Posts Tagged 'reptiles'

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.

Snake Book

Snakes of the Eastern United States by Whit Gibbons is an excellent addition to the natural history bookshelf. It’s sumptuously well-illustrated by many photographers.

Here’s the skinny on our snakes: there are 63 species of snakes native in the eastern US. There’s a serious north-south gradient: Maine has 10 native species (one of which, the timber rattlesnake, may be extirpated from the state) and Florida has 45 native species.* About 20 of the 63 species are endemic to the US east of the Mississippi (and Louisiana). There are subspecies and color variations for more than a few of all these.

Only 7 of the 63 species are venomous. They get way too much not just bad press but wrong press. These snakes are very reluctant to bite humans. And if you do get bit, we have a medical system of sorts that functions pretty well for this kind of thing (the cost is another issue, which we should be able to solve with Medicare for all were it not for our masters wanting us to worry ourselves and bankrupt ourselves to death). You have a better chance of being killed by lightning than being killed by a venomous snake. Bites from dogs are three times more fatal. Sure, the Venomous Seven can be dangerous, but use common sense, know what to look out for, watch where you’re going, wear boots when hiking, leash your dog, et cetera.

I’ve seen too few of these critters: Rat, Garter, Ribbon, Northern Water (pictured below). This year, I’m aiming to spot a Brown.

*There are some 3000 described species in the world. More than 140 of these are native to the entire U.S. This book also touches upon four introduced species, including the nightmare pet trade African python currently eating up Florida.

Northern Water Snake:

These nature goals were written for NYC, but are apropos everywhere.

Autotomy

Lizards can shed their tails to escape predators, including the two-legged kind. This is called autotomy (“self-severing” or self amputation): reptiles, amphibians, spiders, mollusks, even some mammals have various forms of it. The lizard tail situation is probably the best known manifestation of this adaption.

There will be some regeneration, as you can see here, but not quite as perfect as the original.

When I was ten-ish, we lived north of Naples, Italy. The place, a Sixth Fleet suburb called Parco Azzuro, was terraced up a hillside. There was a tufa retaining wall on one side of the property dropping down to the road. This is where we saw most of the local lizards. Something about a wall doth a lizard love. (In fact, the NYC lizards pictured here, Podarcis sicula are also known as Italian Wall Lizards and originated in the Mediterranean region.) Trying to catch them meant I came away with still-twitching tails several times. One lives and learns. I suppose that is what is so wonderful about us a species. The countervailing tendency is to hunker down and endlessly repeat initial errors. That’s another human characteristic, rather less laudatory. And a good description of the bunkered politics of roughly a quarter of the population. Low-information partisans fortified by the conspiracies and bigotries of Fox and it’s even more grotesque familiars InfoWars, Limbaugh, and the like, are unquestionably the enemies of democracy.  These crazies have never been more powerful.

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Someone asked if this blog’s fundraiser was still open: it is.


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