2 January 2016
I shall soon be reviewing the data collected in 2015 from my observations of the local creek fauna, and it should be very interesting. Spring was very late in arriving, which had the effect of delaying the reemergence of insect predators by about 45 days, which in turn allowed us to experience a bumper crop of mosquitoes and other "pest" insects. When I finally saw the first dragonflies racing downstream and catching the miniature vampires I was quite excited... sort of an insect-level experience of the RAF going after Messerschmidts! And yes, I actually cheered. But while the odonatan RAF was alive and well (even if late), the streams ubiquitous and very numerous small fishes were gone. I saw one unique mass swarming of several hundreds (or more) of the small fishes I think are minnows--silvery and slim with a blue stripe from eye to caudal peduncle--for about an hour, and that seemed to bode well. Our submarine insect hunters were back. But alas, no.Two hours after I videotaped the swarm it was gone, and excepting three sightings of very few fish later in the summer, we had no fish in the creek at all. Why? I do not know.
Bad as 2015 was for fish, it was good for herpetofauna. Both Black Ratsnakes and Black Racers were more often seen than in previous years, and a very fine young racer was captured unharmed (thank goodness) by a neighbor's cat. Except for the first ratsnake of the year, which was quite thin, the others were quite well filled out, so prey was in abundance. One of the ratsnakes had been observed by me twice before in 2014.
Turtles were seen more often than in previous years, and I got to observe several nests being dug and eggs laid. In fact, there were a lot more nests than I imagined there would be, especially because the turtles generally move a considerable distance from water to lay them. An incline some 50 meters from my home is about 250 meters from the nearest pond, but it is also where I saw more turtles nesting than anywhere else in my study area.
With the approach of winter our seasons are about as confused as was the spring, with 21-22 C days interspersed with 45-11 C days. It's nuts. I saw the last pond turtles of 2015 actively swimming on 27 December (20 C), Spring Peepers on 23 December (17.2 C), last dragonflies on 8 December (11.1 C), and last snake on 16 October (17.8 C).
Anyway, numbers to crunch, data to analyze, and all that stuff. No worries about getting bored here!
18 APRIL 2015
Spring has hit the D.C. area in less of an on-off staccato that it did last year. On Wednesday the 15th our local trees--including the cherry trees--all were in blossom, but there were few leaves to be seen. Then we had a warm rain that night and by Thursday morning the leaves appeared. It is hard to believe that we were still having freezing nights and cold weather as recently as last week.
Spring Peepers had been performing nightly concerts since mid-March, and were silent only on nights when the temperatures dipped below 58 F. With the return of warmer weather has come the hesitant emergence of the local herpetofauna. By April 2nd the local aquatic turtles were out and about, the largest basking in the sun upon large tree stumps and branches sticking out of the water, and hatchlings on anything else that stuck up or would float. Almost anywhere I looked across the man-made lake I saw the give away snorkels of dozens of other turtles. The temperature was 65 F and there were still large shaded areas that were iced over, but the turtles had had, apparently, enough sleep and were determined to emerge.
The next evening my faithful "hopper hunter" and better-sighted Laddie found the first two American Toads of the season. On the 5th we saw the first two Water Striders in our uncharacteristically animal depreciated creek.
But for me, spring arrived on the 5th, when the midday temperature wavered between 78 and 80 F, for it was at 1340 that Laddie sniffed out the first lizard we had seen since last year. By the time I got to a point where Laddie could flush the lizard somewhere that I could see it--and see it for barely a second--he made a short lunge. The lizard, which had been sunning itself on one of the 6" by 6" wooden beams that make up restraining walls around our neighborhood, obligingly dashed towards the nearest shelter. Doing so required crossing some 15 inches of open space, at which point I saw the gray-tan streak. Plestiodon fasciatus it was and, based on its size and colour, it was probably a female.
We continued our daily mid-afternoon herp patrol, checking everyplace where we had seen lizards in the past two years, but as I found no little lizard scat at any of the many sites, I believed that it just wasn't spring enough for the wee saurians to burst forth with the same enthusiasm as did the turtles. Smart, too, because the 78 F afternoon of 7 April dove to 55 F the next day, accompanied by a cold rain. Even the turtles had gone into retreat.
By the 12th the temperatures began a steady, moderate climb from cold to warmish to warm to very warm. Southern Leopard Frogs made themselves known bu hopping from concealment into the clear water of our creek, the trees blossomed and leaves appeared. And on Friday the 17th Laddie sniffed out our first snake of spring, a brightly marked Eastern Garter Snake. Now to give you an idea just how important Laddie is to me and my continuing to observe nature out in, well, nature, I must explain what had happened.
We were on another midday patrol and passing the small cluster of holly along the part of the roadway that crosses the creek. Of course I am constantly scanning for signs of interesting life as we walk--I've been doing that for so long that I don't think I could ever be rewired to stop--when Laddie stopped. To smell the holly? I turned to see he was in his very characteristic "I found something, check it out" pose, so I slowly walked to where he was standing.
"What have you found, Laddie," I whispered as I half-knelt down beside him. I followed his gaze and saw nothing. "I must be missing something," I thought. Laddie doesn't always sniff out something important (to me), but when he's pointing he is definitely marking something alive. I squinted. Nadda. Then I saw a bright, deep pink and red tongue, and the image of a Garter Snake a mere 18 inches away focused in my brain. It was sleek and thin, but not emaciated. Presumably the creek was now missing a frog or two. The head was raised on 4 inches of vertical neck, and its coloration so clean and distinct that it may have just shed its skin. Laddie and I were still as we could be, the snake absolutely motionless. It was only when Laddie finally exhaled that the snake made a rapid U-turn and shot into the thick matting of dead leaves.
Teamwork. I feel very fortunate to spend time with Laddie doing field studies of our neighborhood, which now is beginning its fourth year. I've accumulated a lot of interesting data, and even observations that offer nothing new still bring a fascination that simply cannot be match by reading a book, watching a documentary, or visiting a zoo. If you choose to do likewise, go forth with a camera or notebook, and a good companion (human or otherwise). And don't make the mistake I made the other day; be sure to pack a lunch!
Cheers and Happy Herping
If this is your first visit to my Herpetology World, I'd like you to know that I have uploaded several of my reprints on my DOCUMENTS page. There is also a more extensive offering of my papers at Academia.edu, and they are all free. So download, read, enjoy.
Also, I invite you to read some of my articles on Hub Pages (http://hubpages.com/search/Robert+Sprackland).
23 December 2014
First: Yes, the 2014 edition of Robert's Christmas Time Song Book IS available as of today. Just click the link to my "Documents" page here, and it should be the first item (as PDF) on the list. See, I made it easy to find this year.
The holidays are nigh and my family and I are hoping for another fine year. Almost all of 2014 was kind to us, and for that we are sincerely thankful. High points include meeting so many reptile keepers in Canada and via the ever mystifying Facebook.
In fact, as I look back over 2014 I find that the number of Facebook friends--people with whom I have shared considerable correspondence--is quite large; and while I'd like to acknowledge each new friend here, doing so would almost literally make a page-long list. Ergo, therefore, and to whit: Thank you new friends. Thanks, too, to all my other friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, for you have each, in some way, helped make this a very happy year.
Also wonderful was learning about the local 3H group, having another season at the stream by our home, and getting the balance therapy I needed to help stop staggering even while I'm sitting! Oh, and I've been keeping a fine colony of Yellow-headed Geckos, who are breeding regularly.
But the holidays ARE nigh, and I still have much to do before our home will be ready for Santa Wolf to bring Laddie his new presents, so I shall sign off now and wish you all the merriest of Christmases, Boxing Days, and a very safe and healthy New Year!
8 November 2014
Less than two months since my last post; imagine that. Things still remain hectic and the days are quite busy, but I have put a lot of effort into setting up some kind of schedule. It's still largely ethereal, but it's a schedule nonetheless.
18 September 2014
Time for what seems to have become my annual update; we'll see about that. The past year has been one of extraordinary events in my life, most especially regarding overcoming some of my disabilities. Thanks to my family and some very special friends--so many of whom I met via Facebook--I'm getting back into a lot of my normal routine. For example, we flew to Toronto for the 2014 Canadian Reptile Breeders Exposition and had a royal blast! Met so many terrific people, and nary a lemon amongst them. Made for a grand and exhausting four days.
Some of the fun was caught on Urban Jungles Radio and can be heard here:
Please check the Documents page, where I've posted PDFs of many of my articles (free), and DO share a link to this site on Facebook. Share with others, you'll feel good. Or weird. Either way...
More to follow! Stay tuned.
19 October 2013
The worlds of professional and private reptile keepers is not yet fully merged, nor is it as volatile as it was in the 1970s and 1980s. I am delighted to see that so many of the latter have been doing their homework, and have expanded their knowledge of herpetology and general biology. Indeed, many excellent books have come from people who have had spectacular success in keeping and breeding once rarely-seen reptiles and amphibians. As examples of those books, you might look over The More Complete Chondro, The Complete Childrens Python, The Complete Suboc, and Desert Lizards: Captive Husbandry and Propagation.
In addition, the professionals are reaching into truly new territory, boldly going where no (or very few) herpetologists have gone before. My friend, Mark O'Shea, has been doing extensive work in Timor-Leste, and has published his reports for free downloading on his site. No less exciting has been the discovery that the "extinct" Probosis Anole (ahem), Jeyapore Gecko (Geckoella jeyporensis), Thamnophis eques, and the Saint Lucia Racer (Liophis ornatus) are still alive. There's even a $500 reward being offered to anyone who discovers live specimens of the "extinct" South Florida Rainbow Snake (Farancia erythrogramma seminola).
Another friend, Joy Kulingowski, has opened The Reptile Outlet which she hopes becomes Australia's premiere reptile, herpetology books, and reptile-keeping supplies shop.
And on a more personal note, the Kansas Herpetological Society is celebrating its 40th birthday. It's personal because way back in 1974 I was one of the seven or so founders of the group, along with the late Joeseph T. Collins, Eric Rundquist, Mary Stewart, and Bob Clarke. Nice to see our creation going strong so many years later.
Cheers for now, and Happy Herping!
1 July 2013
G'Day, and welcome to my updated website. See, I AM updating more than once every six months! In the news here, I have just uploaded several new files of my reprints onto the DOCUMENTS page.
Also, I invite you to read some of my articles on Hub Pages (http://hubpages.com/search/Robert+Sprackland). I plan to make some updates soon and would welcome any useful input.
Greetings, fellow herpetophiles!
Because the overwhelming passion of my life is herpetology, I am using this forum to share my four-plus decades of experiences in the world of reptiles.
Some of my publications are available here -- free -- in the Documents section. For additional papers please visit my page on Academia.edu.
Of course, that path has allowed me to interact with a great many life forms, and I shall share some of those experiences, too. But no question, the focus of my career interest is, and has long been, reptiles.
Updated 1 July 2013
Among the published works in herpetology over the last five centuries, only two can be said to cover all known species of amphibians and reptiles comprehensively and scientifically. One of these, in French, was by produced by Constant Dumeril, Gabriel Bibron, and the senior author's son, Auguste Dumril, and based on the collections of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. This classic work remains of continuing value to a broad community of academic zoologists, museum and zoo curators, and conservationists, and especially to herpetologists working in developing countries. This full-size facsimile is absolutely complete and carefully edited for clarity. The nine text volumes, which total about 7,000 pages, and atlas of 120 plates are sturdily bound in library-grade red cloth and printed on durable, acid-free paper. A new introduction by Roger Bour (Paris) is an in-depth review of the book (including exact publication dates) with new biographies of the three authors. A comprehensive index to the scientific names, missing in the original book, has been added.