East Texas Naturalist Blog

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Last Paddle of the Season

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Have I mentioned that I hate winter?  I really am not that fond of fall either for I am constantly reminded that winter is just behind.  

So here we are with beautiful fall weather - I'm not stupid, I do love the weather right now, but the fact that winter is near creeps in now and then.  We had a very nice day, on Tuesday with no wind and the temperature in the mid-80's.  I decided it was time to drag one of the kayaks down to the lake and enjoy what might be the last paddle of the season.

I took my longer yak, the 16 foot Wilderness Systems Tarpon and just for fun I grabbed my spinning rod & reel.  Wow.  It was so beautiful.  I paddled around the lotus plants and went quite a ways out .  The water was very still and it was just a great day for yakking.  

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Scientific Names Are All Wrong

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When I first got pretty serious about snakes, which was when I was around 11, I had my first exposure to scientific names.  It wasn't enough to identify a Texas Ratsnake, I wanted to know the proper name, the scientific name.  At the time, that was Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri.  And I learned that the many water snakes that bit the daylights out of me each time I caught one, were Natrix rhombifera and Natrix ethrogaster.  The little Red-Eared Sliders that I caught and some I bought at the 5 and dime, were Pseudemys scripta elegans.  

In my considerable years of absence from the scientific world and especially that of Taxonomy, things sure changed.  Our local ratsnakes went from Elaphe to Pantherophis; watersnakes - Natrix to Nerodia; sliders - Pseudoemys went to Trachemys; and there were many other changes.  Of course, this is a natural occurence in biology.  

Specimen are examined and classified as belonging to a certain genus. Sometimes, if there were no similar genus, one was created for them.  (I am ignoring species designations here which work in a similar fashion).  

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Michael
Here is an example of exactly why taxonomy can drive one crazy. http://www.migration.blairsociety.com/Inciliusnebulifer.html... Read More
Tuesday, 18 August 2015 10:46
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How About a Lizard

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Along with the missing turtles, I have seen very few lizards this year.  

When I was doing an estate sale in Harleton, I regularly saw a 5 Lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) and a 6 Lined Racerunner Whiptail lizard (Aspidoscelis sexlineata).  At the RV park I have seen one Anolis lizard (Anolis carolinensis) and a couple of times I have seen 5 Lined Skinks - including one on my site when I was moving big rocks to make an outdoor fire ring.

On my several trips across the highway where I walk in the woods, I have seen 2 Anolis lizards.  Two.

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Quiet Afternoon

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It has been a quiet day.  I made a very short walk today, impeded somewhat by my dog sitting.  I have a young male chihuahua staying with me and I go feed his four relatives twice a day.  The little ones stays with me because the others beat the dickens out of him.  So he is my new "buddy".

I walked around the RV park and that was about it, but the day was not a total nature washout.

Around 5 PM, I was sitting out in my "yard" overlooking the lake when I started noticing a lot of bird activity.  Of course, my mockingbirds were there.  I expect them to land on my chair at any time - they are rather bold.  But in the sycamore tree just thirty or so feet away, there was a lots to see.  The chickadees were flying back and forth as were the Titmice.  Then I noticed a bird I don't see all that often, a Nuthatch.  He explored the tree trunk for a few minutes.  Then came a pair of blue jays who only stayed for a few seconds.  Next was a male cardinal who flew past.  Up in the sky was a pair of turkey vultures floating with the cross currents.  A couple of crows flew by as well.  Out at the edge of the lake, the great blue heron was perched on his usual post and I could see several great egrets in sight.  This was all in the space of maybe ten minutes.  

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Where Are the Turtles?

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I can't believe that it is hard to find a turtle in Lake O' the Pines.  I can't believe that I can stand on the dock and not see lots of heads bobbing in the water.  

When I was a kid, turtles were everywhere.  If you went to any body of water, turrle heads would be easy to spot.  I go down to the dock and walk along the water almost every day, sometimes several times a day.  In four months of doing this, do you know how many turtles I have seen?  How many heads?  Absolutely NONE.  Not one single turtle.  That is incredible.  And sad.  

Somewhere back around 2006, I had a friend who was involved heavily with the Sierra Club, and she made me aware of the problems with the turtle populations being decimated by exporters.  Hundreds of thousands of turtles were being trapped and sent to China where they are a delicacy.  She even when to testify for the bill that banned commercial "fishing" for turtles on public land which passed in 2007.  Unfortunatley, due to my absence from the outdoors, I did not see firsthand the impact.  Now, I am absolutely astounded.  

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