Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Goodbye Hawai'i

I am probably hopping on the plane right now for the long flight back.  I have enjoyed my month immensely.  I will miss the great weather, wildlife and friends. 

Sunset Beach - my last night before going to work.

I will be sure to share more pics and stories from travels soon though! 

On a different note, I miss my wife and puppies and can't wait to get home.  I have to admit I could do without the 30F weather...  Maybe I didn't miss all of the salamander migrations though?


Galopagos Sharks!

Spent a morning in a cage with a few sharks. It was quite the enjoyable experience. Can't wait till I head down to Isla Guadalupe to swim with great whites!



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hawai'i Herps: Lizards

The vast majority of the herps on Hawai'i are lizards.  I have had a good amount of luck turning up some of the "big game" but there are still quite a few that I probably won't see.  I was really hoping to find a few more of the skink species, but I never made it happen.  That being said, there are some pretty neat lizards currently living in Hawai'i, and I hope you enjoy!

There are currently a few species of skinks living in Hawai'i.  I really hoped to find the moth skink and the snake-eyed skink, but alas, I settled for a ton of metallic skinks. All of these species are native to other south pacific islands, and it is thought they might have come over with early polynesian settlers or on land rafts.  You might argue this makes them "native" in a way, and I can't really fight that point. 

Metallic Skink  Lampropholis delicata

I found these fairly common in certain areas.  They were easily heard scurrying along in the leaf litter.  Sometimes, I was even lucky enough to see one or two.  Catching them was much harder, and I was only able to bring the third individual photographed to hand.  It looked a little worse for the wear, and I suspect I was only able to grab it and pose it secondary to a mild case of death.

The most common lizards on the island were by far the brown anoles.  I saw these basically every place on the island that I bothered to look.  I will choose not to talk about them much, they don't desearve any attention. 

Brown Anole Anolis sagrei

One of my favorites, the Green Anole, Anolis carolinensis, I was happily suprised to find hanging on most places.  These have been decimated in their native SE US by the brown anole and even speaking to local Hawaiian residents, used to be much more common.  They turned up most places though, in much smaller numbers. 

Last, but definitely not least, is the jackson chameleon.

Jackson's Chameleon Chamaeleo jacksonii

Female jackson, showing the teloscopic eyes

These have become extremely common in parts of Oahu, and Maui.  The are large, beautiful lizards that are often collected as pets and then moved around.  I found them best by spot lighting for them at night, after striking out a number of day hikes.  Veiled chameleons are also being found on Maui, but to the best of my knowledge, are not yet established on Oahu.

A nice male, found nearby

Next up, the geckos!


Jail Break!

I was sitting at work, one of the few times I snap back to reality while in Hawaii, when a buddy asked if I heard about "the cobra?"  I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.  Just goes to show how isolated I can become when there is nice weather and outdoor activities to amuse myself...

Evidently, one of the Bronx Zoo's Egyptian cobras magically dissapeared.  Anyone who has kept snakes know they have some remarkable abilities to squeeze in and out of tight places, but one hopes zoos keep a better lock on things.  I understand accidents happen, but zoos are figureheads of the reptile community.  In the publics mind, they make up the only legitimate party that should be able to keep venomous animals.  It is harder and harder for other private keepers to do so, and this will just add more fuel to the fire of antivenom legislation.  Unfortunately, just one more blow against the herp community in general. 

It is virtually impossible this snake could survive the current outside temps in New York, and it poses no real threat to the public.  It will likely turn up soon as predicted.


Egyptian Cobra Breaks Jail!

LiveScience.com livescience.com – Mon Mar 28, 2:50 pm ET

A venomous Egyptian cobra is missing from the Bronx Zoo, forcing a shutdown of the reptile house while zoo officials search for the animal.
However, New Yorkers can breathe easy: Bronx Zoo officials say they are "confident" that the 20-inch (50 centimeter) long serpent is curled up somewhere dark and warm in an isolated, nonpublic area of the reptile building. With temperatures in New York hovering in the 30s and 40s (about 0 to 4 degrees Celsius), the snake is not likely to venture outdoors, said Stan Mays, the curator of herpetology at the Houston Zoo, who spoke to LiveScience about the species.
"That's a little cold for it to be out," Mays said.
Egyptian cobras grow to be about 6 feet (2 meters) long, Mays said. The cobras are rodent-eaters and pack a deadly bite: Their venom is a neurotoxin that can kill a person.
"They're not really something you want to be bitten by," Mays said. He said the Egyptian cobras he's worked with are "pretty feisty," though they seem to mellow with age.
Bronx Zoo officials declined to speak to LiveScience about the missing snake. In a written statement, zoo director Jim Breheny said the cobra is hunkered down in the building somewhere it feels safe.
"When the snake gets hungry or thirsty, it will start to move around the building," Breheny said. "Once that happens, it will be our best opportunity to recover it."
That could take time, Mays said. Snakes can go for months without eating and weeks without drinking. The Houston Zoo hasn't experienced any snake escapes, Mays said, but closing the building is "a wise precaution." The staff's best bet for finding the snake quickly, he said, is to patrol the building with a flashlight at night, when the cobra is more likely to move about.
If zoo staff has a good idea of where in the building the snake is, they could chill the area and set up a small heater nearby, Mays said. The warmth would draw the cobra out of its hiding spot. [Why We'll Always Fear Snakes]
Snake escapes aren't a common problem at zoos, Mays said. Reptile keepers do multiple lock checks to be sure snakes can't slither their way out of their enclosures, he added.
Amateur snake collectors aren't always so careful. In 2007, a Toronto man was sentenced to a year of jail time and ordered to pay a $17,000 fine after his Egyptian cobra got loose in a rented house. The house and its semi-attached neighboring home had to be evacuated for more than five months. Eventually, tenants moved back in, although the venomous escapee was never found.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Winter Tasks 4: Travel to warmer places!!!! / Hawai'i Herps

As you might have noticed, I am spending the month of March in Hawai'i.  Techniquely, I am working, but I find it easy and necessary to spend as much time outdoors as possible.  I haven't touched a TV in weeks..

Hawai'i Herps

There are over 30 species reptiles and amphibians that have been documented in Hawai'i.  Unfortunately, it seems this number is slowly increasing.  Only a handful of these are actually native to the islands.  The native herps include the sea turtles and the sea snake. 

Green sea turtles are extremely common in the waters around the islands, as well as sometimes basking on the beaches.  Hawaii is one of, if not, the only place in the world they do this on a regular basis.  On some of the noninhabitated islands, they will do this in great numbers.

Unfortunately, the other sea turtles are rarely seen.  They include the hawksbill, olive ridley, loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles.

The last native Hawai'ian herp is the Pelagic sea snake, or Yellow-bellied sea snake.  They are a very attractive snake, but rarely seen in and around Hawai'ian waters.  They are venomous, but extremely hesitent to bite and pose very little risk to swimmers.  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of these...  These 6 animals make up all of the native Hawaiian herps!

Hawai'i has thus become an island zoo.  Walking or driving around the island in a day will reveal numerous nonnative birds, mongoose, boar, transplanted plants and lizards galore.  The volcanic creation of islands, isolated from the rest of the world had created a fairly remarkable ecosystem.  The "native" animals were all invasive at some point, requiring wings or flippers to reach the islands. More recently though, most of the invasive species have arrived as a result of well meaning but poorly thought out introductions or escape from the pet trade and have arrived in the past 200 years.  I have managed to photograph a few of the invasive species so far, but am still just scratching the surface.  Plenty of little skinks, geckos and even some frogs and turtles left to pursue.

Most of the lizards are fairly small, and likely pose a small risk to what little "natural" environment is left.  Some larger species such as giant day geckos and tockay geckos have become established though and pose a threat to many species of birds.  There is also the ever looming threat of invasion by brown tree snakes, similar to the situation Guam has.

To finish up the turtles, Hawaii does have a few freshwater turtles.  There are two species of asian softshell turtles, one north american softshell and the red eared slider.  I have woefully ignored these, as I don't have any desire to spend time in freshwater while on the islands.
Here is the spiny softshell turtle, although an individual photographed in Ohio.

As well as an Ohio red-eared slider.

Hawaii does have one other snake though, the blind snake.  This snake is extremely small, fossorial and completely harmless. It looks like a worm, and feeds on ants and termites.  Interestingly, these snakes are parthenogenic.  This means there are only females, and they reproduce assexually without fertilization by males.  Despite flipping numerous logs, palm fronds, debris, rocks, etc I had not been able to turn one up for 3 weeks, but finally found 3 in an afternoon from a tip off by a friend who found them as a kid 20+ years ago. 

That does it for the snakes and turtles.  We will discuss some of the lizards and then amphibains next time.

If you have more specific questions, I am happy to try and answer them.  For the most part, I am learning much of this on my feet during my time here.  Those who are interested in learning more should check out the excellent book, although slightly outdated, Reptiles and Amphibians of Hawaii by Sean McKeown.

Monday, March 21, 2011

North Shore

Spent the afternoon before work at Sunset Beach.  Too gnarly for snorkeling on the North Shore today, but I enjoyed watching surfers shred the waves.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Waimea Jump Rock



Green Sea Turtles!

More of making the best of what little Hawaii has to offer.

That being said, swimming with turtles is a surreal experience, and one of my favorite past times.

Tons more to come on the Hawaii home front. I just can't justify wasting too much time here on the computer!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pura Vida 6: Lizards and Turtles of the Bosque

A Thecadactylus rapicauda found outside of a lab building one night.

Sphenomorphus cherriei I startled up from some litter. This skink species is difficult to bring to hand.

Sceloporus variabilis from Guanacaste's dry forest.

Norops limifrons, the slender anole, a common species.

Norops lemurinis. I would find individuals of this species sleeping at night, perched on leaves as above. It seems like they would make easy prey for arboreal snakes, like Leptodeira.

Norops humilus, the most common anole. Male's of this species have an red dewlap fringed by yellow.

Norops carpenteri, readily identified by the white eye ring. Males have an orange dewlap rimmed with yellow.

Lepidophyma flavimaculata, my first night lizard of the family Xantusidae. These are most often found by flipping cover objects. Occasionally they are found foraging nocturnally at the mouth of their homes (hole of some sort).

Lepidoblepharis xanthostigma, flipped by my brother. This is the only shot I got off before they poor animal dropped his tail.

Unidentified Norops species?

Iguana iguana.

Gonatodes albogularis captured on a building.

Corytophanes cristattus, a super badass lizard.

Chelydra acutirostris. Imagine my surprise when I pulled a damn snapping turtle out of a swamp.... in Costa Rica??? This was a super feisty individual who snapped incessantly at me.

Rhinoclemmys annulata can be found chilling in the middle of a trails, nowhere near water.

A large Rhinoclemmys funerea with a 10 inch long carapace. I found this species both in and out of the swamps.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Roadcruising Riffs: 10

Dirty Sweet - Baby Come Home

Get out and catch some amphibians...


Hawai'i Teaser...

Ahh the wonders of modern technology, thanks to Molly's Panasonic Lumix.



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pura Vida 5: Leaf-litter Amphibians

While walking through the forests of Costa Rica, an observant person can enjoy a wide variety of frog species inhabiting the forest floor. Many of these amphibians live low to or in the ground, among the leaves, preying upon a variety of food sources. Common prey items for smaller leaf-litter frogs are invertebrates, such as ants, beetles, or spiders. However, as you might predict, larger frogs eat larger prey items, such as other frogs, lizards, or even small mammals. Costa Rican frogs come in a variety of sizes. I measured young individuals of the genera Craugastor and Pristimantis as small as 6 mm in total length. Conversely, large toads, tree frogs, or Leptodactylus pentadactylus can easily reach the size of a human fist.

Chaunas (Bufo) marinus
Cane toads (Chaunas marinus) are commonly found hopping around man-made structures at night. Although an invasive exotic species in many other parts of the world, the Cane toad is native and incredibly common in Costa Rica.

Incilius melanochlorous

Incilius coccifer

Incilius valliceps?

Rhaebo haematiticus
A common denizen of the rainforest floor, Rhaebo haematiticus is cryptically-patterned. Some individuals can have pronounced "eye-spot" markings located toward the rear of their back.

Craugastor crassidigitus

Craugastor mimus

Craugastor bransfordii
This small litter frog is the most common amphibian found on the grounds of La Selva Biological Station. Although variable in color, it is often a mottled brown (as above) with tubercles marking the skin. It can usually be identified by its white throat, yellow stomach, and red groin. Unlike many other congeners, however, it lacks toe pads.

Craugastor megacephalus
I like to refer to this species as Craugastor largehead. Although it can be readily identified by its "large head", no other anuran species has a white spotted throat and stomach. This species was puzzling for me, however, as I only had success finding them on one trail.

Craugastor fitzingeri
C. fitzingeri is often found nocturnally perched on or near the forest floor during light rain.

Craugastor noblei. Quite uncommon, but they could be reliably turned up at my study site.

Craugastor talamancae. Like noblei, this uncommon species did inhabit my study site.

Diasporus diastema, the ubiquitous "tink" frog, known for the call it makes at night.

Pristimantis cerasinus can be identified by the dark red coloration on the back of its legs (not shown above). I had success finding this species perched on vegetation a few feet above the ground.

Pristimantis ridens is identified by tubercles above its eyes.

Gastrophryne pictiventris. I suspect this species is not commonly encountered due to its fossoriality. However, I did flip the one above under a palm leaf, and I found two moving out during a storm.

Oophaga pumilio. Incredibly common, incredibly beautiful. And for some silly reason, I never got a picture I'm pleased with. This species has some remarkable reproductive behavior. Unlike hylid species that lay eggs in or near large water sources, female O. pumilio lay fertilized eggs in moist leaf litter. Eventually, the males collect the hatching tadpoles on their back and carry them to bromeliads, where they are deposited. In these small "cups" of water, the tadpoles develop further, feeding on unfertilized eggs deposited by their mother.

Dendrobates auratus. Larger than O. pumilio (and more toxic?), these frogs are fun to photograph.

Phyllobates lugubris, the least commonly found but perhaps prettiest of La Selva's 3 dart frog species. This individual was scared out from underneath some leafy detritus.