Monday, July 30, 2007

Angela's a Wreck and I'm Feeling Blue

Angela called first thing this morning and was noticeably upset. "I just dropped Anevay off at school", then she broke down. What is this rite of passage that sends mothers into hysterics and grandparents cratering into depression? Her daughter, our granddaughter, started first grade today. How can that be possible? Why do I feel sad that she's starting first grade? I realize it's not the fact that she's starting first grade, it's the fact that she's growing up much too fast. I guess I'm selfish and would like her to stay young. I'd like her to always be like she was in this photo I took here, her second Christmas.

Anevay has always been smart beyond her years but it’s those innocent, child-like moments I’ll remember most fondly. As an example, for a time, she was convinced Darlene and I lived at the zoo. Her grandmother works there so we must live there. It makes sense to me. In her mind, since we lived there, she owned the animals. Her most prized possessions were the gorillas. She boldly told the crowds who gathered to see them that they were HER gorillas! And, when she was at the zoo, it was always a race to keep up with her. She remembered where every animal lived and she knew the ones she wanted to see. She just never wasted any time looking at any one particular animal!

I hope she’ll always want to “see the snakes” or “feed the ducks” on our Resaca or will want to go to “the animal zoo” when she comes to visit. Come to think of it, I still love to do those things. Maybe there are some things we never outgrow! Still, don’t grow up too fast Anevay and always know Papa and Grandma love you very much!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Nothin' To Do But Feed and Clean...

It's pouring outside with almost continuous thunder at the moment. The power has flickered off and back on twice in the past 15 minutes. A perfect day for cleaning and feeding snakes. Not that any day is better than the other, because I feed and clean pretty much EVERY day after work. Today seems more pleasant for some reason. I've worked my way through all the African bush vipers (Atheris squamigera and chlorechis) and am now concentrating on the male eyelash vipers and side-striped palm vipers (pictured). This male posed nicely for the camera while all the bush vipers seemed to not want their photos taken with food in their mouths. Go figure...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Affection for Ackies

I've always had an affection for lizards. It began during my childhood when I caught countless "fence lizards" on the cedar fence posts surrounding the old Bedford Cemetery. That affection recently resurfaced when I obtained a small colony of Ridge-tailed dwarf monitors, commonly called Ackies, in a trade with High Plains Herp. The eagerly awaited shipment arrived last Tuesday and consisted of 2.2 Red Ackies (Varanus acanthurus acanthurus) and 1.1 Yellow Ackies (Varanus acanthurus brachyurus). I already housed a sexually mature red male that I recently purchased (as a pet for Darlene!) at the San Antonio Expo.


Although still relatively rare, the Ackie's small size makes it an ideal monitor for both the first time reptile keeper and the serious breeder. Darlene and I have found them to be very personable and overall friendly, although we've both been bitten by Darlene's pet! I am housing them in 20 gallon long aquariums with an elevated rock surface directly under a 85 watt plant bulb. They have been readily accepting peach fuzzie mice, dusted crickets and scrambled eggs. It is written they breed easily when given tons of food and lots of heat.


Well, it didn't take lots of heat to induce the yellow pair to breed. Within half an hour out of the shipping box, they were breeding! It was raining in Brownsville when they arrived and temperatures were even on the cool side for mid July. Maybe weather conditions played a role in their eagerness to breed. But, I've witnessed them breeding on two separate occasions since that first day. The female has been investigating her new nest box so, hopefully, we'll be incubating Ackie eggs in the not too distant future! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What's a Birthday Party Without a Snake Hunt?

Clark's Creek covering FM444 which runs from Hope to Ezzell.

Zoom-in of torrent going over the bridge.

Ferns were abundant due to almost continuous rain in July. I took this macro shot to show the leaf texture.

The old Ezzell Store at the corner of FM531 and Lavaca County Road One.

An older building next to the store has succumbed to nature.

An abandoned shed and barn on County Road One.

The first snake seen was the elusive Canebrake rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus atricaudatus), sadly DOR (dead on road). Canebrake's are listed as a "Threatened Species" in Texas.

A doe grazes near the road, unfazed by our presence.

Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) gather to roost at dusk.

Later that evening, the night was alive with frog calls. I was able to track this squirrel tree frog (Hyla squirella) as he called for a mate.

Early Saturday morning. At first look, you'd think it was foggy. My lens actually fogged up from being in an air conditioned house all night.

The same fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) shot through a clean lens.

Brandon and I drove to Halletsville to buy BBQ for Nina's party. This old meter cover was in the sidewalk on the town square. Please do not molest the gas meter!

A shot of the historic Lavaca County Courthouse in downtown Halletsville. Notice the storm clouds in the northwestern sky.

Back in Hope, a Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis) came out to bask in the brief minutes of sunshine.

Indian Paint Brushes dotted the side of FM444.

Calla lilies in Nina's backyard.

Parasitic fern grows on the bark of nearly all the live oak trees.

Macro shot of an unusually colored mushroom.

Wild "mustang" grapes were abundant along the fence rows. Darlene's aunts and uncles regularly make jam and grape juice.

After the sun came out, we went to the old Lampley house off Highway 77 to hunt copperheads. This is the abandoned shed and store room. Although perfect habitat for both copperheads and Texas rat snakes, none were found probably due to the saturated ground.

Golden garden spiders (Argiope aurantiae) were everywhere!

Record rainfall created perfect habitat for damselflies and dragonflies in "water holes" along the ditches. This Roseate Skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) staked his territory to this stick over the water and, while I watched, fought off numerous attempts by smaller damselflies to invade his territory.

As I watched the chaos over the water hole, I witnessed this Bold Jumping Spider
(Phidippus audax) ambush a yellowjacket that flew in for a drink.

Another shot of the same Roseate Skimmer.

Can you see the tiny American toad (Bufo americanus)?

This young female Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) was caught in a "Havahart" trap, trying to invade Darlene's uncle's chicken house. I was able to save her from a sure bullet in the head and took a few photos before releasing her down at the creek.

You'd think she would show a little gratitude!

Saturday evening, Brandon and I struck out again for a little road cruising. Frogs and toads were abundant. This large female American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) seemed to own the road when we came up on her.

Garden orb-web spiders (Eriophora transmarina) descend from the live oaks at dusk to build BIG webs. At night, they wait in ambush.

The same web, covered in dew, early Sunday morning.

The same female bullfrog the next morning. I don't think she liked spending the night in a snake bag. Notice how puffed up she is.

Another shot as she hopped away (with attitude!).

The last catch Saturday night. A vividly colored broad-banded copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix laticinctus) that was non-chalantly crawling down the side walk when Brandon and I got in from roading. I waited until Sunday morning to take this shot. Very seldom do we visit Hope and I not find a copperhead. They are easily the most abundant snake per square mile in Lavaca County!

Oh yea, we spent the weekend in Hope to celebrate Darlene's mom's 70th birthday. Photos from the family gathering on Saturday can be seen on Darlene's Blog at:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Every Picture Tells a Story

It's cool to have a Blog. At least, that's what I've been told lately. After reviewing several over the past few weeks, I have to agree. For years now, I've taken countless photos and shared them with only a select few. A Blog now seems the logical choice for sharing with the entire world! So this will be my first (and hopefully not last) foray into this new way to share in cyberspace. As the great Rod Stewart once sang, "Every picture tells a story, don't it". It's time for my pictures to begin telling my story.