Prairie Racerunner

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What’s the fastest lizard in the land? Here in the United States, that distinction would go to racerunners, which have been clocked at 18 miles per hour. While visiting the sandhill prairies of Illinois, I caught a few of the reptile speedsters.

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Related to the whiptail lizards of the western US, these are a day-active species which prefer a habitat of scrubby areas and sandy substrate for burrowing. This liazrd’s close relative, the Six-lined Racerunner, resides in the southeastern United States.

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As its name implies, the racerunner is extremely fast and agile. These lizards are quite striking in appearance. Adult males obtain a vibrant green coloration on their heads and necks. Like its relative to the east, the Six-lined Raxcerunner, this subspecies has six pale blue or yellow horizontal lines that run along the length of its 6-10 inch body.

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This reptile has to be quick to grab dinner as well escape being eaten by predators. Insects and spiders comprise the bulk of the diet, though other prey of suitable size may also be eaten. The Prairie Racerunner is a very active forager. It moves along the ground with quick, jerky movements as it samples smells with its tongue while it looks about.

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It was very cool to come across this midwest speed specialist while visiting the Land of Lincoln.

Third Eye Herp

Ohio Buckeye

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This tree typically occurs in rich or rocky wooded areas of valleys, ravines, bluff bases, slopes and thicket. It is a low-branched, small to medium-sized deciduous tree that typically grows 20 to 40 feet.

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The leaves have a shape similar to that of a hand with the fingers extended; they have leaflets, 3 to 6 inches long and broad. Ohio Buckeyes tend to change color early – their Fall color is usually yellow, although their foliage may develop interesting and attractive shades of orange and red.

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The Ohio Buckeye’s fruit is a globular capsule consisting of 1-2 buckeyes encased by a leathery light brown partitioned husk covered with warty spines.

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When ripe, each buckeye turns a handsome shiny dark mahogany brown with a light tan eye. Since colonial times, buckeyes have been carried by many school children and adults as good luck charms.

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The Ohio Buckeye is the state tree of Ohio, and its name is an original term of endearment for the pioneers on the Ohio frontier, who traversed the wilderness in the spring of 1788, and began the settlement of Ohio.

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Buckeye candy, made to resemble the tree’s nut, is made by dipping a ball of peanut butter fudge in milk chocolate, leaving a circle of the peanut butter exposed. These are a popular treat in Ohio, especially during the Christmas and college football seasons.

Third Eye Herp

Eastern Screech-Owl

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These are common, yet hardly ever seen birds. Their nocturnal habits and great camouflage make them elusive to observe. They often conceal themselves in tree cavities during the daytime.

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These birds occur in a wide range of habitats and can often live in urban areas. There are two distinct color morphs – red and gray. They are only about the size of a Robin.

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The Eastern Screech-Owl hunts at dusk and at night. It does so mostly by watching from a perch and then swooping down to take prey from the ground. It eats a fair amout of large insects and crayfish during the warmer months and mainly eats rodents during colder months.


Its whinnying and trilling songs are familiar, but its vocalizations also include rasps, barks, hoots, chuckles, and screeches.

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The Eastern Screech-Owl was first described by Carolus Linnaeus, in 1758. They have also been called the Common Screech Owl, Ghost Owl, Dusk Owl, Little-eared Owl, Spirit Owl, Whickering Owl, Little Gray Owl, Mottled Owl, Mouse Owl, Cat Owl, Shivering Owl and Little Horned Owl.

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A group of owls has many collective nouns, including a “bazaar,” “glaring,” “parliament,” “stooping” and “wisdom” of owls.

Third Eye Herp

17 Year Cicada

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This year has been a special one for fans of insects in northeast Ohio. The emergence of millions of ciciadas occured. Magicicada is the genus of the 13-year and 17-year periodical cicadas of eastern North America.


They have spent the past 17 years underground as nymphs feeding on fluids from roots of deciduous trees. At night, when it gets warm enough, the nymphs climb the nearest available tree (or man-made structure), and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton.


In the morning their exoskeletons could be seen in large numbers, where the creatures which the creatures that previously lived underground, see light for the first time after more than a decade and a half of a subterranean lifestyle. They also get wings.


Free of their old skin, their wings inflate with fluid and their adult skin hardens. Once their new wings and body are ready, they can begin their brief adult life, which lasts 4 to 6 weeks.


As an adult, a cicada has one job to do: make baby cicadas. To accomplish this task, an adult male will spend the last part of his life in furious song. Their sounds are sometimes reminiscent of chirps, rattles, or high-pitched screams, and when males gather in trees to form a chorus, the noise can exceed 100 decibels. Their song can be heard by females up to a mile away.


A single brood can contain billions of cicadas, with as 1.5 million insects per square acre in some parts of the region. Simultaneously emerging in such great numbers is a survival strategy known as predator satiation.


With a lifespan of 17 years, cicadas are among the longest-living insects on earth.


Third Eye Herp