I did a bit of fishing when visiting South Carolina earlier this month and caught one of these cool creatures. This fish likes to reside on mud, and to a lesser degree, sand bottoms in relatively shallow water. Southern Flounders commonly enter fresh water and have been found 100 miles up rivers.
The body is very compressed laterally and right side is white and eyeless. The left side has both eyes and is olive brown in color with dark and white spots.
Flounders are known for their unique and spectacular transformation from a normal-looking fish with an eye on each side of the head to both eyes on the same side of the head. Movement of the right eye to the left side of the head begins when the fish is a to ½ inch in length and is complete when the fish is ¾ inch to 1 inch in length. During this time, the left side develops its dark color and the right side turns white.
These fish are well adapted for ambushing quick-moving prey such as fish or shrimp. Their flattened shape allows them to become nearly invisible on the bottom. Their brain has large optic lobes to provide them with good vision, and they have large mouths and strong teeth.
Typically Southern Flounder range from 15 to 18 inches, but the fish can grow to as large as 33 inches. It was an awesome experience to meet one of these fish “in person.”
Third Eye Herp
A resident of southern swamps, this bird is known as the Water Turkey for its swimming habits and broad tail, and also as the Snake Bird for its habit of swimming with just its long head and neck sticking out of the water. It is a large bird with a long S-shaped neck and a long, pointed bill.
I saw a few of these interesting creatures on my recent visit to South Carolina. In order to dive and search for underwater prey, like fish and amphibians, the Anhinga does not have waterproof feathers (like ducks do). Because of this, the Anhinga is barely buoyant and it can stay below water more easily and for longer periods of time.
If it attempts to fly while its wings are wet, this bird has difficulty, flapping vigorously while “running” on the water. To dry its feathers, it will stand with wings spread and feathers fanned open in a semicircular shape, which led to the Anhinga being sometimes referred to as “water turkey.”
This bird is most often found in freshwater ponds and swamps where there is thick vegetation and tall trees. Using their sharp bills, Anhingas spear fish, flip them in the air and swallow them head-first.
These birds are found in the warmer parts of the Americas. They are members of the darter family and are related to pelicans and cormorants. I enjoyed seeing these odd, yet cool inhabitants of the Palmetto State.
Third Eye Herp
While visiting South Carolina earlier this month I discovered my first wildflower of the year. Mottled Trillium is a relict species, meaning there are a few remaining groups of a species that was once more abundant when conditions were different.
Significant habitat loss has occurred through clearing of forests for agricultural and pine farm uses; in 1988 this plant was officially listed as an endangered species. Mottled Trillium grows in undisturbed hardwood forests that sometimes include mature pines and that are free of understory plants such as shrubs and vines.
This is one of the first trillium species in Georgia and South Carolina to appear in the early spring. Prior to blooming, its three mottled leaves that are blue-green, to green to silver in color.
It was totally awesome to not only see my first wildflower of the year, but also one that I have never seen before.
Third Eye Herp
On my recent trip to South Carolina I had a chance to get reacquainted with a reptile from my childhood. As a kid I kept Green Anoles as pets in the classroom in grade school as well as at home.
Despite its name, this lizard can be either green or brown depending, on environmental conditions. When brown, it may have faint markings on the back. It is sometimes referred to as the “American Chameleon” due to its ability to change color from several brown hues to bright green.
These lizards are active by day in warm weather and often bask in vegetation, occasionally charging away from their basking spots to grab an insect or chase off a rival Anole. During cool weather anoles are often found hiding under tree bark, shingles or in rotten logs. Sometimes several of these reptiles can be found taking refuge in one spot.
The Green Anole’s head is long and pointed with ridges between the eyes and nostrils, and smaller ridges on the top of the head. The toes have adhesive pads to facilitate climbing.
This creatures diet consists of small insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, spiders and other arthropods.
The male anole performs a series of visual displays to establish dominance and territory. It will bob its head up and down, do “pushups” and flare its pink dewlap.
It was cool to come across these reptiles at several places that I visited on my trip to Hilton Head.
Third Eye Herp