Big-headed Ground Beetle

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Although a bit scary looking, due to its small size, this insect poses no danger to humans. These distinctive, shiny-black creatures are usually about 3/4″ long and are named because of their large mandibles.


These beetles share physical characteristics of the tropical stag beetles, but are not closely related. Big-headed Ground Beetles can often be found under loose rocks and boards. If touched, they often “play dead” by folding in their legs and arching their backs.


They are able to live in a variety of different habitats, including urban areas, woodlands and gardens. Big-headed Ground Beetles are frequently found in agricultural areas, where they hunt other insects (their main food source).

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Third Eye Herp

Northern Pike

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I went fishing with my brother-in-law at a small lake not far from my house and he landed this incredible fish. This fish gets its name from its resemblance to the pole-weapon known as the pike (from the Middle English word for “pointed”).

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Northern Pike average 18-20 inches in length. They can be identified by their single dorsal fin and light-colored spots along their dark body. They are found in a variety of freshwater habitats, from cold deep lakes, to warm shallow ponds, to muddy rivers. They have a broad range of tolerances for water temperature, clarity and oxygen content.

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These are aggressive, solitary fish. They typically lurk, relying on camoflauge and are able to attack quickly. Their eyes are highly movable and are able to see in practically any direction. They are “sit and predators” that usually hide in some type of cover, cocked in an “S” position and ready to strike.

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Northern Pike are equipped with sharp teeth and have very complex skull and jaw structures, enabling them feed on smaller fish, frogs, crayfish, small mammals and birds. These fish are top predators in the systems they inhabit and it was very cool to encounter one in the wild.

Third Eye Herp

California Mountain Kingsnake

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The most exciting part of my recent visit to southern California was seeing a few of these spectacular serpents in the field. This is one of the most strikingly colored snakes in North America. Its colors really stand out on its smooth, shiny scales.

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This reptile is endemic to North America and a Coral Snake mimic, having a similar pattern consisting of red, black, and yellow on its body, but kingsnakes are completely harmless.

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These are slender, smooth and medium-sized snakes usually about 24-30 inches long. Most California Mountain Kingsnakes live in the mountains of California, but they can adapt to a wide variety of habitats, including coniferous forests, oak-pine woodlands, riparian woodlands, chaparrals and coastal sage scrubs.

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California Mountain Kingsnakes are constrictors, their diet includes lizards, smaller snakes, nestling birds and bird eggs and small mammals.

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This species is mostly diurnal, but can be active at night in warmer weather. They are excellent climbers and prefer southwestern facing slopes, often retreating beneath granite flakes of rocks. It was awesome to see this species of snake in the wild.

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Red-spotted Toad

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The Red-spotted Toad of the arid southwestern United States is named for the orange or red spots that are usually scattered on its back, sides and legs.

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No two are alike – some have many spots while others have few to none.

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This toad is one of the very few amphibians that can be found in the desert throughout most of the year. I see them most often along the edges of creeks and springs.

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They have a general body pattern that is flattened. This allows them to crawl beneath rocks and crevices where these nocturnal creatures spend much of the day hiding.

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Red-spotted Toads are nimble and climb over, under and around rocks with ease. They are one of our smaller toad species, reaching lengths around 2-1/2 to 3 inches.

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