Posted by: reptilesalive | May 1, 2008

North Carolina Herptravanganza

Imagine a blond, brunette, and a red-head visit a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. A horror story, adventure, or comedy?

A friend at a local zoo invited us down to his place in the woods for a few days of reptiles and fun on thousands of acres of protected forest.

So, we packed the car with tons of goodies and headed down early in the morning. Our directions were to: “drive down a road until you think no one could possibly live there, then drive a few more miles.”

We turned on a dirt road with his address on the mailbox, and quickly ended up on a dirt road with the word “SNAKES” spray painted on a board lying on the side of the road. I guess we got the right place. Boy, did we! A few minutes up the road we encountered another sign stating the land is protected preserve. Not far from that were some tin on the side of the road for reptiles to hide under.

No reptile fan would ever in their right mind pass up the opportunity to look under tin. We got out of the car fire drill style and ran to the tin. Notin’ Honey. Our real surprise was waiting for us at the end of the road. What a beaut!

Notice this gorgeous log cabin is run by solar panels? That’s right kids, this baby is completely off the grid! It comes with all the amenities;

  • All hard wood
  • Huge fireplace
  • fridge
  • hot water
  • giant woodburning stove
  • comfy beds
  • dogs
  • tasteful interior decorations

Did I mention it was off the grid?

We did not hang around the house for long, it was time to look for reptiles! We walked outside laughing and talking, but that did not last for long. Serious herping was happening. The first thing you notice about being in the middle of nowhere is the absolute silence pierced only by the song of a bird, an insect, or a rustle in the grass next to the solar panel. Was that a flash of green I just saw? What the … ? Aren’t those guys supposed to occur in Florida?

I was dazzled, we were in the most northern range of the Carolina Anole! He was gorgeous. We hadn’t even left the front yard. I drooled in anticipation.

Things were gettting serious. Serious relaxation that is.

I have a very exciting job with rooms full of children in sugar induced frenzies and wild life. I love my job. I love the noise, the screaming children, zombied parents and teachers with glazed eyes and stumbling walk, the tortoise with the occasional gas…

my brain needed a bit less stimulus to munch on for a while.

Mark, our gracious host, and I wandered with snake hooks. There were timber rattlesnakes and copperheads around. Mark even mentioned how two rattlesnakes like to sit in the bushes near the bird feeder waiting for rabbits and chipmunks to come in for breakfast. We hoped there would be some use for the hooks today. (We use them to gently scooped up and guide venomous snakes away from us if we find one along the path.)

I was enjoying stories of otters and hawks along our flower scented walk when we found our first group of tin. All of us excitedly began to peak under them. We took turns lifting up a piece while the rest of us squinted in anticipation. Nothing in the first group. We walked up a small hill and soon found a prize.

A gorgeous representative of its species!

The snake is pretty too.

That is Jennifer holding an eastern kingsnake with our host, Mark looking on. This kingsnake is something I would call an intergrade. That is; a mix two subspecies. The snake has characteristics of both the Florida kingsnake and the eastern kingsnake. See the chains of yellow up his side?

Mark tells us that many of animals found in this part of North Carolina are a mix of the northern and southern versions of the species. They are the best of both worlds. How cool!

If you look closely, you may be able to see that this kingsnake is missing its entire tail! It is likely that a hawk or some other animal got a hold of it and bit it off. The snake got away, but not without missing a few parts. Poor guy!

Look at the left side of the picture. That is his tail not his head!

In a little wetland area, we met a cute little critter of the slimy variety. Isn’t he a cutie

Flowers were blooming everywhere. We walked over footbridges, across streams, meadows, and through grass. After crossing the same stream several times, we all stopped. “What smells like strawberry banana smoothie?” A native plant with tiny flowers all over it? Boy, do we have some fascinating plants in the States.

“Quick Caroline!”

“I see it!”

“I think it just ran under that log.”

He found a much better hiding place.

“Is it okay to come out now?”


“Time for me to make my getaway while no one is looking.”

That was one cute skink.

We decided to walk to Mark’s closest neighbors place to check out a yurt they were building next to some very nice ponds. I have never heard of a yurt before. I found out that it was a round house with a domed ceiling and a hole in the top for a chimney, or in this case, a skylight.

I was amazed at the amount of space the building had.

This building was to be completely off the grid as well. Three cheers for green living!

Past the house in progress and up the hill was the one thing that all hikers in the south fear! Watch what happens when I lightly tap the sandy area with my snake hook

Stay away from that ant mound. They look small, but they are fast and fierce!

Next, it was time to check out an old barn in the middle of a field that fell down. Boards were everywhere. For the first time for all of us, we found the elusive cornsnake!

I think Caroline is happy.
Why is this snake considered hard to find. Believe it or not, its people! One of the reasons for the snakes declining population is collection for the pet trade. There are many people who like snakes, but please Leave them in the Wild where they Belong! The main reason these snakes are disappearing is likely just the presence of people. We are building houses where animals used to live, and bulldozing over and killing thousands of animals. Cornsnakes do not occur in the Washington DC area because of this. Check your field guide however, and it will list the snake as occurring in the region. Sad. Hopefully little guys like this wild animal will make a comeback and continue doing its job eating mice!

We had a wonderful day herping. Now it was time to light a fire and cook some fajitas. I think Caroline was so excited about finding the corn snake she fell asleep on the couch first. Gradually we all staggered up the blue spiral staircase into our warm and cozy beds.

What an adventure!

Posted by: reptilesalive | April 3, 2008

How to Create a Nature Journal

Why Keep a Journal?

Scientists, naturalists, and wildlife enthusiasts keep journals to help them remember what they have seen. Many things may happen when you are out in the wild. The purpose of the journal is to record your observations for later reading. If you do a good job, you may discover exciting patterns emerging. These patterns are what usually lead to new discoveries about the world around us.

Selecting a Journal

I have found that small, unlined sketchbooks with a hard cover work best. The journal should be small enough to fit in a daypack, but large enough you can draw pictures and comfortably write in it.

Many people write in two journals at a time. I carry a journal with me in my backpack that I can jot down quick notes and illustrations while I’m out in the field. This journal tends to get dirty and a bit beat up. I write fast since I expect to be the only one reading my backpack journal.

I keep a second, nicer journal at home. After my outing into the wild, I transfer all of my notes from my backpack journal into my nice journal at home. Good journals may be found at: large bookstores, art stores, or museums.

What do I write in a Journal?

This is the fun part. What you actually write in your journal depends on what you are interested in.

You might like reptiles or other animals, plants, rocks, weather, or even the stars in the night sky. Any of these are great topics for you to write in your journal.

If you are interested in what certain animals eat, you may sit for long periods of time watching a particular animal and recording what it eats. You may draw pictures of the food items or even press leaves from the plants they are eating in the pages of your journal. You may be interested in the different animals seen during a hike. In this case it is more important writing down information you can use later to identify the animals.

You may be surprised what you have already forgotten by the time you have gotten home. The key to a good journal is in the details. Not only write in detail about what you are interested in, but also the time of day, the temperature, the weather, and specifics about the habitat that day. Insignificant details jotted down at the time may be the essential clue to an answer you have been searching for.

You also may include information you learn about animals or nature while visiting a zoo or nature center. A trip to the zoo is a great way to see lots of animals from all over the world and a trip to a nature center is a great way to see animals from your own neighborhood!

You may have a question about an animal or other subject that you could find the answer to in a book at the library. After you have found your answer, include it in your journal along with the bookss title and author.

Don’t feel that you have to stick to objective observations. Include a funny thing that happened, your feelings or your thoughts, maybe even write a poem or a song. The most interesting reading later on tend to be the author’s reaction. The next great scientific find may start with your thoughts!

Pictures

So, you are no Leonardo or Picasso, fear not! Check out the book The Voyage of Beagle by Charles Darwin. You may agree that many of the pictures in his journal were not great works of art. They weren’t meant to be. Most drawings are used as reminders on how something looked. Drawings are essential, especially when you need to remember exactly what color the stripes were, or how long the tail was.

Don’t forget to illustrate landscapes and habitats. Include sections of trail maps, and draw your own maps. Pictures may also be used to describe animal behavior and movements.

Photographs are also helpful. I take my digital camera with me on outings. Print small pictures on photo paper and glue them directly to journal pages. Use picture safe glue or archive safe photo tape (found in the scrapbook aisle in your local arts and crafts store).

rclubmoss21.jpg

Check out more nature journaling online at RattlerJen’s Den

Posted by: reptilesalive | April 3, 2008

Vader the Gopher Snake

http://www.ReptilesAlive.com

We have recently added a new snake to our show cast! Here is a video of Vader while he was in quarantine soon after arriving at Reptiles Alive. He has calmed down quite a bit since we filmed this video.

Gopher snakes are one of my favorite types of snakes. We had a lot of them in New Mexico where I grew up. We would get calls all of the time at the Rattlesnake Museum ( http://www.rattlesnakes.com ) about a rattlesnake in someone’s yard. Nine times out of ten it would be a gopher snake. They are non-venomous and great to have around to eat those pesky rodents.

Posted by: reptilesalive | March 27, 2008

It’s Spring

I finally got a nice day out in the sun. The grass was delicious, although I got it all over my front legs. The clover and chickweed was especially tasty this morning.matt.jpg

My next few hours will be spent as follows:

Exactly two and three-quarters laps around the yard.

Have a staring contest with the dog until he gives up. (I think he is more interested in barking than in staring.)

Eat some grass found next to the garden.

Try and climb in to the garden to eat the savory cabbage and garlic.

Sit in the sunniest spot I can find for two hours or for however long I nap for. I really like to nap.

Then I am going to go for a nice soak in the pool.

Life sure is nice for a tortoise.

Uh oh, time to go. One of the woodpeckers is trying to get a grub out of a tree. I am going to ask him for a nice shell tapping. There is one itchy spot I just cannot reach!

Posted by: reptilesalive | February 22, 2008

Beardie writes a blog


So, the school systems are all shut down today. That means all the shows we had scheduled for today are rescheduled. I dont see any ice outside. Looks like a fine day to walk in the rain. Except that it is 30 degrees outside. That is in F, so I am staying in the heated room. Now, you would think that I would be taking advantage of all this extra time. All those crickets to eat, paper to dig in, and water to splash around in, after pooping in it of course, are waiting for me.

Today is the day to lay underneath a heat lamp and take a nap. The humans here sure wish they had a nice warm lamp to lay under. Are blue feet on humans normal?

Well,Bear if the humans do decide to do something useful today, maybe they will put up a nature journal blog or something. Only time will tell.

Nap first.

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