtles

Recently seen:
Some Spotted Turtles. The last pictured was tiny, perhaps 1.5″ down the shell (head to tail).Painted Turtles.At a whole other scale, a veteran Snapping Turtle krakening the shallows.

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The new abolitionism: a fascinating profile of Ruth Wilson Gilmore.

Northern Water Snake

Nedordia sipedon sipedon are fairly melanistic in our neck of the woods.The species, with four subspecies in the east, is highly variable in coloration and patterning, but these dark ones are the only versions I’ve seen.There is some lighter coloring and markings on their underside, as these chins suggests.They can get up to five feet in length.A very nice look at the keeled scales in the pictures above and below. The keel, or ridge, along the center of each scale is quite prominent in this species. Figuring out if your snake has keeled or smooth scales is a good first step in identification. For instance, the somewhat similar Racer (Coluber constrictor) has unkeeled scales.These things will eat a huge variety of fish and amphibians; young ones will go for invertebrates, too.Snake-killers, a particularly nasty subspecies of H. sapiens, often target this species (as well as other harmless snakes) because they’re mistaken for cottonmouths or other venomous snakes. Fish-killers, and their game warden allies, also kill this species because they mistakenly think the snakes are serious competition for game fish.


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