Peninsula Cooter

01 Peninsula Cooter_5137

While kayaking in California I caught this very cool (but non-native) reptile that in its natural range is found throughout the Florida peninsula.

02 Peninsula Cooter_6129

Peninsula Cooters live primarily in habitats such as floodplain swamps, basin marshes and occasionally tidal marshes. Areas with slow moving or stagnant waterways with abundant basking sites, submerged vegetation and sandy bottoms are preferred.

03 Peninsula Cooter_6131

Growing to a shell length of almost 16 inches, this is a reptile of impressive size. It is mainly a herbivorous species, with adults feeding solely on plants and filamentous algae, but with some juveniles eating insects and small fish.

04 Peninsula Cooter_6150

Peninsula Cooters are often seen basking on logs or sun-warmed rocks. They may be found in the company of other aquatic basking turtles, like Painted Turtles and Sliders. They can move with surprising speed in the water and on land.

05 Peninsula Cooter_6130

These turtles hibernate in the water. They don’t breathe during this time of low metabolism, but can utilize oxygen from the water, which they take in through their cloaca.

Third Eye Herp

Striped Shore Crab

01 Striped Shore Crab_5970

While visiting Point Reyes National Seashore in California, I hiked along small waterways in a cattle grazing area and saw a number of these neat crustaceans.

02 Striped Shore Crab_5969

Typically this crab is brown-to-purple or black with green stripes. Though this color combination makes it eye-catching when seen out in the open, it also helps the crab disappear into dark, rocky crevices where it hides in sea lettuce, rock weed and bits of kelp.

03 Striped Shore Crab_5955

Although there can be aggressive intraspecies competition over food, this creature does not keep a territory to defend. It can spend over half of its time on land and will purposely submerge to wet its gills; it can sustain itself out of water for up to 70 hours.

04 Striped Shore Crab_5966

Striped Shore Crabs live along the West Coast of North America, from Mexico in the south, to Vancouver Island, Canada, in the north. In additional to cattle grazing fields, they reside in estuaries, tidepools, mussel beds and in the burrows they sometimes dig into sandy banks. They can sometimes be seen scuttling along shoreline rocks.

05 Striped Shore Crab_5959

The variety of habitats where they exist mirrors the variety of foods they’ll eat. Though they feed mostly on phytoplankton growing on the water or rocks around them, they are opportunistic and will also eat animals including dead fish, limpets, snails, isopods, worms and mussels.

06 Striped Shore Crab_5963

Striped Shore Crabs were an unexpected and fun find while on my visit to the Golden State.

Third Eye Herp

Pacific Hound’s Tongue

01 Western Hound's Tongue_6163

This is a distinctive wildflower that I sometimes encounter on my April visits to California. It is native to western North America, where it grows in shady areas in woodland and chaparral.

02 western hound's tongue 035

Its flowers change color, perhaps telling pollinators whether a specific flower is worth visiting for pollen and nectar. Bees can see blue colors, but not reds. Immature pink flowers may signal to bees, “Not ready; move on;” the mature blue flowers, “Ready for pollination;” and the fading blue-purple of the aging flowers, “I’m done, don’t bother.”

03 Western Hound's Tongue_2510

Pacific Hound’s Tongue Hound’s grows from a heavy taproot and is an early-blooming perennial plant that supposedly gets its name from the resemblance of its leaf shape to that of a dog’s tongue.

04 Western Hound's Tongue_6161

Known scientifically as Cynoglossum grande, the shape and rough texture of the leaves are described in the genus name, which is derived from the Greek – “cynos” for dog and “glossa” for tongue. The species name, grande, means showy (or big).

05 Western Hound's Tongue_6160

Pacific Hound’s Tongue is in the same family as the Forget-Me-Not, which its blooms resemble. Its flowers attract native bees and hummingbirds and is an occasional larval host plant for moths and butterflies.

06 Western Hound's Tongue_2509

According to folklore, a piece of hound’s tongue placed in one’s shoe will protect from being barked at by strange dogs!

Third Eye Herp

Black-crowned Night Heron

01 Black-crowned Night-Heron_8367

This is a bird that resides in my home state of Ohio, but I see it more often when on out-of-state travels. I most recently saw one while visiting California. They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world. They can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including marshes, rivers, ponds, mangrove swamps, tidal flats and canals.

02 Black-crowned Night-Heron_8370

Black-crowned Night Herons are stocky birds compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They usually forage by standing still or walking slowly at edge of shallow water. They hunt mostly from late evening through the night. Though their main diet is fish, they also eat squid, crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, snakes, clams, mussels, rodents and carrion.

03 Black-crowned Night-Heron_8387

Adults have a black crown and back with the remainder of their body white or grey. They have red eyes and short yellow legs. Immature birds (like this one that I saw in Nevada) have dull grey-brown plumage on their heads, wings, and backs, with numerous pale spots. Their underparts are paler and streaked with brown. Young birds have orange eyes and dull yellowish-green legs.

04 Black-crowned Night-heron_3206

Black-crowned Night-Herons nest in groups that often include other species, including herons, egrets and ibises. A breeding Black-crowned Night-Heron will brood any chick that is placed in its nest. They apparently don’t distinguish between their own offspring and nestlings from other parents. At the age of four weeks, the young begin to climb about around the nest.

05 Black-crowned Night-Heron_8379

This species are among the seven types of herons observed to engage in bait fishing; luring or distracting fish by tossing edible or inedible buoyant objects into water within their striking range – a rare example of tool use among birds.

Third Eye Herp