Western Whiptail

01 Western Whiptail 029

This is a classic desert species of lizard that ranges throughout most of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It has been one of the most commonly encountered reptiles on my visits to the Mojave Desert, but it can often be just a blur as it races across the desert floor.

02 Western Whiptail_5262

It is in the family of lizards Teiidae, which also includes Tegus and Racerunners. Western Whiptails have long, slender bodies, with small, grainy scales on their backs and larger rectangular scales on their bellies. They can grow to a foot in total length, but two-thirds of that length is their tail.

03 Western Whiptail_4686

The Western Whiptail actively forages on the ground often near the base of vegetation and hunts a wide variety of ground-dwelling invertebrates, including grasshoppers, beetles, ants, termites, insect larvae and spiders. They flick out their tongues and often probe cracks and crevices and dig in loose soil as they search for food.

04 Western Whiptail 1

This lizard occurs in a variety of habitats including valley foothills, chaparral, desert riparian areas, desert scrub, desert washes and grasslands. I usually see then in flat, open areas and in some instances they make their home in areas cleared by man.

05 Western Whiptail 2

These reptiles are capable of running very fast and when pursued, escape into their underground burrows. They have the ability of autotomizing (dropping) their tails as a method of evading of predation attempts.

06 Western Whiptail_1591

Western Whiptails are fun lizards to experience in the wild. If you stay a few yards away from them, they will go about their lives, moving almost constantly, while searching for food.

Third Eye Herp

White Ibis

01 White Ibis_5167

While visiting Disney World in November, I saw a fair number of these rather conspicuous birds. They are about two feet tall and have a wingspan of about three feet. They are entirely white, except for their black-edged wings, which may not be noticeable when they are at rest, but is easily seen when the bird is in flight.

02 White Ibis_5172

The White Ibis is of the most numerous wading birds in Florida and is common elsewhere in the southeast. It is highly sociable during all seasons, roosting and feeding in flocks and nesting in large colonies. In Florida, over 30,000 have been counted in a single breeding colony.

03 White Ibis_5170

This bird forages by walking slowly in shallow water and its sweeping bill from side to side and probing at bottom. It also forages on land, especially on mud or in short grass. Its diet is quite variable, but crayfish and crabs are its major food items. It swallows its prey whole. The parents feed their offspring by regurgitating food from their stomachs.

04 White Ibis_5171

The White Ibis lives in a variety of coastal freshwater, saltwater and brackish marshes, rice fields, mudflats, mangrove swamps and lagoons. The birds build their nests in low trees and thickets, from two to 15 feet off the ground. Both male and female cooperate in building the nest, which is usually a platform of sticks, grass or reeds.

05 White Ibis_5173

A recent cover story in Audubon magazine indicates that these birds are adaptable and “street smart.” The opportunistic creatures are moving into suburban neighborhoods, looking for (and finding) worms and other food in parks, irrigated lawns of subdivisions and golf courses.

Third Eye Herp

Brown Anole

01 Brown Anole_5105

While visiting Disney Parks in Orlando, I’d occasionally notice these small reptiles, usually hanging out near vegetation. These lizards feed on small arthropods such as crickets, moths, ants, grasshoppers, cockroaches, beetles, flies, butterflies and spiders.

02 Brown Anole_5100

This species was introduced in southern Florida from the Caribbean decades ago. Since then, it has been slowly expanding northward and is now firmly established not only in Florida, but also in some areas of coastal and southern Georgia.

03 Brown Anole_5098

The Brown Anole is normally a light brown color with darker brown to black markings on its back, and several tan colored lines on its sides. Like other anoles, it can change color – usually to another shade of brown or black.

04 Brown Anole_5089

Its coloration allows it to easily blend in with its surroundings, making it difficult for predators to spot. The Brown Anole has a detachable tail, so if grabbed by a predator, the broken tail can allow the lizard to escape. The tail grows back afterwards, albeit smaller and duller in color.

05 Brown Anole_5142

The Brown Anole tends to live on the ground, avoiding trees and preferring to live in smaller plants and shrubs. It is found in both urban and suburban areas. When the weather is warm, it can be found basking. When it is cold, it prefers sheltered areas, like under rocks or under the bark of trees.

06 Brown Anole_5106

At an adult size of only 5 to 9 inches in total length, it has a wide range of mammal, bird and reptile predators. Despite the extensive list of creatures that want to eat it, this lizard’s alertness and speed make it very difficult to capture.

Third Eye Herp

Resurrection Fern

01 Resurrection Fern_5112

While visiting Orlando, Florida it was hard not to notice ferns that seemed to be growing out of the trunks of trees.

02 Resurrection Fern_5117

This remarkable plant can lose about 75 percent of its water content during a typical dry period and possibly up to 97 percent in an extreme drought.

03 Resurrection Fern_5158

During this time, it shrivels up to a grayish brown clump of leaves. When it is exposed to water again, it will “come back to life” and look green and healthy.

04 Resurrection Fern_5113

By contrast, most other plants can lose only 10 percent of their water content before they die. Resurrection Fern’s fronds are typically 4 to 12 inches in length.

05 Resurrection Fern_5114

This plant is found throughout the Southeast. Due to its ability to withstand drought, it can be found in a variety of habitats, but it needs a host plant on which to anchor itself.

06 Resurrection Fern_5116

It seems to favor oak trees. This plant is epiphytic, which means it grows on top of other plants and surfaces but does not harm its host.

07 Resurrection Fern_5159

In 1997 Resurrection Fern was taken into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery to watch its resurrection in zero gravity.

Third Eye Herp