Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Reptile Weekend 2014 Part 1

Our "Reptiles Bizarre & Beautiful" weekend was absolutely amazing!  Many, many thanks to all the VLM staff, volunteers, and guest exhibitors who worked long and hard to make this event a resounding success.  Today I'll focus on some lovely lizards exhibited by members of VIIPER (Virginians Interested In Protecting Every Reptile.)  I especially want to thank VIIPER President Bobby and Vice President Lara for their continued support of our annual event.  I had a chance to talk to several VIIPER members who enthusiastically shared their wonderful creatures with hundreds of visitors over the course of the weekend.  To start out, I'll show you a few "guess who" pictures...whose scales?
...whose tail?
...whose gorgeous eyes?
Lizards are, of course, reptiles--so they have scaly skin.  This weekend we saw all sorts of scales, in all sorts of colors.  The first picture showed off the intricate scale pattern of a steppe runner, an insectivorous lizard of the temperate grasslands of Russia, Romania and the Ukraine.  Thanks to Rachel for sharing this little beauty with us!
The odd-looking tail belongs to the brilliantly patterned leopard gecko, native to dry grasslands and deserts of southeast Asia, Pakistan, northwestern India and parts of Iran.  Thanks, Scott, for showing off this magnificent creature:
Lizard's eyes--so diverse in color and texture (the better to see you with, my dear?)  VIIPER member Jessica had lots to show me this weekend--here she displays a Columbian tegu.  This omnivorous lizard inhabits swamp, rainforest, savannah, and even urban habitats in northern and central parts of South America.  This lizard not only has beautiful brown eyes, but a nice long tongue, too!
The eye with the bizarre looking pupil belongs to a baby giant gecko--it's only about 5 inches long now, but will get up to 14 inches!  Giant geckos are the largest known gecko species in the world, native to the rainforests of New Caledonia.
The eye with the "eyelash" fringe around it belongs to the crested gecko, shown by Kylie and Madi.  This gecko, also a rainforest creature of New Caledonia, can get up 7-9" long.
The eye with the flaming orange border belongs to a gargoyle gecko, shown by Jessica.  This omnivorous gecko, also native to New Caledonian rainforests, will get up to 8-9" long.  Also noticeable in this photo--the "hole" on the side of its head is actually its ear opening.
Finally, the tongue belongs to an impressive lizard, an Argentine black and white tegu.  This gigantic lizard is owned by Laureen who has affectionately named him "Burrito."  Burrito is an adult male of unknown age (he was a rescued animal) and is approximately 3.5 feet long--yep, you heard me, 3.5 feet!  These omnivorous lizards can get up to 4.5 feet long, inhabiting savannahs and rainforests of Argentina, Uruguay, and parts of Brazil.
Here's a detail of his black and white scales--note the bumpy texture:
...a parting shot with that long, long tongue of his:
I'll post more photos from this year's "Reptiles Bizarre & Beautiful" in two weeks--I'll focus on other reptilians, including snakes.  Again, a very special thank-you to all the members of VIIPER!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Let It Snow 1

As the snow flew late on January 28, 2014, I knew it would be a great opportunity to photograph some snowy scenes at the Museum--snow is a pretty rare occurrence here, but lately, we've had quite a bit of it!  Even though I didn't get a chance to get out with my camera until the 31st, there was still plenty of snow on the ground.  Take a look at the waterfall, with it's bright crown of snow and icicles inside and out:
Even the pond was frozen:
Most of the animals on our Outdoor Trail seemed to be right at home in the snow--if anything, many of the animals seemed to be even more active than usual.  For example, the gray fox, who normally naps a lot, seemed pretty excited to be up and around in the snow....
The red wolves were also very active.  Canids rely heavily on their sense of smell--so the wolves were sniffing everywhere.  I wonder what the snow smelled like to them!
One of the things I like about snow is that you can find interesting animal these wolf tracks.  The top track is facing one direction, and it looks like another wolf walked nearly on top of that track going the opposite direction:
Other signs in the snow include scat--or you might just call it "poop."  Can you guess who left this scat in the snow?
Yep, it's from deer:
Other animals seemed oblivious to the snow, and it was pretty much "business as usual."  The beavers, with their thick water repellant coats seemed to take everything in stride--this one is enjoying a twig snack:
Our coyote was out romping in the snow....
....and received a special treat--a large chew-toy to play with in the snow.  Our animal keepers routinely give enrichment items to our animals to stimulate natural behaviors.
Hope you had a chance to play in the snow, too!  That's all for now....more off the beaten path in two weeks.