Posts Tagged 'reptiles'

Pet-trade Refugee

Trachemys scripta elegansOne of the many surplus Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) dumped into local waterways. Idiots buy them and tire of them and let them loose. The red “ear” is actually just a mark; on this specimen it’s rather pale; sometimes it doesn’t show at all. I once counted 70 RESs, which are native to the southeast and the Mississippi Valley, along the Lullwater from bridge to bridge. Releasing pet turtles is illegal because of the risk of disease, but that stops nobody.

Why do people insist on taking animals from the wild for their own, all-too-often ephemeral, entertainment? I suppose if they see it in a store or bucket on the street — it’s actually illegal to sell turtles smaller than 4″ because of the risk of salmonella — they don’t think it’s a wild animal to begin with. Or one that will grow out of a toy aquarium before too long; these animals can live for decades. Or after Junior’s attention has moved on to other whims, and that cute lil’ turtle is no longer so.

There’s a subculture of fancy turtle and tortoise fans that make much of their fetish here in the city and elsewhere, pleased how their pet, for instance, spends the winter in the freezer to mimic the amazing down-cycling some of these animals use to get through the frozen months. Really? You’re proud of having de-natured a wild creature for your own vanity and ego? And spare me the argument of breeders, who are doing it for profit.

There’s a now-famous tortoise that is walked in Central Park to much social media hoopla. But the poor creature belongs in habitat on another continent, not Central Park. Such attention, like dumb kids’ movies, has probably amped-up the demand, unleashing the cruel and destructive pet-hunting industry — for where there are warped desires, the profiteers will leap in to provide and crush everything else beneath their feet.

3 Turtle Species

Clemmys guttataSpotted (Clemmys guttata).Chrysemys pictaPainted (Chrysemys picta).Chelydra serpentinaSnapping (Chelydra serpentina). All on the same day at Great Swamp. There were two Snappers, the pictured one being enormous; a dozen Painted; and half-a-dozen Spotted. I am most enamored of the Spotted. Here’s another:IMG_6594

The Temp is Too Damn High

Trachemys scriptaIt’s getting so that “unseasonable” is no longer an appropriate word for never-ending autumn. This is the new seasonableness. On Friday, which set records around the region for high temperatures in a year shaping up to be the hottest on record, two Red-eared Sliders were sunning themselves in Prospect Park.Tamias striatusA couple of Chipmunks were out and about. This one stuffed a hickory nut into it’s right cheek and lopsidedly zipped down into a hole to store it for later.ChrysopidaeAnd the next day, a Green Lacewing (Chrysopidae) flitted through the air before resting on this cherry in the Flatbush Gardener’s patch.

Brooklyn: It’s Not Just for Hipsters

Marmota monaxA parent and young Woodchuck/Groundhog (Marmota monax). Marmota monaxHere’s the youngster, perhaps 2/3rds the size of the adult, who is presumably the mother as males visit burrows to mate but don’t stay around. Both animals were mowing through the grasses, then this one found a nut or fruit. They are eating-machines this time of year, fattening up for winter hibernation in the ample hills — but not as ample as they used to be — of Brooklyn. Chelydra serpentinaA big old Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina).Chelydra serpentinaGiving me the beady eye. The length of neck here is arm-like, hence the serpentina. I’ll be damned if I know how a) this big reptile survives in this little pond, and b) how it gets out, which I doubt it can do, since the wall surrounding it is about 3 feet high.
Archilochus colubrisA Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris), look closer, maneuvers for a drink.

All in Brooklyn, and on an afternoon’s walk.


Podarcis siculaNew York State has three native species of lizard: Northern Fence, Five-lined Skink, and Coal Skink. And one introduced species: the Italian Fence Lizard (Podarcis sicula). P. sicula evidently spread out from a release in Hempstead in 1967. The first time I ever became aware of them was when a photo of a Kestrel taking one to its Manhattan nest made the rounds of local birders some years ago. I’ve seen them in the cemeteries of Queens: they love stone walls. But they are quick and agile and hard to photograph. I finally got one in the digital camera at the New York Botanic Garden recently.

Frog, Rock, Turtle

IMG_3716This downward-facing turtle was king of the hill.IMG_3724This frog wanted a piece of the action.IMG_3722And this was one determined frog.IMG_3723It made several attempts to…well, what, exactly? Dislodge the turtle? In theory, the right amount of force applied to the fulcrum here should have knocked off the much larger turtle. IMG_3736But the turtle’s steadying feet made for an impregnable bastion.IMG_3728Meanwhile, and this was somebody else’s storyline, a young House Sparrow landing on all the nearby rocks and the other basking turtles briefly landed here. The turtle seemed to pay no more heed to this than it did the kamikaze frog.IMG_3730A state of equilibrium? IMG_3719But wait. Another rock. Another turtle. Another frog.IMG_3720

Everywhere You Look

HisteridaeFound in the salad spinner after washing some organic lettuce. A Histeridae family beetle, also known as hisser or clown beetles, even though they don’t wear much makeup. They eat the larvae of flies.OpuntiaA late-blooming Prickly Pear (Opuntia), one of my favorite local flowers. Speyeria cybeleA very beat-up Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), a new species for me. They’re rare in the city; this was at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and seemed to be flying pretty well, considering.Malaclemys terrapinDiamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) also at JBWR.Malaclemys terrapinOur only brackish water turtle. Only the females come to land, to lay their eggs. This one was heading back to the bay, so presumably she had spent the night digging a nest. Considering most of the JBWR nests are plundered by Raccoons (introduced by the highway), best wishes to her. MutillidaeI thought at first this was a large, fast-moving ant, but it’s actually a Red Velvet Ant of the Mutillidae family. Pardon the common name, these are actually wasps and are supposed to have a fierce sting, leading to their alternate name of, head’s up, people, “Cow Killer.” (This is why we have a telephoto lens.) Females are wingless; the winged males look a little more waspy. The larvae are ectoparasites on other wasps, including Cicada Killer Wasps.


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