Plains Garter Snake

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While flipping some debris behind a gas station in Kankakee, Illinois, I came across this “lifer” reptile.

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This snake occurs in grassy areas such as vacant lots, abandoned fields, meadows and pastures. It is not unusual to find them near towns.

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Plains Garter Snakes are native to most of the central United States and range as far north as Canada and as far south as Texas. In my home state of Ohio, we have an isolated population.

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Their diet is similar to that of most other garter snakes; they favor frogs and toads, salamanders, fish, small rodents, leeches and earthworms.

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Like other garters, the Plains Garter Snake features three yellow stripes on a background color of dark brown to dark green. Described as “one of the most cold-tolerant snakes,” on warmer Winter days, it often comes out of hibernation to bask in the sun.

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Though the habitat was unglamorous, while visiting the “Land of Lincoln, it was super cool to find this snake that I’ve never seen in the field before.

Third Eye Herp



The young shoots of snowdrops emerging from the frost-covered ground provides anticipation for the beginning of Spring.


Snowdrops are in the amaryllis family and there are only a dozen cultivated species, mostly native to the deciduous woodlands of Europe and western Asia.


Flowering from January to March, it can naturally be found growing in the woods and by streams. The plants have two linear leaves and a single small white drooping bell-shaped flower.


Snowdrops have been known since early times, being described by the classical Greek author Theophrastus in the fourth century BC.


Celebrated as a sign of Spring, Snowdrops can form impressive carpets of white in areas where they are native or have been naturalized.


I enjoy seeing them in my yard as well as when I’m out and about in late Winter and early Spring.

Third Eye Herp

Fragrant Bracket Fungus

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While on a hike in Cleveland Lakefront Nature Preserve, I noticed a fair number of these white organisms.

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Looking at its Latin Name, Trametes suaveolens, Trametes means “one who is thin,” while suaveolens means “sweet-smelling” in reference to the anise scent of fresh specimens.

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It is found mainly on living or dead broad-leaved trees – usually Poplar and Willow. This fungi is known as a polypore; a type that forms fruiting bodies with pores or tubes on the underside.

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Most polypores inhabit tree trunks or branches while consuming the wood. They play a very significant role in nutrient cycling and carbon dioxide production of forest ecosystems.

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Bracket Fungus is also known as Shelf Fungus, because they produce shelf- or bracket-shaped fruiting bodies called conks. Most of the fungus is hidden from view within the body of the tree and it consists of an extensive network of filamentous threads.

Seeing these fungi on an otherwise dreary day added some brightness to the woodland environment where they reside.

Third Eye Herp

American Tree Sparrow

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I often see these small birds while hiking on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath. This is a northern species that visits the United States in the Winter. It can tolerate very harsh weather and low temperatures if it has a good food supply.

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American Tree Sparrows are mostly gray with a rufous crown and ear stripe. Their upperparts are streaked brown. There is one dark spot in the center of the breast; another good identification characteristic of this bird is its bi-colored beak.

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In the Winter, they are gregarious and form flocks, sometimes hanging out with other bird species. They mainly search on the ground for seeds, but they also may ascend on plants, to look for seeds, berries and invertebrates.

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Their preferred habitat is weedy fields with hedgerows or shrubs, usually along forest edges or near waterways. American Tree Sparrow often visit backyards, especially if there’s a birdfeeder.

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This species breeds in the far north and is rarely seen outside of northern Canada in the Summer. It is fun to watch, as it adds its color and song to our sometimes drab Winters.

Third Eye Herp

Spotted Dorid

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In Central California this is often the most common sea slug around, though this impression may be due to the fact that its orange coloration makes it one of the easiest to find.

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While the body shape is consistent, there are several color forms associated with age: the smallest often appear pure orange, medium individuals (1-1/2 inches long) are dark brown with white spots and large examples (3 inches) are light orange with distinctive white spots.

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This species lives in the eastern Pacific Ocean, from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Baja California, Mexico. It also lives in Japan. It feeds on bryozoans.

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It was neat to experience this a shell-less marine gastropod in the wild.

Third Eye Herp