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Spring Photos – Turtles, Mayapples, and Insects, Oh My!

Large unripe fruit of the May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum

Large unripe fruit of the May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum

Eastern Box Turtle. Female by tell of eye color and flatness of plastron (bottom shell area). Copyright The Roaming Naturalist.

Eastern Box Turtle. Female by tell of eye color and flatness of plastron (bottom shell area). Copyright The Roaming Naturalist.

My red potatoes are flowering! Grown in a 5 gallon bucket. Copyright The Roaming Naturalist.

My red potatoes are flowering! Grown in a 5 gallon bucket. Copyright The Roaming Naturalist.

Another Eastern Box Turtle, obviously trying to take over the world. Ranger photo, Maryland Park Service.

Not sure of the common name - found "leather beetle" or "horned passalus." Odontotaenius disjunctus. Either way, huge. Photo courtesy of Ranger S. Andrucyk, Maryland Park Service.

Not sure of the common name – found “leather beetle” or “horned passalus.” Odontotaenius disjunctus. Either way, huge. Photo courtesy of Ranger S. Andrucyk, Maryland Park Service.

Luna Moth, courtesy of Ranger S. Andrucyk, Maryland Park Service.

Luna Moth, courtesy of Ranger S. Andrucyk, Maryland Park Service.

White Ermine Moth, Spilosoma lubricipeda. Photo courtesy of Ranger S. Andrucyk, Maryland Park Service.

White Ermine Moth, Spilosoma lubricipeda. Photo courtesy of Ranger S. Andrucyk, Maryland Park Service.

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Watchful eye. Eastern Box Turtle. Copyright The Roaming Naturalist.

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Mid-Atlantic Autumn Photos

This is my first real autumn in six whole years! After living in the shadows of mountains and being surrounded by striking sagebrush oceans, I’m back on the East Coast and remembering the autumns of my childhood. They come much more slowly here, giving you the chance to breathe in the colors and textures of changing leaves and landscapes. Have you noticed how different the angle of the light is during autumn and spring? After the blazing and endless sun of summer, it’s so spectacular to me how the light comes in more steeply, sifting through branches and brightening things with a cool fire.

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Roaming at Smith Rock State Park

roam: verb - To move about without purpose or plan; to wander.

On a blazing hot Sunday several weeks ago, I visited one of the most amazing spots in Central Oregon, a state park called Smith Rock State Park. It’s a haven for rock climbers, as tall cliff faces shoot into the air at steep angles and varying sizes. For hikers like me, it’s a spot of sagebrush steppe with meandering trails and an array of plants and critters that can keep one occupied all day. It was a beautiful day in the rocks and always an education: as I sat on a sun-baked rock enjoying my lunch, I glanced down to see that I had chosen a spot which ants had chosen  long before me. I’d disturbed their home, and they were haphazardly scurrying across both of my feet and up my legs. I leapt into the air, squawking and dancing and stomping like a madwoman. It’s a shame I don’t have it on video. After apologizing profusely for killing several of their tribesmen in my surprise and panic, I offered them a hunk of my lunch. They examined it and, after deeming it unworthy, returned to their subterranean home. Apparently ants don’t care for fried fish.

One of my favorite things about dogs is that they are happy to visit just about anywhere – desert, beach, forest, whatever. They are eternally up for adventure.

The beautiful carvings of beetles.

I have decided that the doggie backpack is an essential item for the owner of high-energy dogs. A few hot hours carrying his own water around and he’ll sleep for the rest of the day.

Smith Rock’s craggy peaks and thirsty slopes.

The sun shines through waxy Oregon Grape leaves and the air is thick with the perfume of the plant’s tiny yellow flowers. Drunk on nectar, bees float heavily from bush to bush.

This is the first time I’ve gotten to see Curl Leaf Mountain Mahogany in bloom in person! The flowers are utterly tiny and easy to miss, but upon close inspection they’re actually quite beautiful and fragrant. This is a tree of serious drought tolerance, a very cool species.

Another shot of the Mountain Mahogany.

Hipstamatic Scrub Jays!

I’m not at all much of a techie, but I finally joined the nerd movement and downloaded the Hipstamatic camera app on my little-used iPod. The schtick of this app is that it basically takes photos like an old Holga, messing with depth of field, color saturation, and format, and making all your photos look like they either 1) were taken in the 1960s or 2) went through your washing machine.

I’m a photographer-wannabe so I’ve been playing with the new app this morning. It’s kinda fun, don’t you think? It reminds me of flipping through my mother’s photo albums of when she was my age, traveling through Yosemite National Park with her true love.

They’re not exactly National Geographic quality, but at least you can see the babies getting a little bigger (and the eyebrow! I love the eyebrow!). Happy happy Wednesday!

[Naturalist Notebook] Rosy Boa’s First Meal at Home

Mmmm, mouse.

This is the Rosy Boa’s first meal since I brought her home, and she didn’t think twice about nabbing it. (It was dead, I can’t do the live mouse thing.) The Rubber Boa wolfed down four pinkies the same evening (she’s tapping on the glass right now and I think I hear the muffled yelling of something like “Hey human, let’s go, I’m still hungry! You feed the dog twice a day, I SEE YOU DO IT”).

Since snakes are sans thumbs, they’ve evolved some pretty cool ways of eating handless. For one, their jaws disengage from one another to allow their mouths to open wider. Their skin is elastic, allowing for a large blob to enter the body without tearing the dermis (usually; I’ve seen some images of reticulated pythons splitting some skin after eating, oh, like, AN ANTELOPE). Also, they have tiny sharp teeth on either side of those jaws and they “walk” them along the mouse, pulling it in side by side.

NOM NOM

Streeeetch!

 

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Now THAT’S a dinner baby.

 

Read about the Rubber Boas here and about the Rosy Boa here

 

Weekly Photo Wunderbar!

I’m a little ashamed to admit that I completely forgot about my Saturday photo, but to be fair, The Roaming Naturalist was actually socializing last night. And that doesn’t happen very often. :)

This little friend was hanging out in my garden, hunting for delicious insects. Mantids are excellent bug-hunters and don’t eat your plants, so you want them in your garden! They have beautiful startle displays like this one, and the females (at least as recorded in captivity) will routinely rip off their male partners heads and eat them after copulation. Hardcore insect love, man.