Dirk Stevenson

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


Remembering David


The Orianne Society lost a good friend, and I lost a good friend, with the recent passing of David (“Davey”) Jones of Ridgeland, South Carolina.


When Frogs Cry and Turtles Try to Soar


Steve turns toward me from the bow of the canoe and says, “Hear that? Sounds like a snake has a frog.”

He was right.


Jewels of the Muck


In the eastern United States, gorgeous orange and red salamanders share seepages with odd dragonflies sporting ophidian patterns.


March of the Salamanders


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.


Interview with a Herpetologist: Lora Smith


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.


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.


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.


Spotting Spotted Turtles


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).


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)