While visiting Virginia this month, I came across a lizard that I have not seen in a few years. The Broadhead Skink can grow to over a foot long and is the northeast’s largest lizard.
This reptile is essentially a woodland inhabitant. It easily climbs trees and can sometimes be observed high in the branches of dead trees.
Though Broadhead Skinks live in trees and prefer open forest habitats, they can also found hunting, mating and nesting on the ground. Here is one that I saw crossing a gravel road in southern Illinois a few years back.
The female and young closely resemble the female and young of the smaller Five-lined Skink. This is an immature specimen which has a bright blue tail. Adult males are a uniform olive-brown, often sporting a considerable amount of red-orange coloration on their enlarged heads.
Their diet is comprised of mostly insects. Broadhead Skinks search for food in trees and on the the ground using visual and scent signals, which are detected by tongue flicking.
Third Eye Herp
While visiting northwest Ohio recently, I observed several of these huge waterfowl. Trumpeter Swans are listed as Threatened in Ohio. In 1996, Ohio became one of a number of states involved in reintroduction plans to restore them to the Midwest.
These birds were killed for food and skins, first by Indians and then by white men upon arrival on the continent. The plumage trade peaked in the early 1800s and swan populations were dramatically reduced by the mid-1800s. Loss of habitat for this wetland-dependent species resulted in further declines.
Weighing from 25-35 pounds when fully grown, the Trumpeter Swan is the world’s largest waterfowl. Adults usually measure 4-1/2–5-1/2 feet long. When fully extended, their wingspan can reach nearly eight feet.
The long neck of the Trumpeter Swan is an adaptation that allows the bird to access food inaccessible to other species of waterfowl. Trumpeter Swans forage on water and, especially in Winter, on land. Their long necks allow them access submergent vegetation without diving.
Trumpeter Swans inhabit lakes, ponds, large rivers, and coastal bays. They were historically more common in fresh water than salt water, but this is no longer the case.
They are a long-lived, social species.
Third Eye Herp
Last month a female Cecropia Moth emerged from underneath my neighbor’s deck; it spent Fall and Winter there in a cocoon.
The very next night a male stopped by to mate. This is North America’s largest native moth – females with wingspans of six inches or more have been documented.
This spectacular insect is prized by collectors and nature lovers alike for its large size and extremely showy appearance. Their caterpillars feed on leaves (mainly Maple) throughout the summer. The adult moths don’t eat at all and rarely live longer than a week.
The adults’ sole function is to mate and produce a crop of eggs. In order to find a mate, male Cecropia moths use their extraordinary senses. A female moth produces chemicals called pheromones, which the male can detect from over a mile away.
I haven’t seen one of these awesome insects since my childhood, so it was a thrill to get reacquainted with them.
Third Eye Herp
Lately, when hiking on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath, I’ve been seeing a lot of this plant. Star of Bethlehem belongs to the Lily Family and blooms in late spring or early summer. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is similar to wild garlic (though it does not have a garlic smell).
The English name “Star of Bethlehem” seems to date from the Middle Ages. The bulbs were sometimes brought home as souvenirs during pilgrimages to the Holy Land.
Its flowers are clustered at the tips of stems up to one foot tall. The three sepals and three petals form an attractive star, white on the upper surface, with green lines on the underside. It blooms from April to June; all parts of this plant are poisonous.
The blooms open during the early morning hours and close by noon. This characteristic habit gives it the nickname “Nap By Noon.” Its leaves are grasslike, very dark green, rolled inward with a white center vein.
Star of Bethlehem can be found in a variety of situations, including pastures, bottomland and upland forests, roadsides, suburban lawns and disturbed areas.
Third Eye Herp