If I didn’t have photographic proof, would you ever have believed that I found a lizard with blue spots? Well this Aruban Whiptail lizard with a ‘too cool for school’ facial expression is real and comes in differing degrees of blue. Many species of whiptails reproduce asexually by parthenogenesis, meaning the females eggs undergo chromosomal doubling without being fertilized and produce babies with the genetic make up (clones) of the mother. Because of this reproductive quirk, many species of whiptail lizards are all females. Goodbye males and genetic diversity and hello to a world where females rule all. See ladies, it can happen!
This little anole is a type of lizard native to the Bahamas and Cuba. However, it is easily spotted on many other Caribbean Islands. It is a highly invasive species and easily outcompetes other small lizards and frogs because it will eat anything that can fit into its mouth. Like other lizards, they will communicate through mostly visual displays. When angry or threatened they expand the flap of skin on their throat to display an orange and yellow warning and perform some push ups. If the threat continues, they will bite, urinate and defecate, but also have the ability to detach their tail as a moving decoy to facilitate their escape from a predator. These traits are what makes this little lizard a very skilled survivor.
I’m sure I’ve said in the past that all reptiles are beautiful, but I think this Iguana might just be the exception. I think he might have even been the inspiration for Gremlins (and not the cute furry one). He seemed like the king of this particular paddock, so it seems that looks don’t matter in the Iguana world and size definitely does!
For more Iguana’s that are easier on the eyes click here.
It is said that Yosemite National Park is home to only one type of rattlesnake, and I was honored to meet him. This is the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake which is patterned with grey and white markings. I might be the only person that would call this the highlight of their trip to this spectacular national park. My friends were understandably horrified when I told them that this was the perfect snake to photograph – not frightened and running away nor aggressive, just happily working it’s way through the tree roots and occasionally stopping for a photo. What a treat!
This is a gorgeous snake from Belize, which was happily perched on a tree branch hanging over a river taking a nap. By far the most sizeable snake I have ever seen in the wild, I was so excited to be taking its photo. I was quite close to the snake, trying to get a good angle through the leaves, and even though I didn’t know what kind of snake I was dealing with, I knew that if it remained happily coiled, I was going to survive the encounter. After a few photographs, the snake was clearly aware of my presence and started darting its tongue in and out to get a sense of what I was. I persisted with my photographs, and to my relief the snake stayed happily relaxed and allowed me to get my photo. After showing this photo to a snake expert, I was told it is a boa constrictor, a serial asphyxiator, a snake who chokes for a living! I was photographing a snake that belongs to the family of largest snakes in the world, made up of anacondas, pythons and boa constrictors. What an incredible thrill!
After returning recently from an epic trip to Belize, I will start off with my favorite animal. This glorious and giant iguana who was longer than I am tall, was perched high up in a palm tree, enjoying the view of the ocean on the coast of Belize. I have so much love for these beautiful, dinosaur-like reptiles, but sadly they never return my love. Instead I always get a stony glare, and this one went so far as to wag his chin flap at me to show me just how annoyed he was that I was taking his photograph. This action of disdain, to his disappointment, only made me love him even more!
This relaxed goanna was photographed in Western Australia, warming up on the sand in the morning sun at the entrance to a gorgeous beach. In Australia we have 25 of the 30 known goanna species. This one would have been about a meter and a half long (about 5 feet). Considering that some goanna species such as Varanus giganteus can grow over 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long, this one is only medium sized. Even still, goannas can be one of Australia’s more intimidating lizards. I remember once walking along a narrow bush track and in front of me was a large goanna, slowly lumbering in the same direction that I wanted to go. I was not bold enough to overtake him on such a narrow path, nor spook him into hurrying up, so I had to patiently follow until he decided to eventually get off the track and let me pass. These huge lizards can give a very nasty bite which often bleeds profusely. The bleeding was thought to be caused by bacterial infection transferred from their teeth upon biting, but recent research suggests that they may in fact have oral venom-producing glands. If true, this would add another venomous animal to Australia’s huge list of venomous creatures… as if we needed any more!
Whilst on vacation in Costa Rica, one of our destinations was the Tabacon Grand Spa located in La Fortuna De San Carlos which is right in the center of a rainforest at the base of the Arenal Volcano. This resort is famous for naturally heated, black volcanic pools of crystal clear water. A heaven on earth for anyone that loves relaxing baths, and luscious tropical gardens. However, as I am not a person who finds sweating in warm water relaxing, I instead was delighted to see that many reptiles obviously loved the humidity and warmth that these thermal hot springs had to offer. The stunning juvenile lizard in this photo was experiencing quite a relaxing day at the spa, until I arrived with my camera. So instead of relaxed, he looks incredibly annoyed at me for ruining his day by taking some photos. Those glaring yellow eyes and pursed lips make me smile every time I look at him, what a cutie!
For those of you who are also reptile lovers, please click here to visit my other scaly posts.
This photo not only marks one of the highlights I experienced on a recent trip to Mexico, but a highlight of my life. The beach we stayed on was incredibly beautiful with endless white sand and calm turquoise water. Just outside our room was an enclosed area with numerous little signs posts in the ground, much like a cemetery (see photo below). Curiously I went to investigate, and to my delight I realized these signs marked mounds of recently laid turtle eggs. Each sign had NIDO written on it (meaning nest in Spanish) with the number of eggs buried (usually 100 or more), and the date they were laid. I was instantly appreciative of the care the resorts have put into this endeavor, when it would certainly have been easier to ignore that they have encroached on a turtle nesting beach. Each night the resort security was seen patrolling the beach, and staff would then relocate any newly laid eggs to these protected areas to stop them getting destroyed by beach goers. As I was reading each of the signs, I realized that literally thousands of baby sea turtles were incubating in the sand in front of me. I quickly Googled how long it takes for baby turtles to hatch and at what time of day, learning that it takes about 8-10 weeks and they hatch at night. As they were mostly laid in August, I knew my chances were slim, but a few had July dates, so I was still hopeful of a newborn turtle sighting.
Each night after dark I checked for baby turtles, and was disappointed that they all remained buried. Then, one day at noon when I looked out the window, I glimpsed a tiny movement in the turtle enclosure and ran out to find two little blue babies scurrying around in the sand! Worried that the midday sun would quickly cook them, I sent my husband to notify the resort staff while I guarded my babies. The resort staff came running with their “turtle tub” and let us pick them up to put them in (see photo below). They also tracked the little prints in the sand to identify which nest they were born from and started digging to uncover any more which had hatched, but not yet escaped the sand and found 5 more. I asked if they would take them to the water to release them, and they explained to me that if they did, the birds would quickly eat them, so they keep them safe until nightfall. That night as we were walking along the beach, each of the resorts came to the water with their babies in a tub. One of them contained hundreds of teeny, tiny turtles born that day. We were each handed two turtles to place gently on the sand and watch as they scurried into the ocean waves. I will admit that I cried as I did this, completely overwhelmed at the experience, and of knowing that I helped these little cuties safely reach the water. Simultaneously, my heart was also breaking with the realization that many will not make it far, and instead become prey to the monsters lurking in the dark waters. I was also in absolute awe of mother nature, knowing that one day the few girls that make it to maturity, possess in their tiny brains the GPS coordinates of this same beach, which they will revisit (in 20-50 years) to lay their very own eggs.
I can say that I have been a truly lucky human being to have had the opportunity to swim with sea turtles on quite a few occasions. This turtle was photographed while snorkeling at a beach on Fitzroy Island, a beautiful tropical paradise near Cairns (in Queensland, Australia). A lazy afternoon, just myself, my husband and several turtles… and we watched as they went about their daily munching on sea grasses. To swim with these beautiful reptiles makes you appreciate how graceful they are at moving under the water, and they are quite content to have you swimming nearby. You’d think that for an animal which has outlived the dinosaurs, they should be happy, but instead they always look sad. Actually many of them are now listed on the endangered species list, which also makes me incredibly sad. I especially get upset when people think that rather than just observing wildlife, they interfere with it. I have seen this happen to turtles in Hawaii, where divers or snorkelers will grab onto them. This is NOT ok, and more respect should be given to these ancient and incredible creatures.