Saturday, April 27, 2013

Carolina Reptile Walk

While we were visiting Betty in Columbia, South Carolina, one of our destinations is the Three Rivers Greenway, a nice walkway/bike path along the Saluda and Congaree Rivers, flowing down the west side of Columbia.  While we have similar paths in Tucson, Columbia's has an actual river, with water flowing in it!  Tucson's system of washes are typically dry about 330 days of the year...

Our last visit was no exception, and it is always
fun to see the wildlife you can spot between the edge of land and water.  I assume it is pretty dependent on water level and time of the year, but this trip in early April seemed heavy on the reptile family!  It seemed every rock sticking out of the water had turtles on it and every branch extending into the water had frogs (yes, I know - amphibians, not reptiles)...  I haven't identified either of these, but both look pretty common.  This shot of the frog at right is my only picture that starts to show a pattern of white pigment under its chin.  Whether real or a temporary malady, I'm not sure.  A search didn't turn up anything...

A few yards down the path and I spotted a pretty good-sized snake, certainly 5 feet if not a little more. From the pattern, I believe it is a brown water snake, a non-venomous snake often found in low-hanging tree branches.  This fellow was basking in the sun and didn't pay me any mind, in fact, I didn't see it move at all, but it was gone when we passed by again 40 minutes later.  It certainly didn't have the triangular head of the pit vipers, so definitely wasn't a water moccasin.  It seemed pretty dull-colored and I thought perhaps it was looking to molt, but I'm thinking now that the brown water snake is normally dull in contrast...
Out in the river we saw a number of egrets and
great blue herons, but didn't see them fishing much or eating anything, so were wondering what they were doing...  Then we spotted huge schools of good-sized minnows in pools near the bank.  If this is any indication of the richness of river life, the birds might very well have been resting after a feeding session.

And lizards - we got lizards!  At lease different ones than we see in Arizona... Now that it is getting warm in the Southwest, the lizards we see move at seemingly the speed of light! The ones we spotted along the trail in Columbia at least were social enough that we got to take a few photos anyway... First up is the five-lined skink, one of the most common lizards in the Eastern US.  But they were cool to us as we don't have them in Arizona!  One of their most unusual features is a blue tail, easily detached when threatened to distract predators.  The blue tail may fade with age, though remains stronger in females.   I've got a thing for lizard fingernails, so love the little nails in the picture at right!
Also seen on the way back to the car was a Carolina anole -
easily seen with its bright green color.  The above link indicates it has some color-change capability, like a chameleon, and its behavior is distinctly different than the skink above - it stayed motionless for some time, evidently believing it was blending into the background, making picture-taking much easier.  The two pictures here are from the same frame, the right image shown at full-resolution to show the finest details.

So we had a great time visiting the river walking path with Betty.  Even in the urban area, we saw a nice variety of the creatures living there - common for South Carolina, but new for us!

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