On January 20, 2010, a gang of thuggish thunderstorms unleashed more than half a dozen tornadoes throughout parts of Texas and Louisiana. “Spring has sprung!” I proclaimed. The size of the outbreak and the time of year felt like a signal that spring had barged through the door with the intention of kicking winter to the curb. After all, here in Tornado Alley we have the bad habit of slipping from winter’s embrace right into the arms of severe weather season.
But Old Man Winter had no intention of leaving without a fight. In the weeks following the tornadoes, record snowfall hit the Deep South, back-to-back blizzards crippled the middle Atlantic states, and much of Europe found itself trying to stay warm as ice and snow piled up to alarming levels. Even Florida got a taste of the white stuff. So much for spring being right around the corner.
This sadistic hissy fit by winter put a real dampener on walkabouts and all but strangled the hope of seeing a herp or two. I mean really: what self-respecting amphibian or reptile would want to waste that hard-earned body heat trying to navigate through feet of snow and subfreezing temperatures? Thankfully both herps and bloggers are hardy folk, not to mention ingenious, and my worries about hosting a paltry winter edition of House of Herps quickly gave way to a heartwarming herpetological hoedown made possible by time travel.
So if you’ll all climb aboard the time machine, we’ll be on our way. Please, no pushing and shoving. There’s plenty of room for everyone. Sir, she got the window seat first, but I’m sure we’ll find you a nice spot over here. Who hit me with a spitball? Are we adults or not? Behave or I’ll pull this time machine over right now!
OK, please remember to keep your hands inside the ride at all times, don’t throw anything from the vehicle, and remain seated until we come to a complete stop. Now let’s be on our way…
“Well, let’s see. First the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil…”
Oops! Too far back. I’m not quite sure how these controls work. Let’s try that again. Ah, here we are…
Moe of Iowa Voice couldn’t locate any dinosaurs in spring 2007 but had no problem finding a logjam of painted turtles. I am equally delighted by their beauty and entertained by the fellow down in front who seems to be mooning the camera.
Michelle of Rambling Woods guides us forward to spring 2008 when she witnessed a territorial dispute between two bullfrogs. I have to admit this is a better show than Saturday night wrestling could ever have staged.
Ted of Beetles in the Bush pulls us into summer 2009 when he temporarily set aside his beloved coleopterans to talk about North America’s most bizarre lizard. For someone who prefers exoskeletons, he does a fine job presenting things that keep their bones on the inside.
Shelly of Explore Missouri leads us to autumn 2009 when she reminisced about a tree frog who took up residence in a birdhouse during the previous summer. Now if that’s not the cutest doggone critter in a box…
Dr. Dolittle of Dolittle’s Domain draws us into February 2010 by lamenting winter’s missing chorus of tree frogs. She remembers a humanitarian relocation performed last autumn. She thinks the little soul might have enjoyed the ride, but I bet it was more a sense of appreciation for safe transport through enemy territory.
And now we’ve reached…
Dave of Living Alongside Wildlife unexpectedly jumps back nine years and humorously recalls his first sighting of a poison dart frog in the wilds of Costa Rica. He then returns to the present—back in Costa Rica I might enviously add!—and experiences the same entertaining childlike glee when faced with a crocodile. Be sure to tell him his discovery is “neat.”
Since he’s in Costa Rica, no doubt basking in warm tropical sunshine on the beach while enjoying those colorful drinks with cute little umbrellas in them, Dave also discovered an important point to keep in mind when traveling abroad: even if the water looks inviting, remember this ain’t like the swimmin’ hole back home. By the way, aren’t those photos just “neat”?
And obviously because I said one too many times that his crocodiles were “neat”—or more precisely because he’s in a tropical country where herps aren’t frozen under near permafrost—Dave rounds out his welcome trilogy of offerings with some present-day dinosaurs living right there in the tropics: land iguanas that time forgot. Now that’s pretty doggone “neat”!
But Dave isn’t the only one who was smart enough to get the heck out of the way of winter. Jill (a.k.a. Johnny Nutcase) of Count your chicken! We’re taking over! escaped the brutal cold by traveling to Trinidad and Tobago. It’s OK to be jealous. I know I am. But even better than wishing she’d taken us along, get a load of the souvenirs she brought back for us: photos of giant boas! Check out the beauty—and especially the size—of those snakes.
Amber of Birder’s Lounge took advantage of the pause between flooding rain and cold snow to head outside with one of her canine friends, Roxie, both of them hoping to find a herp or two. What they discovered was a mystery: a snake who recently tied the knot.
Swamp4me of SwampThings stumbled upon a warm weekend tucked between a major freeze and subsequent weekly snow storms, and by golly she not only enjoyed a nice hike but also enjoyed learning the meaning of cottonmouth. You know, I do believe I’ve seen that photo staring back at me from the mirror after a night of binge drinking. Oh my dear! I digress.
It goes without saying that swamp4me has a bit of a thing for frogs. Don’t tell her I said so. It’s a secret and she’s going through immersion therapy in hopes it will help
give her another fix cure her of this dreaded ailment. Nevertheless, I’ll let you take a quick gander at her most recent session when she scored her first green tree frog of 2010. I don’t know if her therapist is happy or sad about this turn of events.
Which finally brings us to…
Bernard of Philly Herping knows of what he speaks when he says “[n]othing cold-blooded is moving at 25 degrees…” Heck, for that matter very little that’s warm-blooded is moving at that temperature. But did he let arctic air stop him? Of course not. Cold weather be damned and full speed ahead and all that stuff! Bernard plans ahead for herping adventures even when the weather conspires to provide no such adventures today. He deftly lays out plans for scouting out new areas and “laying boards,” a term I didn’t know until he thrust me into the future with his insight.
And now, the time machine giving me the low fuel indicator, we return home to the present. The ride has stopped and safety harnesses have been released. Please exit the ride to your left and follow the arrows back to the fairway.
Despite foul weather this past month, things appear to be improving across the Northern Hemisphere. Snow is melting, temperatures are warming (a relative phrase by the way), and winter migrants are making their first appearances of 2010. I hope you’ll consider participating in future editions of House of Herps, especially now that you might not lose fingers to frostbite while out looking for amphibians and reptiles.
Amber and I are also looking for future hosts for the carnival. If you’re interested, please contact us at submissions [AT] houseofherps [DOT] com. Otherwise, visit the House of Herps site for news on upcoming editions. The deadline for the next installment is March 15, so send those entries to the submission e-mail address above.
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 The quote is from the movie Airplane II: The Sequel.
 At some point in the future, perhaps I’ll let you in on the secret of who Dr. Dolittle really is.