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Dirk Stevenson

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

Dec
8

March of the Salamanders

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The pine woods are quiet in November. Bird song is meager, and most frogs and insects have gone silent. But about the time the cypress needles burn orange, if you walk the forest at night after a heavy rain and listen closely, you just might hear the footsteps of salamanders moving purposefully and en masse on the way to their breeding ponds.

Nov
6

Interview with a Herpetologist: Lora Smith

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Dr. Lora L. Smith is a Herpetologist at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center at Ichauway (located near Newton in southwest Georgia), a position she has held for the last 14 years. Prior to this she worked at the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge as an employee with the United States Geological Survey.

Sep
29

Box Turtles Hatching in Georgia

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This article was originally published in the Savannah Morning News on September 28, 2014 titled as "Box Turtles will be Hatching Soon in Savannah, Rest of Georgia."

The Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene Carolina) is one of many wonderful turtle species native to Georgia. John Jensen, herpetologist with Georgia Department of Natural Resources, told me more about box turtles and the turtles of Georgia.

Jul
10

In Praise of Heterodon

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The Hognose Snakes of North America, owners of colorful patterns and personalities, are beloved by most. There are four species in the genus Heterodon which means “different tooth,” a reference to the enlarged teeth in the rear upper jaw of these snakes. If there was a show business for serpents, the Hognose Snakes wouldn't have trouble finding work. When faced with the snout of a canine, the talons of a hawk, or a human capture, the Hognose Snake engages in a series of remarkable behaviors, including hissing and hooding the scales on its neck and upper body like a cobra.

Jun
16

Spotting Spotted Turtles

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As you may know, the southeastern United States is recognized for its extraordinarily high species diversity of turtles—a number of muds and stinkpots, snappers, softshells, cooters and sliders, to name a few, inhabit this region. Complementing our efforts specific to protect the Gopher Tortoise, Orianne Society staff are now directing some serious energy toward the conservation of a small, mostly-aquatic species, the Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata).

Feb
25

Pretty Cool (no pun intended)

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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.

Dec
7

Natural History Treats

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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)

Nov
21

Momma's Boy

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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.

Oct
31

Interview with Carlos Camp

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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.

Aug
16

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.