Veiled Chameleon At Sweetbriar

Monday, May 12, 2014,

And now for something completely different. Kudos to any of you Monty Python fans that actually understand that reference. As for the rest of you, it’s okay. We can still be friends. On that note, I invite everyone to click on these individual pics. In many cases here at Joe Kayaker clicking on a pic brings up a  larger (and hopefully) better shot for you to observe and enjoy. These two pics are prime examples of exactly that. This is one good looking lizard and you should see him in all his glory.

This handsome beast is a Veiled Chameleon. These guys hail from Yemen, which is just below Saudi Arabia. (I had to look that up). This is obviously a personal failing but whenever I think of the Middle East, my brain conjures up desert sands and oil. However, Yemen’s borders include just about as much waterline as it does dry land. Not to mention some mondo good looking reptiles.    

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I came across this guy at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, NY. He’s a pet that was ‘donated’ to Sweetbriar after its former owner decided he was more trouble than was expected. This happens all too often in the pet trade. Folks see a sexy, exotic animal and start thinking how cool it might be to have that particular piece of eye candy around. Thoughts concerning the care and requirements of said animal are often secondary. And so it goes. Word is that this particular lizard, as handsome as he is, has a very nasty disposition. That may be why he was discarded. I mean donated. At any rate, he makes for another wonderful critter to see at Sweetbriar. Go check him out if you’re in town. JK   

Two Green Frogs At Avalon

Sunday, June 23, 2013,

I took an early morning hike through Avalon Preserve Friday. It was the first day of summer and truly beautiful. ‘Glorious’ as my friend Sue would say. As soon as I entered through the gate, Catbirds were serenading me. Always a good start to any day. After climbing the stone steps to where the Frog Pond is – that’s what I call it, I don’t know that it has an official name – I found myself being serenaded by an entirely different set of critters.

The banjo twang of the Northern Green Frog my not be as intricate or downright pretty as the melodies of the Gray Catbird, but to me it is no less welcome. When I was growing up, frogs (and toads) were everywhere. Their calls, especially at night, were a natural part of the landscape. The choruses of several species of frogs near any body of fresh water was a given from early spring throughout the entire summer.  But we live in a different world today. Amphibians have been in crisis for over two decades. They have been disappearing worldwide at an alarming rate. Those choruses that have provided the background soundtrack on this planet for over 370 million years are being silenced all too rapidly. These songs were already ancient when the first dinosaurs started showing up, let alone Catbirds. I miss those songs; I miss their sheer abundance. I think the whole planet is a lesser place without them. So when I tell you that I appreciate the song of our local frogs, from the deep bass of Bullfrogs to the high soprano calls of Spring Peepers and all those in between, please note that this is one occasion when I’m not being a wiseguy.

These pics are of two different Northern Green Frogs. As you can see, Green Frog coloration can vary quite a bit even amongst the same population. I took the first shot just after six AM. (I told you I was out early). The second shot was taken just before eight after I had strolled through Avalon’s fields. As always, I was out looking for pics to take. I took well over 500 hundred photographs that morning, capturing shots of several bees, birds, flowers, rabbits, and turtles, but these two pics were my favorites of the day. They were also the most difficult. I really had to stealth both of these guys. Judging their approximate location by their calls is one thing, but actually finding them and getting close enough to grab a shot is another. When I was young, I was very good at finding and catching anything from frogs, snakes, or turtles. It was what we did when we weren’t playing baseball. To be honest, I was much better at catching critters than I was fly balls. It’s nice to know I still have some skills left. I still don’t suggest putting me in center field. JK

Juvenile Common Tern At West Meadow Beach

September 7, 2010,

Juvenile Common Tern

This Common Tern youngster was on an exposed spit of sand at low tide at West Meadow Beach in Setauket. He and several other similarly aged birds were standing around waiting for their parents to bring them breakfast. Today’s youth. None of them want to go out and work for themselves. JK

I like this shot. Call me vain.


I Am Not A Birder #3

Monday, June 9, 2008

I am not a birder and here’s the proof. On May 9th I posted this same pic and identified these birds as Common Terns. I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

These handsome fellows are actually Least Terns. I was looking for Piping Plovers Sunken Meadow Park and I thought a pic of one the signs that marks the protected nesting areas of the plovers might make a nice addition to a post. That was when I noticed that the signs also included Least Terns. The illustration on the sign looked suspiciously like the birds that I thought were Common Terns out of breeding plumage.

Uh oh. I could feel an embarrassing moment coming on. So I emailed my friends Janine and Nancy at Sweetbriar Nature Center and asked them. Janine originally wrote they were penguins in disguise, but I think she was just putting me on because then she identified them as Least Terns. Nancy was unsure so she forwarded my email to Birder X, another Sweetbriar educator, who also confirmed that the birds in question were indeed Least Terns. Birder X also informed us that these terns are threatened but that they nest here.

When I was writing the original post I was concerned that I might be confusing Common Terns with Forster’s Terns. I was so busy looking at tail and wing lengths that I missed what should have been obvious. One turned page in my Sibley’s shows that distinctive white forehead. Here is a pic of the sign that helped show me the error of my ways. JK