My Bearded Dragons

These reptiles are active climbers add something in for their preferred exercise. A “hot rock,” overhead heat lamps and lights, plus a small water container are necessary. That little thermometer is a big help, especially now in this winter weather. Recently I’ve had to add an outside electric heater to keep them warm overnight.

Here on my website I usually only highlight information about wildlife and nature native to our Northwest territories. Several months ago, however, I got quite curious about a very popular species of lizards native to Australia. I had seen them in pet stores numerous times and questioned on zoological sites so often I went to PetSmart and bought a couple of Bearded Dragons. 6 Months of experience later I would like to pass on what I’ve learned. To begin with these are these most tame, hand friendly reptiles I’ve ever had experience with. I’ve raised iguanas, geckos, chameleons, boa constrictors, and a dozen other serpent species but none have been so easy to handle as my bearded dragons. I do not know why. That requires some more research, but it certainly is one of the reasons they are so popular as pets. I hope this companionship continues because these lizards can reach almost two feet in length and ten years of age. I’ll have reptilian friends for a long time. As you see from the photos above their sizes are currently quite different. Both of them were about three inches long when purchased last July but now (tail included) one is over four inches and the other over nine inches long. The larger one was more aggressive right from the start, so that is probably the reason he outgrew his partner. It could be a male – female difference. More to follow on that. The common care data bout them is true. They like mealworms and crickets, but are also very fond of lettuce. And as they age their preferences for each have changed. In the first couple of months I had them the big guy totally ignored veggies and his small friend liked it. Now those preferences have switched. Both still eat insects and lettuce, of course, I am just now surprised at the big guy’s new eagerness for veggies. Enclosure temperature for these desert origin animals is important. Yes, they do prefer at least 90 degrees so make sure you have a heat lamp and reptile hot rock in the terrarium. Finding overall care for them is not difficult but here a couple things you may not find:

  • Enclosure temperatures that drop below 80 degrees will not kill them, but do not let this continue for too long. Below 80 degrees they stop moving and eating.

  • When they are new born little guys, daily feeding is important but after they have reached about 6 inches, missing a day or two of food does not excessively harm them.

  • They make a mess! Now this is something pet shop folks may tell you know about. At least once every two weeks I have to thoroughly clean their terrarium. The large, very obvious, poops cannot and should not be ignored. Due to this I measured and cut a piece of canvas for the terrarium floor. This I can take out, spray it clean, dry it off, and put it back in fairly quickly.

  • The electric “hot rock” I bought came with a waring not to use it on anything but a glass aquarium. Fortunately the terrarium I had was something I built from glass.

  • Another thing to keep in mind is that these reptiles do require cricket and mealworm food, and that means you will be purchasing these insects quite a bit. I’m in the process of learning how to raise my own. More to follow on that.

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Snoqualmie Falls

Want to visit a remarkable state park during your holiday break? One that’s not far away, easy to get to, and not buried in snow thanks to a lower elevation? I recommend Snoqualmie Falls. The Snoqualmie Waterfall is 270 feet high, very wide, and astounding in intensity of flow. The waterfall and the river it falls into are amazing scenes. An easy, child safe, pet friendly hiking trail takes you to beautiful views of the fall and the Snoqualmie River. But that’s not all. Along the way you will come very close to extraordinarily interesting trees, some of which are sprouting up from old growth. Some of these things don’t even look real! Hence my inspiration to take and display these pictures. There is one thing I want to caution you about, however. The park has a fairly small parking area at the entrance so a week day visit is probably best. But even on busy weekends visitors generally move in and out quickly. So just sit tight and wait – you’ll get in – and it will be worthwhile.

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Sunny Mallard View

Once again I want to share a view of a common animal in a unique setting. This time a mallard duck. Of course, we’ve seen these popular waterfowl all over the place. In addition to their spread throughout America they have s surprisingly worldwide distribution. More to follow on this very successful avid, but for now I just want to share the effect of just the right sunlight. The generally bright blue head of the male turns green. And although you normally see them swimming, they do step out of the water from time to time. That’s when, sunlight permitting, you will see their amazing bright red legs. It surprised – and delighted – me!

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Dark-EYED JUNCO Thanksgiving!

You’ve probably seen this cute little bird many times in your backyard or elsewhere, and not just in Washington. The six sub species of Juncos live throughout Canada, the United States and into Mexico. Observe them for any length of time and you will quickly become aware of their ground feeding preferences of seeds and insects. And you will likely see more than one or two of these birds. They usually gather together in small flocks. But even the most common animal is sometimes observed doing something unique. And if you have your camera handy it is worth the picture – exactly what I thought when I took this shot. I’ve seen Dark-Eyed Juncos over and over but this is the first time I observed a cute little momma feeding her baby. I thought it was a great one for Thanksgiving. Wish you a happy one!

ID Wildlife Sample

I had the opportunity to visit Idaho last week. When my day job was over I naturally headed out to the nearest open space. The first thing I ran into was this young coyote. Note how well it’s fur color blends into the tumble weeds and other vegetation. The wild canine displayed its typical behavior by curiously staring at me for a while before running off and disappearing. Being the log turn over guy I am, I also rolled over the first one I found and got this interesting shot. I thought I had only managed a picture of little white termites, but when I developed the photo I noted the small centipede grabbing one for dinner. These little centipedes are are seldom more than one inch long and extremely common around the Boise area. If you have any issues with termites around your home, here’s a way to control them – and their service is free! They can’t help much with coyote control, however.

Dragonflies!

A pair of mating Cardinal Meadowhawks make babies while  a Widow Skimmer shows off its amazing wing apparatus.

I happened to be in West Virginia  a couple of weeks ago at the Camp Dawson National Guard center. Doing my usual thing during my lunch break I headed out to the open area in search of wildlife. I love all species, of course, but dragon flies are one of my favorites. The pond where I settled down when it was time to dine was loaded with these fascinating insects. More details to follow, but for now I want to share these photos in order to show the complexity of their wings. I LIKES it!

Visit Northwest Trek

Just a small sample of what we saw that day. The robin, of course, was out and about, but the picture was exceptional so I had to put it up. An unusual thing about all of these photos is that I did not take the pictures – my wonderful niece did!

When you’re obsessed with wildlife observation like I am and you are blessed with a family visit from out of state – what do you do? You go to Northwest Trek in Eatonville, of course. The animals there will satisfy your personal wildlife observation obsession and fascinate your family while other activities provide even more amusement.  This was exactly my wonderful situation last week. My family, who happen to be animal lovers too, came to visit last week so we went to Northwest Trek. I’m a bug lover and we could have seen quite a few in my backyard. My sister, however, is not too crazy about the creepy crawlers, so for a fine experience of native wildlife wonder and camera challenge we took off for Northwest Trek. Shown above, thanks to the photographing talent of my beautiful niece, is a small sample of the creatures that will greet you there. There are many more but one thing to keep in mind about NWTRK is that their animal enclosures are not the typically small zoo environments. NWTRK has very large, exceptionally natural enclosures for animals; perfect for just about every species of wildlife there. It is so perfect, however, that there are days when you may not see all of the creatures since they have many places to relax, rest, and hide. Regardless of that, you will see plenty of animals native to the Northwest and have a chance to enjoy them in their own natural environment. The zoo’s extended acreage also includes a nature walk, an amazing zip line adventure, and its famous tram line that provides spectacular rolling tour of elk, deer, bison, moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats, and caribou. So before summer ends here and we go back to our normal dripping wet winter I recommend heading down route 161 (the rural section of Meridian), look for the NWTRK entrance before the main entrance of the city of Eatonville, and have a great day.

Three Methods for Wildlife Photgraphy

Method Number 1: Stumble Upon.

 This is an unexpected and surprising way to get pictures of wildlife. No matter what you are doing and no matter where you’re doing it, some kind of creature suddenly appears near you. This has occurred to me several times, but one of the most surprising and wonderful occurred on San Juan Island, WA. We were cruising along the roadway and stopped to enjoy a viewpoint overlooking the ocean of Pugent Sound. And what shows up just behind us? A rare kind of red fox. This one very large, covered in black fur with a bushy white tail ending! I loved it. The strategy for this method is obvious – keep your camera with you and ready no matter where you go.

Method Number 2: Sit and Wait

This is probably the method of National Geographic and other professional photographers, since it produces such fantastic pictures. This method is most productive after extensive research and preparation. You need to understand exactly what you are looking for, where it is found, and when it is most likely to be there. Prepare your observation point and get your camera ready. But there is one other requirement that stands out above all others – patience. If you don’t possess that forget about Sit and Wait. But if you have enough of it you may be able to get a great animal shot anywhere. This really worked for me one time out on a swamp in Fort Lewis, WA when a beautiful little otter popped up in front of me.

Method Number 3: Creep and Peak.

This is my preferred method. I stay as ready as I can for Stumble Upon, and I’ve done Sit and Wait numerous times. But patience is not an attribute I’m know for, and I’d rather be out and about with camera in hand. To Creep and Peak, walk slowly in your preferred location (or any other place), stop and turnover every log, rock, chunk of wood, piece of trash, etc., and be ready to be amazed. The number of wildlife species out there hiding just beyond your view yet very much within reach is astounding! Hence my book, “Let’s See What’s Under There!”. I’ve had wonderful experiences with the Creep and Peak method throughout the world and in my own backyard.

Let’ See What’s Under There!

Now that summer is here I hope you’d love to share the beautiful wildlife in your own backyard with the kiddos! If so please check out my book “Lets’ See What’s under There!’ Loaded with actual photographs of these fantastic creatures this book is a tribute to those amazing creatures and designed for you and your family to share. Above is a small sample of the pictures you will observe in the book. The Ebook is available on amazon right now; the hard copy hits the press on 4 August.

Thank you,

John “Jack” Regan

Concrete Mites!

These photos together display the microscopic size of these little guys, and their large population. They were crawling about on every square foot of that concrete fence.

 

As everyone knows by now, I love bugs. And my fascination was very lucky during a recent visit to a National Gard training area in Oregon called Camp Rilea. While there I fortunately stumbled upon a bunch of little guys that I have been trying to accurately photograph for quite some time. I have seen these creatures numerous times before on locations ranging from my property in Washington state to my sister’s home in New York and at last the weather, sunlight, and my shutter speed were correctly aligned. The size, ceaseless movement, and habitat of these arachnids is extraordinary. What on earth are they doing? What do they eat? And why do they seem to love concrete so much? Many people know about mites but do not like them, a reasonable emotion. In general mites are parasitic animals that bite down on other small invertebrates and live off their blood. And that is the truth for all mites and ticks. And you thought you were making easy money! But what about these microscopic sized “concrete mites”? Why are they wiggling about on slabs of concrete when most other animals seem to dislike that material? The research I did answered these questions but not entirely to my satisfaction. Most sources claim that they are looking for insect eggs or other itsy bitsy living things to eat, even other mites But I thought there was something more to be discovered about them. Why do they seem to like concrete so much? One source I reviewed, from Ohio State University, gave a very reasonable explanation – they eat pollen, too! Now if you have hay fever as I do, the “June Bloom” in the part of Oregon I was in informs you immediately that pollen is exploding from the pine trees there. And it probably lands on slabs of concrete – a great banquet for these little mites if that is part of their diet. And considering their tiny size, cracks in the concrete could be a safe place to lay their eggs. So look very closely at the flat concrete spaces around your home or elsewhere and you may see these fast moving intriguing arthropods. Don’t be afraid of them. Unlike ticks, mite species are not harmful to humans. Mites prefer biting down on insects, spiders, and even vegetation. Ticks are bigger, and prefer the blood of larger animals including humans – as anyone who has had lyme disease will verify.

Primary References:

Pacific Northwest Insects – Merrill A. Peterson (a great book!)

Buckeye yard and Garden Online   Ohio State University