Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: reptiles


Red-eared Pond Sliders

On Sunday, we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with the family. The kids were fascinated by the turtles hanging out on the edge of a pond. I saw the red stripes behind the eyes and the birder in me thought, “Wow. That’s a convenient field mark.” Of course, I had no idea what kind of turtles these were or what that red stripe might signify.

My three-year-old niece had her own opinion about what kind of turtles these were. The big one was the daddy, the medium one was the mommy and the baby was on his mommy’s back. She pointed out another turtle basking alone on the other side of the pond and told us that that one was in time out.

We walked around the grounds and I began to wonder why I don’t keep lists and try to identify other animals as I’ve done with birds the past three years. I’ve learned so much about birds—their varieties, habits and habitats and where they fit into their ecosystems. This doesn’t even factor in how I’ve honed my observational skills. I want to know the world, not just one class of its animals.

After observing a Western Scrub Jay perched atop one of the live oaks—my first life bird for 2010—I decided, why not start life lists for the other classes. As with birds, I don’t intend to go chasing around trying to hit a certain number or goal, I just want to know what I see. I want to know this world, especially the little piece of it I call home. I want to know it on a deeper level than just turtle, bug or bat.

When we got home, I broke out my Audubon Society field guide to reptiles and amphibians.  The turtles we had seen were Red-eared Sliders, a subspecies of Pond Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans). I’ve seen them before and even posted a picture last year, though back then it was just a turtle. These Red-eared sliders are actually the turtles I see most frequently on my walks around the neighborhood, usually stacked up on the spillway in the pond. They were even the subject of a micro-poem that was featured at a handful of stones.

I’m going through the guides now, trying to seed my lists with the species I know I have seen. There are many I’ve only seen on a superficial level, but the ones I’ve seen, I’m now taking the time to read a little bit about. It never ceases to amaze me how much there is to see and how easily it can be taken for granted.

Lizard Blogging

A lizard on the garage

A lizard on the garage

I saw this guy climbing along the house a few months back and happened to have my camera. Unfortunately, I cropped off most of his tail. Need to pay more attention to framing instead of thinking, “!Whoo hoo! A lizard!” That’s the trick of shooting animals, though. Slow down. Relax. Get the right shot.

Their tails do grow back, but I’m not sure it will show up in the picture.

Weekend Birds and Snake

The birds are singing a bit more and thus calling to be found. This mockingbird on one of the neighborhood trails especially so. He let me get pretty close before he took off, leaving me with perhaps my best mocker photo.

On Sunday R and I went to Hornsby Bend. On the river trail, we got a good look (and lousy shot) of this Crested Caracara perched high above the Colorado. We could hear, but not see, Blue Jays screeching at him from the nearby trees.

On the drive out, we had to stop for this Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, taking its time crossing the road.

After 20 years in Texas, this is the very first rattlesnake I’ve actually seen (heard lots of them, though). Strangely enough, the previous weekend, my brother was telling me he had just seen his first ever rattlesnake.

Halfway across the road, it stopped and started rattling. Not wanting to run over it and thus deprive the caracara or one of the many hawks swooping around the area of a tasty meal, I eased the car around it, but not before taking a few pictures.

Hopefully, it will be another 20 years before I see another one.

On the way out, with hawks screeching overhead, I spotted this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, one of my favorite birds. I took his picture, figuring this might be the last one I would see until April.

Of course, I’ve seen quite a few on the way to work the past few days, but they’ll be heading south soon.

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