Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rattlesnake Hill

Now that my lizard habit has been quelled for the time being, I am focusing my efforts into finding another group of organism: Lizards. But not just any lizards. Snakes. But not just any snakes. Rattlesnakes. Technically speaking, all snakes are lizards, for the same reasons that birds are actually reptiles. And we are fish. If you don't understand, you can go get a degree in biology and learn what a paraphyletic group is. Alternatively you can figure it out from the below diagram or Wikipedia. Either way, you'll be a hit at your next dinner party.

Note the position of birds and snakes.
Taken from Suh et al. 2014; A Semantically Correct Vertebrate Tree of Life.

Unfortunately, my new lizard quest was off to a rocky start. Not only was the mountain I was trying to get to presumably full of minerals and ores, I got lost driving there. Eventually a combination of cursing the country backroads and Google maps led me to my destination. Finally, I could hike up to the trail named "Rattlesnake Hill" which I hoped was named for its abundance of rattlesnakes. Or maybe it's a hill that's shaped like a rattlesnake. I wouldn't know because I got lost again and ended up at a reservoir instead of this mystical landmark. But the trouble didn't end there.

Right before I walked towards the body of water to sulk I crossed paths with a rampant dog. This was a relatively harmless dog, besides the fact that it was a dog, and I left unscathed. But this was only the beginning. I sat down by the lake, angry at the lack of rattlesnakes on my hike, when suddenly I was surrounded by a pack of five dogs. Five wet dogs who decided to shake off their dank fur right next to me while trying to steal my sandwich. Of course, the two owners of this vile horde just said "Oh, they're just so friendly!" and that instantly excuses these vermin to do whatever they want.

Needless to say, I was pretty discouraged at this point. If you don't know me, I should explain. Not that I'm biased or anything, but I don't have much love for mammals, especially untrained, overly-affectionate canines. Anyway, while recovering from that traumatic event I noticed this thing in the water:

An ewt
I wonder if he knew he would end up on the internet.

An eastern newt! I mean, Notophthalmus viridiscens. They're basically water lizards. They were extremely abundant too, flitting around beneath the surface and resting on rocks. I even watched the pictured male try to mate with another newt. Males develop enlarged hindlimbs, visible above, which they use to lovingly strangle the female newt. Newts sure like it rough. There have been way too many boring facts in this post so I'll end with pictures of hatchling painted turtles that were also in the reservoir.

Awwwww v2.0
So cute!

While my current obsession is with lizards, I still firmly believe that there is nothing cuter than a baby turtle. And there is nothing cuter than a whole swarm of five of them going about their day between the shallow water pond vegetation.

Basking Babby
Still cute!

All in all a good day. But I'll be back for the rattlesnakes. Remind me to wear dog repellent. 

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