Friday, May 30, 2014

Lizard Quest: Round 2

If you've ever read this blog you may know that I like lizards. If you really love me and actually read this blog, you might remember how I tried to find them in my native homeland of seemingly lizard-less New York state last summer. I never finished the "thrilling conclusion" to that subpar story" to find introduced Italian wall lizards, but long journey to a cemetery in Queens short: I found them. Here is photographic proof:

Wow! Look at that Podarcis sicula in its "natural" habitat.

That's all for this charming lizard for now, but you haven't seen the last of him. I'll make a trip back to the graveyard soon to see if he is still there.

It is cool to see a lizard from Rome all the way out here, but what about the lizards that naturally occur in New York? It turns out there are three native species of lizards here, two of which are within relatively close proximity to me. I planned on committing to a prolonged and arduous expedition that would span the entire summer to find these reptilian gems, but I ended up finding both of them yesterday. So instead of an extensive account here are some pictures that I wished turned out just a little bit sharper. I guess I'll have to go back. Oh the horror!

No touching!

First up, we have the eastern fence lizard, or more commonly known as Sceloporus undulatus. It's a widespread lizard found throughout most of the United States, but there are five disjunct populations at its most northernmost range in New York where it is threatened. This means I cannot collect every last one and start my own lizard zoo. Darn.

How babby is formed.

I only managed to find four of them, including two large gravid females ripe with eggs and a single cute juvenile that was probably one of last year's babies.

Babby lizard
So cute! 

While my appetite was satiated with a single species of lizard, I managed to find a bunch of male five-lined skinks as well. Males develop reddish heads during the breeding season because they are so angry and fight each other, and apparently ladies might find the color red attractive. But not a single lady skink was in sight. I would guess that the females are all being good mothers, but I'll save my breath and let this popular nature man explain it to you more eloquently.

So skinky!
Plestiodon fasciatus, because I know people read this blog mainly for scientific names. 

Before leaving I was outwitted by a juvenile skink with its pretty blue tail, but I have no picture to show you, so who knows if it really happened. I also encountered a milk snake, but alas no pictures. Looks like I'll have to go back.

We have to go back

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Leafhopper? Spider?! I barely...

Welcome back. I've been busy graduating from college, but fear not! I have not acquired one of those pesky "jobs" so in between my allergy medication-induced naps I plan on spending as much time outside being a naturalist and improving my photography skills. I've got some exciting ideas around good ole upstate New York, but yesterday I stayed close to home. Literally. Due to my fatigued state (and lack of a car), I spent a good chunk of time running around my yard and lying in the tick infested grass, taking pictures of whatever I could find. Here are a few pictures of what I found.

Wow! Look at those antennae! 

And we're off to a good start. Apparently that monstrosity is called a fishfly. The description in my field guide states that "these large insects are easy to capture because they fly so slowly and are so poorly coordinated." Poor guy. He was probably last pick in gym class.


This is a leafhopper nymph. I wish this photo was just a little bit sharper, but it's pretty cool how the lawn looks like a forest of its own. One day that little guy will grow up to be the slightly less tiny insect shown below.


Actually, I'm not entirely sure if those are the same species, but the first picture is definitely an immature individual. You may have not seen these bugs this close before, but you have definitely seen them if you've ever walked across a lawn and noticed a small swarm fleeing from your footsteps.

Before you get bored or creeped out by all the weird things, here's a less offensive insect.

Butterfly 2
Everyone loves butterflies!

Followed by one of the most reviled arthropods: a spider surrounded by all its leftovers. 

Everyone's favorite animal, second to snakes.

Thus begins my journey to document the fauna of the exciting temperate northeast.