A Quick Trip to Calvert Cliffs

Aaaaah… Spring!  It was 80 degrees with a stiff breeze when my brother Hawksbill Will and his friend Yuko (who were both visiting from Hawaii) and I headed out for a day trip to Calvert Cliffs State Park.

starting-the-hike-225x300Calvert Cliffs State Park is located in Calvert County, MD along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  The park features 13 miles of hiking trails, salt and freshwater marshes, a sandy beach, and fossils from ancient marine creatures.

The park also features an abundance of lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, and salamanders — my kind of place!

It was the first really warm day in almost 2 weeks.  We encountered our first herps in the pond near the parking lot.  Loads of red-bellied slider turtles and eastern painted turtles were basking on logs in the warm sun.  As we hiked further along the trail, we came upon a large freshwater marsh that was filled with even more turtles.  It was like turtle nirvana!

how-many-turtles-300x225In the same marsh, we also saw a few of Maryland’s largest frog species, the American Bullfrog.

bullfrog-263x300We also found a few red-backed salamanders and saw five lined skinks and one fence lizard.

cv-and-bay-300x225Once we reached the Bay, we spent some time eating lunch and looking for fossils and sea shells.  The air was very warm, but the water was icy cold.  That did not stop my adventurous brother, though, he dove right in and went for a swim!!!  Burrrr!

 

Creature Feature: Rachel Walker

Rachel Walker

Wildlife Educator and Animal Keeper

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Reptiles Alive Name: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel

Hisstory: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel grew up in Northern Virginia and in 2003 left to attend Clemson University in South Carolina.  While on summer break in 2005, Rockin’ Reptile Rachel took the position of Lead Animal Keeper at Reptiles Alive.  As one who enjoys challenges and is an extremely fast learner, Rockin’ Reptile Rachel began performing shows for Reptiles Alive during that very same summer. Enjoying the fast paced atmosphere, Rachel began working for Reptiles Alive full time in January of 2007 and has thrived ever since.

RA Diet: Rachel likes to feed on leftovers and peanut butter sandwiches. Yum!

Natural Diet: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel prefers a diet of fruits, veggies, and the occasional meat and dairy.  She eats as many locally supplied foods as possible and hopes one day to grow her own vegetables in her garden.

Range: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel has a very broad range.  She was born in Jackson, MS and then swiftly moved to Philippines with her pack until she was 2 years old.  Her pack then settled in Northern Virginia where she has resided ever since.  She temporarily expanded her range in 2003 back south while attending Clemson University in South Carolina.  These days you can find her all over the DC Metro Area doing animal shows or even traveling the world!

Habitat: You can find Rockin’ Reptile Rachel caring for the animal collection at Reptiles Alive HQ, out on the road heading to an animal show, or traveling the world by planes, trains, automobiles and her own two feet.  When she is not entertaining and educating the public with Reptiles Alive, her preferred habitat is to be in the wild or curled up on the couch with her fur-child, Frank-the-dog.

Size: Rachel has reached her maximum height at 5’9”.  Width may vary.

Lifespan: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel could live to 90 years or more!

Reproduction: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel adopted and is raising one fur-child named Frank-the-dog.  She may breed in the future but has yet to find a suitable mate.

Conservation: Since Rockin’ Reptile Rachel was a small child she has had a passion for animals and a great interest in public education.  She would speak to anyone who would listen about the most recent animal facts she had learned.  She has not gone too far from those days in working for Reptiles Alive. Rockin’ Reptile Rachel’s passion for animals and love of children allows her to present very exciting and educational shows that people of all ages are bound to enjoy. Her high energy and witty demeanor is sure to wow your audience!

Cool Facts: Rockin’ Reptile Rachel also has a passion for studying animals in the field. She traveled to remote regions of South Africa during a two-month summer expedition called Vets-In-The-Wild where she assisted wildlife veterinarians in exciting and often dangerous conservation attempts and medical procedures. Forgoing a “normal” college Spring Break, Rachel also traveled to the interior of the Amazon Rainforest with a study abroad program designed to study the Tropical Biology of the Peruvian Rainforest.  Her most recent travels have taken her to remote areas of Belize and Guatemala where she traveled for pleasure and to assist a wildlife trade school and zoo.

Where will her passion for animals lead her next?  Maybe to your school, camp, or even home!

Interview with a Boa Constrictor

Sunflower the albino boa constrictor turned two years old on Jan 14.  She is getting ready to begin her career as a show boa for Reptiles Alive, so I wanted to let our fans get to know her a little better.

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CobraCaroline (CC):  So Sunflower, you just celebrated your 2nd birthday.  Did you do anything special?

Sunflower (SF): Well actually yesss.   You sssee, I get fed a delicioussss large rat once every other week.  And it just ssso happened that I got my delightful dinner on my birthday.  It was yummy.  And, it isss sstill in my tummy!

CC:  You know Sunflower, some people think that snakes only like to eat their prey live, but all the snakes here at RA get frozen and then warmed up food.  What do you think about that?

SF: Ooooh, I like it much much better when my dinner doesn’t try to bite me or ssscratch me or run away.  Also, I know that the frozen ratsss we eat don’t have all the yucky parasitesss or germsss that live ratsss could have. But I mussst admit, I do enjoy it when the keeper jigglesss the rat in front of me a little.  I mean, I’ll ssstill eat it if is not moving, it isss jusst ssso much more fun to ssstrike it and wrap around it – even though it isss already dead.

CC: We have a few questions from Reptiles Alive fans.   RA fan Virginia Olin wants to ask you two questions:  Where did you learn to speak?  Do you get chapped lips from licking your lips so much?

SF: Good quessstionssss Virginia.   Actually, CobraCaroline is able to communicate with me using an ancient Minoan technique known only to a few ssspecial humansss.  And no, I don’t get chapped lipsssss.  In fact I don’t even HAVE lipssss!  Ha ha ha – that is one of the reasonsss I can’t chew my food.

CC:  RA fan Kory Steele wants to know if you have any plans to get surgical augmentation and regrow legs?

SF: No Kory, no plansss for anything like that.  I really love my body just the way it issss.  I am able to accesssss placesss that animalsss with armsss and legsss can’t.   Armsss and legsss just get in the way.

CC:  RA fan and Bonnie Keller asks:  What’s your favorite rat flavor? And what will you be wearing to the Awards shows later this season?

SF: Bonnie, my tongue isss ssso powerful I can tassste the ratsss even when the RA keepersss are defrosssting them in the other room!  And man, when I sssmell them, I just want to eat them ALL.   I get ssso excited,  I’ll ssstrike at just about anything!!  Ssso, I guess I like all the rat flavors:  black, white, brown, spotted, whatever.  Just give me a yummy delicious rat!  MMMmmmm, rat rat rat.  Wait, you had another quessstion too.  Oh yeah, what will I wear to the Awardsss showsss?  Bonnie – you know usss sssnakesss, we like to keep thingsss sssimple.  No makeup, no clothesss.  I might shed my ssskin just to pretty up a little though.

CC:  So, Sunflower, are you excited about doing shows for Reptiles Alive?

SF: Oh definitely yesssss Cobra Caroline.  I can’t wait to help other people discover how cool sssnakes really are.  That we are not ssscary.  And we don’t want to hurt anyone!  Well, maybe a rat.  But ssseriously, I want to help ssstop humansss from attacking innocent sssnakes in the wild. Jussst leave those poor innocent sssnakes alone you ssscary humansss!!

CC: Any last thoughts or comments?

I am really excited to be a part of your animal education team.  I don’t think there are many albino boa constrictorsss out there working in live animal showsss, in fact, I might be the first!  Oh I know people see albino Burmese pythonsss all the time.  Even that Britney girl had one in a music video or something.  Pythonsss, shmythonssss.  I don’t meant to sssound ssstuck up, but I am ssso sssspectacularly beautiful, that I am sure to become one of RA’s biggest ssstars!

Creature Feature: Cope’s Gray Treefrog

Cope’s Gray Treefrog

Hyla chrysoscelis

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Reptiles Alive name
: “Hyla”

Hissstory: Hyla was an unwanted pet sent to live with us in March of 2010.

RA Diet: Crickets and meal worms.

Natural Diet
: insects.

Range: Gray tree frogs are found throughout the eastern United States north into Canada.  They are native to the Washington DC area.

Habitat: Forests, backyards, and urban parks.

Size: Gray tree frogs grow to about 1.25-2 inches, the record is 2 and 3/8 inches.

Lifespan: Can live 5 + years.

Reproduction: Males gray tree frogs begin to call in mid to late Spring.  They form large groups called choruses. Their song is a flute like trill, a bit like a telephone. They breed March – October. Eggs are laid in water – usually ditches or puddles that form in the spring and dry up in the summer.

Conservation: Threats to gray tree frogs include:  air & water pollution and habitat destruction.  They require access to clean pools of water each spring in order to reproduce.  If the pools of water are gone or polluted, the population of tree frogs in that area will disappear.

Cool Facts:  Gray tree frogs have remarkable camouflage – they become almost invisible as they perch in the trees where they live.  They can also change their skin color from a dark gray to almost white to a light green.  If frightened, however, they flash bright gold on their thighs as they leap which may startle a predator.

Tree frogs also have suction cups on their hands and feet that allow them to stick to almost any surface.  You might find a gray tree frog stuck to the outside of the  glass window looking into your bedroom!