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Featured Contributors

The “Caw” of the Crow
Richard Bartlett - Monday, Jun 18, 2018

The crows will often alert me to nesting activities by our tortoises.

Caw, caw, caw.

Hmmmmm. That crow is really close. I glanced up from the keyboard and scanned the bird feeders. No crow.

Caw, caw, caw.

Nearer yet. Then it dawned.

The crow, inky black even when bathed in the brightness of the late morning sunlight, was sitting atop the railing that enclosed the tortoise pens. And as I had learned in previous years, when the crows come that close it is for a reason. And that reason is usually egg-deposition by one of our turtles or tortoises.

Whether by body language displayed by the female chelonians on, or a day or two before, “deposition day,” by some chemical cues (how good are a crow’s olfactory senses?) or by other behavior patterns, I just don’t know. What I do know is that when the crows arrive I had better cancel and activities that would have me away from the pens until the laying actually occurs and the eggs are laid and gathered for incubation.

What? You dig and gather the chelonian eggs? Indeed we do. If left in the hands of Mother Nature the crows are not only adept at knowing the ‘whens and wherefores” of the laying procedures but are sufficiently alert and dexterous to steal the eggs during laying or to actually excavate the chelonian’s nest one the procedure is complete.

Caw, caw, caw, indeed! Thanks, crow, for the warning.
Continue reading "The “Caw” of the Crow"

Wehrle’s Salamander
Richard Bartlett - Monday, Jun 11, 2018

This is the "Dixie Caverns" phase of Wherle's salamander.

Of variable colors and/or patterns in all populations, in 2 of its 3 variations, Wehrle’s salamander, Plethodon wehrlei, is just an interesting little (tyo 6”) dark-colored salamander of the wooded uplands. It range southward from extreme South West New York to extreme North Central North Carolina. Then there is a disjunct population in North Central Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky. Southernmost examples have a ground color of bluish-brown (also “ish”) that may or may not be heavily spotted laterally with white flecks. Northerly examples are of similar bluish-brown(ish) ground color with white to bluish-white lateral flecks and bronzy dorsal flecks. These latter are often referred to as the “Dixie Caverns variant”.

However it is the 3rd variant that seems of the most interest to herpers, and certainly is to me. This is the “twin-spotted” variant, a phase that might be likened to a spotted salamandey that had been on a lengthy diet. This pattern anomaly is most often seen in the TN, KY, and many western WV populations. Similar to those in the other populations, the ground color remains a brownish-gray and there are scattered light lateral spots and often light flecks from nape to a point above the forelimbs. But with these the pattern similarity ends for along the dorsum, from forelimbs to the anterior portion of the tail, there is a dual row of paired yellow to orange spots. In my opinion these markings transform what in other populations are merely ”interesting” salamanders to what are then “pretty” salamanders

But of course, what is pretty is always in the eyes of the beholder. And what is of interest to a given individual is equally personal.

Continue reading "Wehrle’s Salamander"
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