Reptiles Up Close at CMOST

This past weekend, JSL had a birthday party to attend.  While B and him went to the party, NHL and I stopped by CMOST for some fun of a different kind.  B had taken the boys there recently, but it had been awhile since I had gone.

NHL showed me the Molecularium show in the planetarium and he loved going to each station to learn more about nanotechnology.  Of course, while that was fun, the photographer in me loved the reptile room the most.

First, there was a box turtle that they were taking care of.


Unfortunately, the previous owner had fed it the wrong foods.  (Raw eggs and chicken are NOT turtle food!)  Thanks to this, the turtle had developmental problems.  For example, one of its rear feet would periodically get stuck in its shell.  NHL, sadly informed the staff member that he hoped the turtle would get better.  The staff member let NHL know that while it wouldn’t ever recover, they would take good care of it.

NHL wanted them to take out the boa constrictor so he could see it up close.  Unfortunately, they said they couldn’t do this.  It had just eaten and moving it now would risk the snake either throwing up its food (and risking starvation) or puncturing an internal organ.  So the snake stayed in its cage to digest its meal over the next few months.  I was able to shoot a photo of it from behind the glass as it finished off a nice, yummy mouse.


The leopard gecko kept staring at us from it’s log perch and we marveled both at its spots and its bumpy hide.


NHL loved the bearded dragon and begged me to take a photo of it.  (Quite impressive since he’s usually complaining that all the photos I take are slowing him down.)


Later, we sat down as a staff member explained to us about some species of animals that live all along the Hudson River from the beginnings in Lake Tear of the Clouds to its ending in New York Harbor.  She fed some trout that they have and we sat awestruck as they went nuts splashing around trying to get a scrap of food.  They do feed the trout regularly, of course, but the trout seem to go nuts anytime there’s food present.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say they just loved putting on a show.

The stars of the show were the turtles, of course.

First up was the box turtle.  We got some more information about it.  For example, box turtles are so named because not only can they retract into their shell, but they have a special hinge and muscle that pulls the shell shut over their head.  This closes them in (like a box) so that it is almost impossible for predators to eat them.

Of course, predators should think twice before eating them anyway.  Box turtles can eat many things, including mushrooms that are poisonous to any other animal.  The toxins build up in their system making them a not-so-pleasant treat.  Early settlers quickly found out that they got sick when they made turtle stew from box turtles.


By the way, the red eyes mean that this is a boy.  Girl box turtles have brown eyes.


After this was the Diamondback Terrapin.  This turtle is more aquatic and loves spending its time swimming through the water.  While they usually eat small fish, the three brothers that CMOST has were raised in captivity and don’t know how to catch their own food.

diamondback-terrapin2 diamondback-terrapin

Many questions were asked by everyone attending.  I wondered how long the turtles could hold their breath.  After all, while watching them swim, it didn’t seem like they regularly came up for air.  The staff member replied that it is a long time, but they really don’t know how long exactly.  They’ve noticed the turtles going underwater to sleep for a few hours.  Quite impressive little turtle.


NHL and I had a blast at CMOST and left knowing a lot more about reptiles than we did before.  I just love visiting places that are both fun and educational.

What is your favorite kind of reptile?

Waging War On Chipmunks and Rabbits

public-enemy-no-1The past few years, we’ve had a few unwelcome guests.  Some rabbits would come by and munch on whatever plants we were attempting to grow.  Later on, we found some chipmunks making themselves cozy in and around our garage.  I’ve been trying to rid ourselves of these pests for awhile, but recently I decided to get serious.

First, some ground rules I set in my War On Unwelcome Animals.  I wasn’t looking to kill them.  I don’t have anything against them per se.  I just don’t want them borrowing in my yard, living in my garage, or munching on my plants.  To this end, I wasn’t going to use any traps or poisons.  Besides, my kids play in the yard and the "kill the wabbit" poison could easily become the "made JSL sick" poison.  I’d rather have a thousand rabbits munching my plants than make my boys ill trying to get rid of the pests.

In the past, I’ve used a spray designed to get rid of deer.  It contains capsaicin in an egg white suspension.  The smell actually reminded me of very good buffalo wings.  (Yes, I was tempted to try it, but no I wasn’t stupid enough to actually taste it.)  Of course, while spicy buffalo wings might taste good to you and me, it tastes horrid to deer, rabbits, and other animals that like their diet to be more of the non-spicy plant variety.  This helped repel the rabbits, but any rain storm would wash away the capsaicin spray and soon the bunnies would return.

Over the weekend, I stopped by Home Depot to address two issues.  First of all, the stones in our garage have a lot of holes in them.  Some are due to age and weather, but many are due to small animals gnawing on the garage walls to gain entry.  Secondly, I wanted a long-term means of repelling the rabbits and chipmunks.

The garage holes were remedied using some foam sealant.  You simply spray this into the cracks and holes and it expands to fit the opened areas.  A few hours later, it hardens and sets.  It’s designed for outdoor use so the weather shouldn’t destroy it (at least not immediately).  Also, since animals could chew the foam easily, it contains a bitter tasting ingredient.  They can try to munch away, but they won’t like what they’re munching.


With those holes sealed up, I can now move onto the second stage.


These granules contain castor oil and will be sprinkled across my lawn.  Like capsaicin, castor oil is not among the tastes that rabbits and chipmunks desire.  Once this is spread across my lawn, it should help make the ground taste bad to any borrowing creature.

It’s too bad that rabbits and chipmunks don’t read blogs or I’d give them some helpful advice: Don’t get too comfortable.  Pack your things because you are about to be evicted from my yard.

Aloha Friday: Bugged By Bugs

When I was a kid, I remember being very afraid of bugs.  If I was mowing the lawn and a dragonfly passed by me, I’d duck and run away.  If a spider crawled down the walls, I’d have to leave the room.  Don’t even ask me what I did if a bee flew my way.

At some point, though, I got over my fear of bugs.  I think it mainly is due to my love of photography, specifically macro photography.  Once I began looking at the world of small things through the lens of my camera, bugs went from scary creatures to avoid to fascinating subjects to photograph.

Years ago, B would roll her eyes and put up with me crouching over to take a very close photo of a weird bug.  Today, though, I think I’ve (partially) converted her.  When we saw a big, weird looking spider in our front yard, she didn’t even flinch as I asked for her camera.  (We were on our way out and mine was locked in the house.)  And so I took a photo.


Of course, half the fun is taking a photo.  The other half, is zooming in on the photo to see the details.  For example, just how hairy this spider is.


My, what hairy mandibles you have!

Now, if I could only identify what kind of spider this is.

My Aloha Friday question for today is: Do you find bugs fascinating or creepy?

P.S. If you haven’t already, try out my Twitter applications: FollowerHQ and Rout.

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the linky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #161

TechyDad vs. The Wasps

WaspsI’m a pretty easy going person when it comes to animals around my house.  When a rabbit was munching my plants a few years back, I insisted on getting a non-toxic spray to ward it off.  I don’t even mind bees.  In fact, I love taking photos of them close up.  However, when a group of wasps think that my house would make a perfect nesting spot, I go all out.

My War On Wasps started on Saturday night.  The wasps had constructed their nest by the highest point of the side of my house under an overhang.  Having procured some wasp spray, I took my position a safe distance under their nest and sprayed it.  The wasps definitely didn’t like being poisoned and I retreated back into the house.  The next night, I sprayed them with some more, but found that I had been a bit overzealous the first night.  My spray ran out with hardly any hitting the nest.

Monday, we acquired some more anti-wasp spray.  This touted a 27 foot spray reach.  Out I went again, to attack them, but this time my weapon backfired.  As I sprayed upward, I saw the plume of spray widen and turn into a cloud.  The cloud then drifted toward me as I was barely able to jump out of the way.  I tried again, but with the same results.  I conceded this night’s battle before I got a face full of poison.

The next night, I decided to try another tactic.  These are paper wasps so perhaps their nest would be vulnerable to water.  My hose has a very impressive range when on the most concentrated setting.  Perhaps I could flood them out.  After dark, when wasps tend to be the least active, I snuck out, set up my hose, and sprayed the nest.  Some wasps staggered out, apparently unsure of what was going on.  A few fell.  But the nest held.

I had had enough.  I couldn’t spray them while they were up high, so I resolved to take the nest down by any means.  Last night was going to be the final battle.  I took out my roof rake – usually used to remove snow from my roof during the winter – and assembled it outside.  Then I grabbed the spray and headed to the nest.  Once I was in position, I used the roof rake to knock it down and sprayed like crazy.

Hopefully, this will prevent the wasps from returning.  I might be kind to creatures in general, but when it comes to an insect that could possibly sting my child, I go to war.

Disclaimer: The wasp photo above is from Alvesgaspar and comes from Wikipedia.

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