Amphibians & Reptiles


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Seems like I’ve hardly been outside since this trip in early Spring…and I really want to share some more photos before full-on summer is here. Enjoy!

This shorebird was literally unmoved by the splash of waves crashing against the rocky shore of the bay near…Baytown, TX.

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She speaks! Small, soft little calls to no-one in particular.

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This was a colorful and active sparrow, running around at the shoreline. It struck me as odd – sparrows are birds whom I expect to see in trees and fields, and near lakes and streams. This one likes the bay!

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I have never seen these most interesting crabs until I went on this trip. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw the sand moving. I had to look for a good 15 seconds or so before they (there were a LOT of them) started moving again. I guess my approach spooked them. But wow, when they all started moving, the whole area was in motion. One big claw, one little…no, just one big claw. They eat fast and continuously with the little…hands. Their eyes are held proudly above their head…not just any creature can do that. And when frightened, they dart into holes i the sand, covering up the top with that big claw. Fascinating.

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I’m guessing this is a laughing gull. Great color pattern, obliging subject for me and my camera.

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I love this photo – that turtle is most definitely smiling, and I simply must smile back.

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This small turtle, I’m guessing it is a young one, was in the middle of the road early in the morning. I pulled my car over to move her to the other side, and took the opportunity to photograph her. She pulled into her shell so far that her skin bulged out. What a cutie.

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This young alligator was one of about a hundred I saw during my trip to Anahuac NWR. Lots of sunning and sleeping going on, and lots of little ones. All of the alligators seemed to be incredibly disinterested in people. I am thinking that is why there were no “Beware of Alligators” signs, despite their numbers and proximity to trails. Actually, they probably fear people, given the number of restaurants advertising “fresh swamp alligator” on their signs.

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I will do my best to get more photos up before so much time goes by again. I’ve got some awesome Roseate Spoonbill and Great Egret photos, nesting at a rookery.

🙂

 


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In an area of Anahuac NWR known as “The Willows,” I noticed that the pond appeared to be boiling in many areas. I looked closer and decided that the boiling  was really spots where lots of air bubbles were coming to the surface. I plunked all my stuff down on the boardwalk, sat down and watched closely for awhile. I believe what I was seeing was a large number of giant tadpoles swimming quickly to the surface for a breath of air, then diving back down to hide beneath the layter of plant material. It happened so fast that I never quite saw them with my own eyes, but this lucky photo captured the source of these bubbles. Giant tadpole?

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I have never actually seen a crayfish, though their exit-burrows are familiar enough. Is this a crayfish…that’s my assumption. This photo shows one side of the body above the surface, and the legs below the surface. You can also see one black eye. Are those whiskers? It was so fun to see this new (to me) creature in the water.

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This grackle is in the middle of a full-throated call which I can only describe as the sound of bubbling water. I captured his picture right at the moment his nictitating membrane was raised, something that happened fairly routinely while he strutted around in an inch or so of water at the edge of the pond. The grackles that live near my house make a very interesting, hard-to-describe call…but I’ve never heard them make sounds like bubbling water. These grackles appeared to be hunting,  near the edge of the bubbling pond. I can only assume that the grackles have learned to mimic the sound of the bubbles. Fascinating!


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Today, I offer my first-ever dual themed post, where I have attempted to contribute something worthy of both House of Herps (HoH) and An Inordinate Fondness (AIF) blog carnivals. Both carnivals offer monthly editions with the same deadlines and virtually the same publication dates. I’ve missed the deadlines, but want to support these carnivals anyway…so if you wander off the beaten path from HoH #14, hosted by Joy at The-Little-House-in-the-Not-So-Big-Woods, or from AIF #12, hosted by Bug Girl at Bug Girl’s Blog, you’ll find this better-late-than-never tag-along to two of nature-blogging’s finest carnivals. So, without further delay, I give you, “Red-eared Blisters.” 😉

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This emerald-eyed beauty is a Red-eared Slider (Chrysemys scripta elegans), basking not only in the sun, but in its freedom. I recently visited a commercial pet store to purchase dog food, and noticed a terrarium with a small Red-eared Slider captive. I see these common freshwater turtles just about anytime I visit a pond, and I was surprised to see this familiar animal in such an unnatural setting. I’ve known that turtles are often captured from the wild and sold to pet stores, because I’ve read about it. But seeing a turtle on display to be sold was like a sock in the gut.

When a wild animal is held captive, the captor becomes solely responsible for the many requirements to keep that animal alive and healthy. How many turtle owners purchased a turtle thinking that turtles are “cool,” and that it would be pretty easy to care for them? That a turtle would make a great pet for a child? Did they know that Red-eared Sliders can live 50-70 years?1  Will they learn about the responsibilities of caring for a captive turtle before or after they make their purchase? Or ever?

My hope is that turtles (as well as other wild animals) will be left in the wild, where they can care for themselves as only they know best. We can appreciate them in the wild with a trip to the great outdoors or a neighborhood park. In this way, a turtle sighting will be a source of fun and excitement, instead of a daily routine that quickly becomes tiresome and neglected.

I’ll close with a link to Animal Planet’s website that does a pretty good job of describing the responsible way to care for captive Red-eared Sliders. I know that some readers have or may obtain a pet turtle in the future, and I would like to help those turtles by educating owners and would-be owners about the best way to care for these animals. Please visit Animal Planet’s website article, “Red-eared Slider: Care and Feeding of This Common Pet Turtle.”

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The name, “Blister Beetle” imparts an instant wariness upon reading the name. But what if you encounter a “neat bug” in the wild and are prone to touching or capturing the neat stuff you see, for closer inspection? Whether plant or animal, you may be better off just looking unless you know what you are dealing with.

This beetle is a species in the Genus Epicauta, known for the caustic substance they excrete from their legs. That’s right…from their LEGS. The reddish substance is called cantharidin, and would be an unwelcome surprise to anyone who handled the beetle enough for it to excrete its own hemolymph, which contains this defensive toxin. Though cantharidin does have medicinal uses, horses have died from eating hay that contained blister beetles.2

I would be remiss if I did not also mention that cantharidin is also most well known by its common name, Spanish Fly – once used as an aphrodisiac. I guess if your idea of “sexy” is to eat beetle powder that causes itching and swelling of your private parts…and you don’t mind possible kidney damage or death…then head to your local apothecary, witch doctor, or The Google.

At any rate, I’m glad that I now know what a blister beetle looks like, and can share that knowledge with others. Interesting…Yes, cuddly…No!

  1. From Animal Planet’s, “Red-eared Slider: Care and Feeding of This Common Pet Turtle”, located at http://animal.discovery.com/guides/reptiles/turtles/slider.html
  2. Bugguide.net, on Family Meloidae (Blister Beetles), located at http://bugguide.net/node/view/181

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The images that come to mind when I think of Florida are of alligators in swimming pools and huge pythons lurking under houses and through back yards. For months, I have eagerly anticipated this Thanksgiving trip to the Orlando area, and it has been a blast. I went for my first air boat ride yesterday, and it was an exciting experience. Alligators in the wild – not in a zoo, not captive – imposing and awesome:

American Alligator (Alligator mississipiensis)

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The Shumard Red Oak (Quercus shumardii) in my back yard is beginning to show signs of Fall, as the first few green leaves gently transform into shades of yellow, orange, and red. As I stood beneath the tree, camera and tripod ready for bird action, I sensed movement in my peripheral vision. It took me a minute to spot this Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis), sitting very still and not looking green at all. In fact, I believe he/she was doing his very best to hunt for food while not becoming a bird meal at the same time.

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