Category: Reptiles

Home Again

Wow. It’s been a while, hasn’t it, blog friends? How are you? I’m doing really well! I’m back in the United States, applying to graduate programs, and spent the last year taking lots of photos. I couldn’t be happier if I tried.

Anyway, I’m hoping to update the blog more often. I’m not going to make any promises, because clearly those promises cannot be relied upon, but I would like a more formal environment than tumblr to post nature photography¬†and writing (not that I don’t love you, tumblr) … and I have this perfectly good blog just lying around.

I’m planning on driving up to Nebraska on Monday to get in some photos of the annual sandhill crane migration through the state, and I rented a 400 mm lens to prepare for the adventure. Yesterday, I took that lens out for a test run on the birds of Brazos Bend State Park, here in Texas. I had a very good birding day, and took home some shots that I’m quite happy with, even though the lens definitely takes some getting used to.

American Alligator
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Great Egret
Great Egret (Ardea alba)
American Bittern
American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus)
American White Ibis
American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)
Roseate Spoonbills
Roseate Spoonbills (Ajaja ajaja)

2012

So, 2012 has been pretty crazy. I started the year in Europe, where I had the opportunity to take a geometric morphometrics course and collect data for my master’s thesis. I applied to, and was accepted to a Ph.D. program in Lincoln, Nebraska … and, at the end of the year, I’ve decided to quit the program in order to take time off and focus on myself, because I’m really not sure that grad school is what I want to do with my life.

Oh, and I managed to take some photos during that time. Here are a few of my favorites from the year. I think that I’ve learned and improved a lot over the last twelve months.

Owl Butterfly
Owl Butterfly
Great Plains Rat Snake
Great Plains Rat Snake
Jumping Spider
Jumping Spider
Fiery Skipper
Fiery Skipper
Ringneck Snake
Ringneck Snake

Next year promises to be even more exciting, as I’m going to Australia. I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I remember, and I’m really excited to go. I’m going to be living in western Queensland for at least a few months , working and taking pictures of the local fauna. Afterwards, I hope to spend some time up north, for rainforests and crocodiles, and then spend some time in Sydney and the south of the country in the Spring and Summer. I’m looking forward to discovering a whole new continent of reptiles and arthropods. :)

Herpetology Class Trips

This semester, I’m taking a herpetology class. It’s a lot of fun — I get to actually learn about amphibians, and the class has a lab and field component that I’m really enjoying. Part of my final grade will be based on how well I keep a field notebook — and while writing down substrate temperatures quickly gets boring (there’s a reason I’m not an ecologist, dammit), the plus side is that occasionally, there are things like snakes and frogs in my life.

For example, on Labor Day, I wandered down to the southeastern corner of the state with my lab mates, and while the herping wasn’t great, we did manage to find this wonderful Great Plains Ratsnake (Pantherophis emoryi) hiding under a rock near the side of the road.

Great Plains Ratsnake
Great Plains Ratsnake

Yesterday, our whole class piled into a couple of vans, and we hit Schramm State Recreation Area. With thirty eyes fixed on the ground, we managed to find some pretty cool stuff — including a young Eastern Racer (Coluber constrictor) caught in the act of eating a neonate Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis).

Racer eating a Garter Snake
Racer eating a Garter Snake

I admit it’s not my best photo ever (super natural background, eh?) but that’s just cool.

Other finds included large numbers of Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi), a juvenile male Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), adult Common Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis), Plains Leopard Frogs (Lithobates blairi), a young Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) — an invasive species in Nebraska, and, finally, a pair of young Cope’s Grey Tree Frogs (Hyla chrysoscelis), who were hanging out in the park restrooms (cool, damp, and full of insects!) — here’s a portrait of one on a slightly more natural background.

Cope's Grey Tree Frog
Cope’s Grey Tree Frog

Completely Adorable Invasive Species

One of the things that I am going to miss the most about living in Texas is the ubiquitous Mediterranean House Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus). Members of the genus can be recognized by the shape of their toes, which have toe pads that don’t go all the way to the end of the foot (Hemidactylus means half-finger, presumably because only half of their finger is toe-pad, and the other half is not). While there are technically three species of Hemidactylus that have been introduced to this state, turcicus is the most common. You can recognize¬†turcicus by the bumpy appearance of their skin — the other two species in Texas either have completely smooth skin (H. garnotii) or just a few bumps near their back legs and tail (H. frenatus). If you’re ever in Texas (or anywhere in the southern United States) these are pretty easy to find during the summer months. They especially like to hang out at night near artificial lights in moderately humid weather, waiting for insects, but I have found them in all kinds of places … including inside one of my classrooms.

Mediterranean House Gecko
Mediterranean House Gecko

They are, unfortunately, not native to Texas, but they are really charming animals. I have yet to see one of our native banded geckos (Coleonyx spp.), but I live in hope.

Photo Details
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/18, 1/100 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Some Nebraska Natives

I’m moving to Nebraska in August, which means that I should be spending my last months in Texas herping, because the pickings are a lot slimmer up north. But, instead, one of my friends invited me to come up to his Permian paleontological field site in Nebraska this weekend. And since I’ll be doing a Ph.D. in a vertebrate paleontology lab starting in the Fall, I figured that it was probably a good idea to start to familiarize myself with some of the fossil sites in the state. I was spectacularly useless at quarrying things, but I had a good time, and killed a lot of ticks that were trying to suck my blood, so it was overall a productive weekend.

And I took pictures of things! Because that’s who I am, or something.

Lined Snake
Lined Snake

This is a lined snake, Tripidoclonion lineatum. It was a lifer for me, which is pretty awesome (especially from Nebraska, geeze).

Cope's Gray Tree Frog
Cope’s Gray Tree Frog

I am also pretty excited by the fact that this is the first gray tree frog that I’ve been able to narrow down to species. Hyla chrysoscelis and H. versicolor are basically distinguishable only from their calls, which can make IDing them pretty tough. However, since we found this little guy while he was calling, I can tell you that he is, in fact chrysoscelis, and not versicolor. And then the internet informed me that versicolor doesn’t even make it in to Nebraska, but I nonetheless felt all herpetologically talented for IDing a frog based on a call.

Dogbane Beetle
Dogbane Beetle

And here’s something with an exoskeleton, to keep you entomophiles quiet. This was probably one of the most annoying things that I have ever photographed — I was dealing with the fact that this beetle was both extraordinarily iridescent, and extraordinarily filthy, which meant that my flash was basically useless. I ended up relying primarily on natural light for this shot, although I did use a little bit of off-camera flash to brighten things up. Not a fun picture. But I did bring the beetle back with me, so I may try to clean him up and white box him later.

Photo Details

Lined Snake
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/10, 1/160 sec
Diffuse flash
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Cope’s Gray Tree Frog
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/13, 1/160 sec
Diffuse flash
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Dogbane Beetle
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 400 at f/10, 1/160 sec
Off-camera diffuse flash
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Anole Mood Ring

So, people often accuse reptiles of being unexpressive, emotionless animals, but I think that’s pretty unfair. For example, I found a beautiful, adult male green anole basking outside my apartment, and being a terrible, cruel person, decided to capture him and bring him indoors for a photoshoot. He was not happy.

Anole: Stressed
Anole: Stressed

I felt pretty bad, so I gave him a nice perch, put a heat lamp next to the white box, and left him alone for about fifteen minutes until he could calm down.

Anole: Calm
Anole: Calm

Then the cat walked by.

Anole: Threat Display
Anole: Threat Display

Call me crazy, but I don’t think that he has any trouble expressing his emotions.


Photo Details

Stressed
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/18, 1/125 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Calm
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/16, 1/160 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Threat Display
Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro Lens on a Canon T1i Rebel
ISO 100 at f/18, 1/160 sec
Diffuse flash in whitebox
Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CS5

Fort Worth Botanic Garden: Fauna

Today, I went to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. If you are ever in or around Fort Worth, this is a place you should go. It is full of plants, and almost all of the gardens there are free (except for the Japanese Garden, where you have to pay $4.50 to get in, and the amazing indoor conservatory, which will cost you a dollar, and is totally worth it). It’s also a great place for bug watching, since the flowers draw a lot of interesting pollinators, and they have a lot of diverse, arthropod friendly habitat. It’s also apparently not a bad place for city herping, since I heard some calling cricket frogs and spotted two green anoles and a blotched water snake while wandering through the gardens. (They’ve also got red-eared sliders everywhere, but turtles are not exciting herpetofauna, so I wasn’t that excited to see them.)

All in all, it was a pretty great day.

Bridge in the Japanese Garden
Bridge in the Japanese Garden

I could not take a landscape photo to save my life. Fortunately for all of us, that’s not why you’re here. (I hope.)

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