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Old 01-02-17, 02:16 PM   #136 (permalink)
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Hog Bayou



Hog Bayou was the first of two places I hit this fall targeting Gulf Salt Marsh Snakes and Mississippi Green Water Snakes, either of which would be a lifer for me. I came up empty on both counts, in both places. But I did see a lot of Crabs. I offered to take this fellows portrait, and it responded by blowing bubbles at me. How rude.



This one claimed my hook as its own. Took a couple minutes to convince it to let go.



There were remarkable numbers of Green Aloes in the brush lining the Bayou, and as the night wore on dew began to collect on their backs.



The dew beaded up heavily as dawn approached.



Sneaky Leopard Frogs.



A couple Broadbanded Water Snakes were found in marshy areas along the Bayou.



Alligators were present in large numbers, particularly around the boat ramp where they gather to eat scraps left by fishermen. They are very wary animals, it is not easy to get close enough to them to get a picture. This was the best shot an adult was willing to afford me, this was taken from some fifteen feet away.



This juvenile Alligator allowed me much closer before deciding it had seen enough and slipped below the surface, silent as a shadow in the water.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:19 PM   #137 (permalink)
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Garcitas Creek



Dekay's Brown Snake. Garcitas Creek was the second location selected in my hunt for Salt Marsh and Green Water Snakes. Garcitas Creek is a popular local swimming and fishing destination. People often jump from the bridge to test their courage, but no one was swimming this time as it was relatively cool. A few anglers were there testing their luck however. I struck out to explore a cut I had seen beforehand thanks to Google maps, it lead to a marshy area I wanted to check out. The cut doubled back under the road, there were a couple younger fellows in kayaks under the bridge while an older fellow (presumably their dad) fished from the bank. We exchanged pleasantries as I paddled by. The cut curved to the left a small ways up, immediately after rounding the bend a small Alligator was spied in the water straight ahead and Alligator slides lined both shores. On the way back by I reported my findings to the guys in the kayaks, and suggested they check it out. They feigned disinterest and I continued on, but just before I got out of sight I glanced back and they were both vacating the water with notable haste. Ha. Still neither of the target species were turned up on this trip, but more Alligators and many more Crabs were seen, as well as Dekay's Brown Snakes, Rough Earth Snakes, Rough Green Snakes, a Cottonmouth and a Western Ribbon, and a number of frog species.



Dekay's Brown Snake.



A Rough Earth Snake found in the sand near the shore.



Juvenile Bull Frog.



A Leopard Frog leaves its cave to embark on the nights adventures.



A Coastal Plains Toad.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:21 PM   #138 (permalink)
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Coleto Creek



Neonate Broadbanded Water Snake in Coleto Creek. This is probably my new favorite spot. It's tough going in places as the creek is so shallow in spots even the kayak can't pass, so you have to get out and drag or carry the kayak, but the water is clear and the wildlife abundant. The deeper pools host Alligator Gar, there is something surreal about seeing these large, armor plated fish floating silently just below the surface. They look ancient, prehistoric, like you're looking back in time.



A neonate Broadbanded Water Snake pokes its head up through the vegetation for a breath.



Neonate Broadbanded Water Snake peering into the camera.



Juvenile Plainbelly Water Snake.



Neonate Plainbelly Water Snake.



Adult Plainbelly Water Snake.



A handsome adult Diamondback Water Snake.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:24 PM   #139 (permalink)
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The Stock Pond



My favorite mud hole was as busy as ever, just crawling with Diamondback Water Snakes. I didn't spend much time shooting them though, as I have a ton of pictures of them already. Here a couple Diamondback Water Snakes hang out in a fallen tree on a warm December afternoon.



A Diamondback Water Snake shows off its purple tongue.



This little newborn Diamondback Water Snake was found near the waters edge, tiny little thing is already missing most of its tail.



An increasingly common find at the stock pond, a Plainbelly Water Snake shows off the brightly colored underside of its tail.



A Plainbelly Water Snake just below the surface.



A Cottonmouth cruises through the grass near the pond.



A beautiful adult Eastern Yellowbelly Racer that was found under a board near the pond. Stunning animal, almost flawless save for missing the tip of its tail.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:25 PM   #140 (permalink)
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The Stock Pond



A big ol American Bull Frog hangs out with a Mosquito Fish.



Tiny little Red Ear Slider hatchling.



Many birds visit the stock pond regularly, here we see Canvasback Ducks (the male is on the far left with white wings), Northern Shovelers (the two males with black heads are just right of center), and Green Winged Teals (the two in the background on the right). These are not great pictures I'm afraid, my little camera really struggles with long distance shots, but the birds are at least identifiable.



A handsome Northern Pintail.



A few American Wigeons.



Three Black Vultures perch on a pile of brush to oversee a pair of Caracaras eating an Opossum (the Caracaras didn't stick around for pictures). Patiently waiting their turn, the bird on the left scratches its neck, the bird on the right preens, while the bird in the middle looks on with apparent disapproval.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:31 PM   #141 (permalink)
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The Cottonmouth project



I was at work one day late in July when the guys started shouting for me to come quick. They had picked up a crate behind the shop, and there was a snake under it. It was a small Cottonmouth, which, in and of itself, was not that big a deal, as Cottonmouths are routine finds around the shop, but there was something special about this particular little Cottonmouth; she was gravid. I quickly bagged her up and stashed her away in my backpack. That evening I set her up in an isolated tub so she could gestate in peace. She weighs 436 grams in this picture.



Almost three weeks later I find this, eight healthy little worms!



The mother weighs a mere 213 grams postnatal, less than half her gravid weight. Very small, and very tired.



Close up of a few of the little ones in their nursery tub, their oversized noggins are adorable. They were kept together on damp paper towels until they started shedding, which began on their seventh day. Then I had the not so easy task of deciding which ones to keep (I couldn't keep just one... too much cute). The rest, along with the mother, were immediately returned to a place near where she had been found, my favorite mud hole, the stock pond, and released.



On the seventh day the little ones shed one by one, but this little one had a bit of trouble. The old skin snagged along the little Cottonmouths pronounced canthus rostralis (the ridge around the nose) in such a way that when the snake exhaled the air was trapped, pressurizing the bubble of skin and preventing the little one from breathing. It had to open its mouth in order to inhale, as you can see here. It was hilarious, and pathetic. Baby snake problems, ha. I pinned it down and peeled the shed over its head, just to help it get started.



It was not appreciative, lol.



Its sibling was a bit more willing to pose for its portrait.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:33 PM   #142 (permalink)
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The Cottonmouth project



I made sure to take lots of pictures as the little ones set out on the parlous journey that is life. Here a little one rides the hook for the last time.



This little one almost immediately came face to face with one of the many hazards of the wild life, a mosquito. I didn't even see the mosquito until I was processing these pictures months after the fact, it was just a lucky capture. A little Cottonmouth face to face with danger, the most dangerous animal in the world, the bringer of death itself, a mosquito.



Well I guess if your head fits...



What's that? No more pictures? Alright, I'll go away...



The Snail that upstaged the Cottonmouth.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:35 PM   #143 (permalink)
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The Cottonmouth project



That's a nice one.



A little Cottonmouth bravely sets its course.



Right at home already.



Taking a quick breather.



Alright, alright, I get it, I'm leaving... Best of luck little ones.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:37 PM   #144 (permalink)
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Why are there fire trucks in my backyard? I didn't order fire trucks.



One afternoon, late in July, I looked out the window and saw fire trucks in my backyard. At first I though something must have happened at my neighbors place, but then I noticed a lot of smoke coming from the brush out back. Great. I pulled on a pair of boots and grabbed a machete on the way out the back door. There was an older fellow, hands on his hips, watching a younger firefighter hose down the grass along the brush line. I stopped next to him and surveyed the situation. I turned to the older fellow and said, "My neighbors trying to burn my place down, eh?" He chuckled, and responded, "We think a barrel fire got loose in the grass, and once it hit this brush it really took off. We're laying a wet line down here, we'll just let it burn itself out once it reaches the wet line." "Sounds like a plan" I said, and thanked him for coming out. Once the fire was contained we worked on putting out the spots that still burned.



One of my sheets of plywood, and a small sheet of tin, can be seen now that the grass has been burned away.



That's not snow on the ground, ha.



The good news is I'd guesstimate only about 30% of my brush burned out, and plenty of new growth turned the whole place green again within a few weeks. The fresh growth made for great habitat, and aught to look fantastic come spring.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:42 PM   #145 (permalink)
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The Backyard Fall 2016



Western Coachwhip!! The new artificial cover I put down early in the year paid off with many great finds, including this beautiful critter. Unfortunately it promptly "died" (Coachwhips like to play dead when captured).



I sat down for a bit to see if it would calm down enough to pose for pictures. No luck. Maybe it will cooperate if I leave it alone in the lightbox for a few minutes.



Nope. How tragic, eh? Should get a nomination for this performance really.



A close up of some of its scaring. The wild life is a rough life.



I gave up on trying to get nice profile shots and satisfied myself with a few overheads. Ha, that award nomination just went out the window buddy, I caught you tongue flicking! Hopefully the next one will be a bit more cooperative. And hopefully I get see another one relatively soon, this is only the second Coachwhip I've found in my backyard, the first was found five or six years ago. I don't want to have to wait six years to see another, these are one of my favorites.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:44 PM   #146 (permalink)
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The Backyard Fall 2016



Another great find produced by the new artificial cover, a Checkered Garter! I used to find these often as a kid, when I lived on the other side of Victoria County. They are common out that way. But this is the first I've ever found in my backyard. Maybe the influx of amphibians in my backyard due to a couple wet years will bring more of these around.



The artificial cover also produced a couple Eastern Yellowbelly Racers, but this subadult was found in my garage one morning. They cannot move very fast on bare concrete, ha.



Hatchling Eastern Yellowbelly Racer.



Subadult Eastern Yellowbelly Racer.



Aaaand its gone...



Hatchling Western Rat Snake.



Dekay's Brown Snake.



A Dekay's Brown Snake shows off its very long tongue.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:46 PM   #147 (permalink)
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The Backyard Fall 2016



A Rough Green Snake is seen hanging out in the bushes right outside my bedroom window.



A Rough Green Snake and a Grasshopper share a resting place for the night.



One of my favorite images from 2016, a stunning Rough Green Snake.



A Western Ribbon Snake, in blue.



This juvenile Western Ribbon Snake was found on a sunny Christmas day.



Texas Blind Snake, and a big one at that.



Texas Blind Snake tongue!



Another, much smaller, Texas Blind Snake.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:49 PM   #148 (permalink)
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The Backyard Fall 2016



This is pretty typical in my backyard, there's a Rough Green Snake (green arrow, near the top of the frame), a Western Ribbon Snake (red arrow, near the middle), and a Green Anole (yellow arrow, all we can see is its tail) in this picture.



A good looking male Texas Spiny Lizard is found on a warm November night.



Texas Spiny Lizard hopes it is hidden under that little leaf. Nope, sorry, I can see you. Ha.



A large Wolf Spider preys on a hatchling Mediterranean House Gecko, as seen on my front porch.



A rather stately Gulf Coast Toad looks down its nose at the camera.



A googly-eyed subadult Cope's Gray Tree Frog.



A good looking adult Cope's Gray Tree Frog.
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Old 01-02-17, 02:51 PM   #149 (permalink)
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Re: FW's backyard herping adventures (pic heavy)

This closes the chapter on 2016, looking forward to a productive 2017. Thanks for looking.
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Old 03-19-17, 11:20 AM   #150 (permalink)
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Texas Coral



I stepped out the back door this morning to catch some fresh air and see what the weather was like. A Red-tailed Hawk peered at me from its perch on my roof as countless song birds sang from the trees. The slightest rustle in the leaves on my back porch caught my attention and I investigated. Poking about with a stick quickly produced a Little Brown Skink, a very common visitor. But wait, something else moves beneath the leaves, something much larger... Then an unmistakable flash of yellow and red through the leaves, a Texas Coral! I quickly snatch it up and deposit it in a nearby bucket while doing a little celebration dance, only the second Texas Coral I've found in my adult life. That's a great way to start the day.

Spring is in full swing in south Texas, everything is green, the sent of wildflowers is heavy in the air, and the critters are on the move. I'll have more pictures of this beauty and hopefully many more critters later on. Happy herping!
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