While hiking on Mount Charleston in southern Nevada, I noticed the small flowering plant growing close to the ground.
This member of the Phlox Family is a sweetly aromatic, clump-forming perennial with a round mound of stems clad with a distinctive whorled foliage.
Native to much of the southwestern United States, it lives on dry, open or lightly wooded, often rocky slopes from the foothills to well up into the mountains.
Nuttall’s Linanthus’ flowers are very similar to many other members of the Phlox Family. They are white or pale cream in color, about half an inch across and have five unnotched petals, centered on a yellow tube.
This species was named in 1870 from a specimen collected by famed botanist and Harvard teacher, Thomas Nuttall.
Third Eye Herp
This is a classic American serpent of the southwestern deserts. It is active in the daytime, extremely alert and very speedy. I’ve come across it a few times on my visits to the Mojave Desert.
Western Coachwhips actively hunt and eat lizards, small birds and rodents, subduing their prey by grasping it and holding it down with their jaws, rather than using constriction.
They are curious reptiles with excellent eyesight and are known to “periscope,” which is to raise their heads above the level of the grass or rocks to see what is around them. They are often seen foraging in the hottest hours of a summer day.
A mature Western Coachwhip may measure three to eight feet in length, though they average about four feet. They are a slender-bodied snake with a long and thinly tapered tail.
This reptile has a range as to what it looks like in physical appearance; its dominant color often blends in with the soil color of its habitat, helping to camouflage the snake. The common name “Coachwhip” comes from these snakes often having a black head and neck, resembling a whip handle and large scales resembling a braided whip.
For habitat, the Western Coachwhip prefers relatively open territory, such as sand dunes, prairielands, desert scrub, rocky hillsides and open pine and oak woodlands.
The coachwhip is one of the longest native snakes found in North America. Out west it is also known as the “Red Racer” and it is a thrilling herp to encounter in the field.
Third Eye Herp
This cool creature has a very limited range and I’ve only been lucky enough to encounter it a few times. The Nevada Admiral occurs only in the Spring Mountains in southern Nevada.
This insect belongs to a large family known as the Brushfooted Butterflies, which are distinguished by their reduced brush-like forelegs that are curled up and not functional for walking. It’s bold black and white pattern make for a distinctive “look,” with white bands replacing the orange bands of the Red Admiral found in my home state of Ohio.
The Nevada Admiral’s habitat is deciduous forests, streamsides in coniferous forests, aspen groves, as well as small towns and suburbs. Like the Red Admiral, male Nevada Admirals often perch in a specific spot, waiting for females to come into their territory and chasing out other males.
Adults feed on tree sap, carrion and flower nectar, while their larva consume mostly aspen, cottonwood and willow leaves. It was neat to see these strikingly marked inhabitants on Mount Charleston when I visited the Silver State.
Third Eye Herp
This is a fun mammal to observe on my visits to the Las Vegas Area. The White-tailed Antelope Squirrel is commonly seen in arid habitats throughout the southwestern United States.
This is a species of ground squirrel. It has a brown-to-gray fur with two white stripes running from the shoulder to the hind end. Its belly and underside of the tail is white and there is a black stripe on the tail.
White-tailed Antelope Squirrels tend to be active during the cooler parts of the daylight hours, avoiding midday as much as possible. They forage for food on the ground, in trees or shrubs. During foraging, they may stop for a break in the shade to avoid heat from the sun.
These animals will use burrows of other rodents, such as kangaroo rats, for shelter and will make numerous burrows of their own. Common habitats include desert succulent shrub, riparian and wash areas. They also occur in chaparral and grassland.
Different food sources are consumed at different parts of the year. During the Spring, greens are widely available, so they constitute the bulk of their diet (about 60%). In the Autumn, when greens are scarce, seeds and fruits comprise most of their diet. Insects are consumed when they are encountered.
White-tailed Antelope Squirrels have been known to sound shrill alarm calls when predators are nearby to warn their relatives of incoming danger.
Third Eye Herp