Little Surprises

Can't have you thinking all is gray and drear in my life at the moment. We've been having a mild winter and the few times I've been able to get out I have been treated to nice little surprises.

Here is a little snake I saw last weekend while out taking a Sunday morning stroll. It is a DeKay Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi). These little snakes max out at about a foot and a half in length. They make their living munching out on earthworms and slugs and are actually quite common in urban areas. I have never seen a brown snake even try to bite, but they will musk on you in a hearbeat! Posted by Picasa


Winter Gray

I leave home in the morning before the sun comes up and I arrive home in the evening well after the sun goes down. My days are spent within the confines of the classroom or the gym. Being locked inside tends to make me feel a little claustrophobic -- but the good news is that my class is going well and I only have 14 more weeks to go :) Posted by Picasa


Such a Lovely Leech

Yesterday was quite warm and several turtles took advantage of the conditions to do a little basking. Why do they bask? In part to get rid of pesky little critters like leeches.
We have at least six different species of aquatic leeches in the millpond. I have seen them attached to turtles, frogs, submerged logs, and the occasional canoe.
This one was not actively feeding, it was just hitching a ride on the turtle's carapace. In its contracted state it was a tad wider than my thumb and about an inch and a half long. Bet it would have been impressive all stretched out. Posted by Picasa


Fungi, Anyone?

Courtesy of Treebeard, a little touch of the outdoors. Posted by Picasa


Bird Art

A yellow-bellied sap sucker worked on this loblolly pine, leaving behind little orbs of amber resin. It's too bad the resin turns white as it dries...

You may (or may not) notice that my postings will be few and far between for the next four months. I am currently attending a training program that keeps me in class about 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. The rest of my time is spent reading for the next day's class. Plus, we are tested each Monday so my weekends are spent studying. Now doesn't that sound fun? I know you are all jealous ;) Posted by Picasa


Hidden Treasures

Most of the time, when I'm out and about, curiosity gets the best of me and I just have to see what is in or under things. The pieces of dead wood pictured above were in a seepage area, prime habitat for certain salamander species. When I took a look, I was not disappointed. Under the largest piece I found a two-lined salamander.

Two-lined salamander (Eurycea bislineata)

Of course, I put the log back the way I found it. Curious, yes; home-wrecker, no.

Other species of salamander encountered during my walk:
Red-backed salamander - Plethodon cinereus
Dusky salamander - Desmognathus auriculatus
Atlantic Coast Slimy salamander - Plethodon chlorobryonis


Even In Winter...

...you have to be vigilant. This deer tick (probably Ixodes scapularis) was trying to hitch a ride on my hand. Deer ticks are about the only species of tick we see out and about in the winter. They look sort of like walking apple seeds :)

Cypress Secrets

Inside a burned out cypress stump we found this scar -- perhaps of a long-gone branch. We also found gnaw marks (not pictured), about the right size for a squirrel. Wonder if the squirrel had a tummy ache and was chewing the charcoal for relief?



As we finished our hike on the 1st, the late afternoon sky offered up a sundog.

Sure, it's just light passing through ice crystals, but I like to think of it as a New Year's Day present... Posted by Picasa



Happy New Year! May your 2006 be filled with pleasant surprises and good fortune.
Now, I simply must go to sleep. I'm a morning person, don't you know...