Florida has great herps

Here are some nice lizards, snakes, and turtles I've seen recently.

Adult Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis)

Juvenile Eastern Glass Lizard

Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus)

Southeastern Crowned Snake (Tantilla coronata)

Peninsula Crowned Snake (Tantilla relicta relicta)

Adult male Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

Juvenile Common Musk Turtle

Juvenile Peninsula Cooter (Pseudemys peninsularis)

Juvenile Striped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon baurii)

Adult female Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox) (photo by Ben Hess)


Pitcher plants of Eglin

I've been really enjoying seeing our beautiful pitcher plants in bloom this Spring. I thought I'd put up some photos of some of the pitchers (modified leaves) and their flowers. We're fortunate to have at least five species in the area.

Sarracenia leucophylla flower

Sarracenia leucophylla flower with two pitchers below

Sarracenia leucophylla pitchers

Sarracenia flava pitcher

Sarracenia flava flower

Sarracenia rubra flowers

Sarracenia psittacina flowers

Sarracenia purpurea flower

Sarracenia purpurea pitchers

Sarracenia flava pitchers with a couple very red Sarracenia leucophylla pitchers

I've always thought that the pitcher plant flowers are unique and interesting. Click HERE to see a clearly-labeled diagram showing all the flower parts.


An ode to the toad eaters

Yesterday, I found North America's rarest and most secretive toad-eating specialist, the Southern Hognose Snake (Heterodon simus). It may not look all that different from its more common relative, the Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos), but it occurs in a much narrower range and in much lower numbers.

Southern Hognose Snake:

This last one is a video:

Now I'll include some examples of the more common and more variable Eastern Hognose. A photo and a video have been included on my past blog posts, but I like them and felt like reusing them.

juvenile doing some impressive displaying

juvenile playing dead (if you try to flip them over, they'll flip back to belly up to continue playing dead)

adult displaying

Here's a video:

I've also recently been seeing individuals of the black (or melanistic) morph of the Eastern Hognose

Here's a video:

And now to make good on the "ode"

Oh stocky serpent with upturned nose,
unarmed with weaponry, but with bravery you bluff.
Capable of consuming toxic toads,
you're a behavioral wonder; what great stuff!


A Tale of Two T-Shirts

Those of you who see me regularly or know me well might recognize my favorite T-shirt, since I wear it all the time.

This T-shirt has a special story behind it, which, aside from it being an awesome shirt, adds to the reasons why it's my favorite.

I got this T-shirt when Kelly and I lived in Oregon. It's from a vendor called Cretin Art that sells T-shirts with hand-drawn designs at the Portland Saturday Market. While most of the drawings are a little fantastical for my taste, he had this amazing scraggly tree that Kelly and I just fell in love with. Unfortunately, they didn't have any shirts with this drawing on it in my size, so they offered to make one specially for me. I got to choose the color of shirt and the ink color, and they mailed it to me since we didn't live in Portland and wouldn't be back at the market the following week. Since then, it's been my favorite T-shirt ever, and Kelly always loves when I wear it.

So as you can imagine, it was a sad day a few months ago when I had to pack up my "tree shirt" along with the other clothes that won't fit my growing belly anymore. I know it's a temporary condition, but even a few months -- and hot, summer months at that -- when I can't wear my favorite shirt are sad ones.

That is, until the other day, when I opened my closet to pack clothes for our recent anniversary get-away to St. Augustine, and discovered a white T-shirt mysteriously back in place after having gone missing for about a month. Where had it gone? How had it returned? Did Kelly find it somewhere and quietly hang it back in its place without mentioning it to me, even though he knew I had been confounded by its disappearance for weeks?

I moved the surrounding clothes back to take a look at the shirt, and what did I find? [GASP!]

Evidently, a couple of months ago, Kelly had secretly contacted the makers of my original shirt, asking them if they sold maternity T-shirts. They didn't, but said that if he could send them one they would print on it, or if he found one online, they would buy it, print it, and just charge him the total price. So my sweet husband, who loathes shopping, tried to shop for a maternity T-shirt online, but to no avail. When I happened to purchase one, he stole it from my closet, sent it to Oregon with a special request for the tree, and then returned it to my closet for me to find! Happy pregnancy to me!! My favorite shirt now comes in maternity size! It was the sweetest, most thoughtful gift ever! I just had to share my excitement, and brag on Kelly for being so amazing.


Ultrasound #2

At my doctor's appointment last month, we had an ultrasound done to check all the pieces and parts of our baby to make sure everything was in working order. During the appointment, he was being a little uncooperative, and didn't want to smile for the camera. He kept moving and turning away just when they tried to take a freeze-frame of his little face and brain. So they finally gave up, and scheduled me for a repeat ultrasound this month.

This time, he was a little more subdued, but he's kind of wedged with his head down in a little pocket, so the angle was still difficult for them to get. Eventually, however, they were able to see everything they needed, and it all looked great! It was cool to see our little guy again, and get to see how much he's grown in just four weeks!

If you compare this profile to the one we posted last month, you can see how much he's changed, and how much more space he's taking up.

He looks so much older! :)

Here are a few videos we took during the ultrasound:

This video is his heartbeat again. It sounds like a drumbeat this time! I think the doppler must have been directly over his heart! His heart beats at 143 beats per minute, which is right in the perfect range for a fetus.

In this video, you can see him swallowing, and it's cool to see his heart beating. Babies swallow lots of amniotic fluid, which helps them practice for their first snack right after being born, and it helps their digestive systems learn how to process substances. And though his taste buds are developed enough by this time to actually taste it -- it's "flavored" by what I eat -- he's not actually getting any nourishment from the amniotic fluid. All of his nutrients come from the placenta.

In this video, you can see that he has his hand up by his face. Because of the depth of focus of the ultrasound, you can usually only see one at a time -- either the arm or the face -- but a couple of times you can see both...as well as him fluttering his eyelids and swallowing some more at the end! He was yawning a lot this time, too, but unfortunately we didn't get to capture that on film.