New backyard herp: Ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus)

Ringneck snake (Diadophus punctatus). Boca Raton, FL, August 17, 2013.

Fear of snakes is instinctive. It just is. I imagine that most of those who have overcome it have done so through repeated exposure, knowledge gained over time. It’s not enough to know that an animal is harmless; you have to feel it. And if you don’t, you’ll still be scared by something as innocuous as a 5-inch long ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus) that you might find swimming in your backyard pool.

I found that out one night this summer when Daniel was in the pool and I spotted one a few yards away from him. I didn’t […]

Bad Hair Day

Green anole (Anolis carolinensis), Boca Raton, Fl, September 5, 2012.

Green anole (Anolis carolinensis), Boca Raton, Fl, September 5, 2012.

Human hair, like reptile scales, is made of proteins called keratins. So a molting lizard can, without too much poetic license, be said to be having a bad hair day. Hope yours is better!

New backyard herp: Coluber constrictor, Southern Black Racer


I’ve been seeing snakes (well, a snake) off and on for the past couple of months in our back yard, but only on a couple of these occasions have I had my camera with me and been able to get a few shots. The snake in question is one of the more common ones in our area, Coluber constrictor, the Southern Black Racer.

While I am always quite pleased to find snakes, they prefer to remain unfound; every time I see this guy he tells me by his actions that he is not very pleased to be discovered. When I […]

Baby snakes are hard to identify


Eric and I were swimming one evening when I noticed a small stick floating in the corner of the pool. Upon closer inspection, it was no stick, but an elongate limbless vertebrate in the group Serpentes (i.e., a snake!). Remember, all snakes can swim. And it was having a fine time in its little corner of the pool, but it seemed like a good idea to get it out, just so Eric wouldn’t wander over there and either get too excited or too scared.

I don’t have much experience with snakes, but I’m pretty sure it was a baby snake, […]

It isn’t easy being green

Cuban Tree Frog in the garden shed

After discovering that Tropical Storm Emily wasn’t going to affect us at all this weekend (well, we did got nearly a tenth of an inch of rain on Sunday) , I went over to Mom’s house on Friday and found this little guy waiting for me in the garden shed:


Cuban Treefrog in the garden shed

Quite an interesting little guy. Much larger than any of our native tree frogs, the Cuban (Osteopilus septentrionalis) is usually IDed by size alone, but you can also look for the disproportionately large toe pads; no other frog in the southeast gots such […]

Save the Frogs Day in two weeks: get ready!


International Save the Frog Day is Friday, April 29th. How will you celebrate? I’m only a part-time frogger, having more experience with the arcade game of the same name than with the 28 species of frog and toad in Florida (Ashton & Ashton), 42 species in the Southeast (Dorcas & Gibbons), or the 101 species in the U.S. (Elliott, Gerhardt, and Davidson). But I do see them from time to time in the field, the backyard, or the house (in that last case, casa de my inlaws in Atascadero, CA). And as one of the oldest lineages in the […]

Frogs by the garden hose

Introduced species play conspicuous roles in any ecosystem, particularly here in south Florida, the gateway to the Caribbean and most of Latin America. Every few years we hear of the potential for ecological harm posed by the latest introduction, either those that have escaped from captivity, like the walking catfish, Burmese python, or Purple Swamphen; the Everglades ecosystem is still threatened by the intentional introductions of invasive plant species like melaleuca and Brazilian Pepper.

Another widespread exotic species in Florida is Osteopilus septentrionalis, the Cuban Treefrog. It’s the largest treefrog in North America by far, and it’s considered an invasive […]

Watch your step!

When you’re a naturalist, even just an amateur one like me, there’s nothing better than to get out into the field. You don’t have to answer the phone, you’re not tied to the computer, you can wander, just walk where you’d like. You have the ability to stop for as long as you’d like, to check things out. And it’s usually a good idea to do so. Check things out, I mean. After all, if you don’t check things out, you might inadvertently run across this little nasty:

It is known as urushiol, and if you’re like at […]

Any froggers out there?

Getting out into the field is always fun, but some days are more fun than others. As I mentioned yesterday, I got wonderfully sidetracked by some little frogs (toads, more likely, given how scrawny the legs are) while taking pictures of birds during the May 2010 edition of the North American Migration Count:

Despite having most of the field guides that should help me identify them (among others, Frogs and Toads of the Southeast, the Reptiles and Amphibians of Florida, and the Frogs and Toads of North America) I am just not good with amphibians. I grew up […]

Spring 2010 migration count

Every spring and fall for the past five, maybe six, years, I’ve participated in the North American Migration Count for Palm Beach County. Last weekend I was responsible for two areas: Lake Ida Park and Dog Park in Delray Beach and South County Regional Park in western Boca Raton.

I began well before dawn in my driveway:

and made it to the lake well before sunup; here’s the sun rising over the lake about 20 minutes after I’d already started counting:

A few birds there were:

And many birds there weren’t. The […]