White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow_1233

While visiting Point Reyes National Seashore in California, I saw many of these distinctive birds with bold black and white stripes on their heads.

White-crowned Sparrow_1264

Juveniles are not as brightly colored as the adults. Immature White-crowned Sparrows are tan with brownish head stripes.

White-crowned Sparrow_1272

They require a patchy mosaic of bare ground and shrubby areas for breeding. These birds fan out into open ground away from sheltering bushes as they feed.

White-crowned Sparrow_1266

They use a two-footed scratching maneuver to locate food in the leaf litter which consists of seeds, grass, buds, fruits. insects and spiders.

White-crowned Sparrow_1274

I saw several males calling from shrubs. The White-crowned Sparrow is one of the best-studied songbirds in North America. Much of our knowledge of bird song and development is based on studies of this species.

White-crowned Sparrow_1292

It was enoyable not only to see these birds, but to hear them pour out their songs over and over again, adding to the sights and sounds of the Bay Area.

Third Eye Herp

Rubber Boa

rubber boa_0893

When most people hear the word “boa” they think of a tropical serpent of gigantic proportions. But not only is the Rubber Boa the most northerly-occurring member of the boa and python family, it also is rather small, never getting to 3 feet in length.

rubber boa_0698

Named for its lithe, pliable skin, this reptile, especially in older literature, is sometimes called the “Two-headed Snake,” since its blunt tail is about the same size and shape of its head.

rubber boa_1912

The Rubber Boa is shy and rarely attempts to bite when caught. It is slow-moving and tends to curl up in a ball and hide its head when confronted with danger that it cannot escape from.

rubber boa_5070

Unlike most snakes, the very secretive Rubber Boa likes relatively cool temperatures – 50-60 degrees. These snakes have a subterranean existence at least some of the time, they disappear in warm weather and seek cooler surroundings and moisture – often underground.

rubber boa_5067

This snake was found on a mountain. Because they tend to live in relatively cold areas of the United States and sometimes at high elevations, these snakes may hibernate six months out of the year in some areas.

rubber boa_5058

They are small, averaging 20-25 inches. Rubber Boas are unicolored and usually a drab shade of grey, brown or olive-green. It’s odd lifestyle and habits make this one of North America’s most unique serpents.

Third Eye Herp

American Alligator


When visiting South Carolina during the first week in March, I had the chance to get reacquainted with a reptile I haven’t seen in awhile, due to not having visited the southeast states (they only place where they live) in 20 years.


The American Alligator inhabits freshwater wetlands, such as marshes and cypress swamps from Texas to North Carolina. Large individuals can be more than 10 feet in total length. Like other reptiles, they warm themselves in the sun on cool days, as these were doing.


These reptiles are apex predators and consume fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. They also play an important role in the ecosystem through the creation of alligator holes, which provide both wet and dry habitats for other creatures.


The American Alligator propels itself through the water with its muscular, flat tail. The skin on the back is armored with embedded bony plates called osteoderms or scutes. Their long snout with upward-facing nostrils at the end lets them breathe while the rest of their body is under water.


Historically, hunting decimated their population, and they were listed as an endangered species by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Subsequent conservation efforts have allowed their numbers to increase and the species was removed from the list in 1987. It is a rare success story of an endangered animal, not only saved from extinction, but that is now thriving.


American Alligators are long-lived animals whose life spans can exceed 60 years. Alligators and their relatives are the last of the living reptiles that were closely related to dinosaurs, and their closest modern kin are birds. There is only one other alligator species, the Chinese Alligator.


The American Alligator is the official state reptile of three states: Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Third Eye Herp

Southern Live Oak

live oak_9641

These trees have the characteristic of evergreen foliage; they remain green and “live” throughout winter, when other oaks are dormant and leafless. Southern Live Oaks are confined to warm parts of the country, because of their inability to survive freezing temperatures.

live oak_9631

I enjoyed seeing this tree on my visit to South Carolina last month. To me they are an iconic part of the southeast states. Although live oaks retain their leaves nearly year-round, they are not true evergreens, since they drop their leaves immediately before new leaves emerge in the spring.

live oak_9644

The bark is dark, thick, and furrowed longitudinally. The leaves are stiff and leathery, with the tops shiny dark green and the bottoms pale gray. The moss that frequently hangs from the tree branches it often used by birds to construct nests.

live oak_4663

Its small (1/2 to 1 inch) acorns are oblong in shape, shiny and tan-brown to nearly black and are often black at the tips. They are eaten by birds and mammals, including sapsuckers, mallards, wild turkey, squirrels, black bears and deer.

live oak_9637

Southern Live Oaks tend to survive fire, because often a fire will not reach their crowns. Even if a tree is burned, its crowns and roots usually survive the fire and sprout vigorously afterwards.

live oak_4637

These are majestic trees that are emblems of the South. When given enough room to grow, their sweeping limbs plunge toward the ground before shooting upward, creating an impressive array of branches.

Third Eye Herp