Dirk Stevenson

A natural history column by Dirk Stevenson. More about ...                


Pretty Cool (no pun intended)


On a recent cold morning-- overnight low of 30 degrees F, windchill at dawn 25--I climbed the remains of an old windrow, a small knoll of earth and pine logs , and spotted a big diamondback from a good twenty feet. It was exciting and unexpected in this cold.

Sure, it was sunny, but the wind came in mini-Arctic gusts. I had just sampled the ambient temp with my loyal Schultheiss, which read a hair under 8 C (ca. 45 F) at 1100 hours.


Natural History Treats


South Georgia has experienced temperature swings of 50 degrees over the last couple weeks, prompting lively battles between my wife Beth and me here at home— as the “thermostat wars” resumed in earnest. (Yesterday, with the high temp topping 80 F, she had the unmitigated audacity to scold me when she spotted my twitching finger on the AC dial)


Momma's Boy


I stood motionless in front of the large tortoise burrow apron, my front teeth working my lower lip, pondering the very fresh shed skin of an indigo snake. Stretched its full length, a good couple of meters, the shed seemed to be glued to the ground.


Interview with Carlos Camp


Carlos D. Camp, herpetologist, is a Professor of Biology at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. He has been on the faculty at Piedmont College since 1983.


Snake Fauna of the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve

Elizabeth Schlimm with Florida pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus)

From my very first visits I realized I was experiencing something special. The Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve (2,530 acres), a little piece of paradise in the Coastal Plain of southeastern Georgia, is a beautifully unique natural area and a snake lover's paradise.

An on-site buttonbush pond is home to a little blue heron rookery and a Mama alligator we've known for a long time. In wet years, the gator's "pod" is often seen swimming this swamp. Faces splotched green with duckweed, they "chirp" steadily.


Water Taxi Hunt

Redbelly Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster)

By way of a few muscular breast stokes, and tennis shoe-pushes off the sand bottom, I enter the main channel of a great stream, the Altamaha River. Pronounced "All-ta-mahaw" — 137 snaky miles of emerald water.

As far as I can see, only the slow-flowing river, fringed by massive cypress and hardwoods. Yellow-white sandbars shimmer in the sun. No sign of our fellow species, no boats, no tents, no buildings or powerlines.

Only the river, endless.

I'm at home. I melt into the cool water.


On the Road: Alabama Turtle Survey

Loggerhead Musk Turtle (Sternotherus minor)

I spent part of last week assisting with field surveys for a remarkable river turtle.


What's on the Menu for the Commander?

Eastern Indigo takes on an Eastern Diamondback

On a remote pineland in south Georgia, I was helping a University of Georgia doctoral student with her radio telemetry study of Eastern Indigo Snakes. We were following the radio signal from the transmitter of a gorgeous 6-foot female indigo snake, when apparently our efforts to pinpoint her location disturbed her; she fled deep into the burrow of an armadillo. This was around noon on a very warm summer day, so to the drones of cicadas we broke for lunch, checked for ticks and then got back to work.


Harbingers of Spring

Eastern Coachwhip

From his perch in the Piedmont, my good friend and accomplished naturalist Giff Beaton has been steady with e-mails to his invert cronies here in the low country of the Coastal Plain; his hunger and anticipation are palpable. "What are you finding, what have you been seeing? Boy, it's sure warm early this year, a lot of cool stuff should be flying, I heard Cindy just got a novel date for the Sartorial Skipper, dang, I need to get down there. Any neat tigers, what about odes?" (Note: tigers = tiger beetles; odes = Odonates = dragonflies and damselflies).


Big Snake, Small Island: Monitoring Eastern Indigo Snakes on North Captiva

North Captiva Island

Co-authored by: Javan Bauder and Chris Lechowicz

As we depart by boat from Captiva Island on a calm blue-green sea, our smiles are as broad as the horizon. Fishing dolphins surface close by, and a snow-white tern air-surfs above us. Scanning the southern tip of our island destination we see dozens of twisted tree skeletons embedded in the beach and adjacent dunes—carcasses of Australian pines killed by salt water intrusion or tossed asunder by Hurricane Charley in 2004. Quiet water lagoons fringing the island are forested with the jungle-thick growth of red mangroves.