What Are These Little Green Snakes In My Yard?

Great Snake To Have In Your Yard!

This little snake, a Smooth Green Snake, is a great find if it shows up around your house. Guess what it eats?  Spiders and bugs!

Friendly Little Guys:

These snakes rarely bite and are quite tame when you pick them up. If they do bite they rarely break the skin and they are not poisonous. They just enjoy snacking on the spiders and insects in your yard and are fun to watch, if you can spot them.

 

Excellent Camouflage:

Though quite common, they are rarely seen. Of all the snakes in Tennessee these probably have the best camouflage. They are green like a branch and spend a lot of time above the ground crawling through the vegetation. Animals that climb in trees and vegetation are known as “arboreal” creatures. They even sometimes coil up on branches to rest without being seen. They also are quick to stop moving if activity is going on around them so they do not give away their position to animals that use motion to detect their prey. They would be good at the game “Freeze Tag”. This disguise is not merely for protection, it also allows them to wait for their prey to come to them or to sneak up without being detected.

 

Call Me What You Will, I’m Just A Helpful Neighbor.

These snakes go by several different common names. Sometimes called “Grass Snakes” and “Vine Snakes”, because they resemble the vegetation they crawl through. Unlike the true Vine snakes that are found in tropical regions and are mildly poisonous, these are not. Their scientific name is Opheodrys vernalis. 

Small and Skinny:

These snakes usually range between 11 and 20 inches in length and are very skinny. They are sometimes confused with the  Rough Green Snake which often live in the same territory. However, its easy to see why these snakes are called “smooth Green Snakes”. The other variety has rough scales on its skin.

Shake Your Head:

One of the interesting behaviors of this snake is to watch its head. While zeroing in on its prey it often shakes its head back and forth. It also uses its keen sense of smell to locate its prey. They use their tongues to smell, flicking them in and out and withdrawing them back into their Jacobson’s organs to analyze the chemicals in the air. They are very good and finding their dinner in this manner.

 

Water Loving:

These snakes are often found near the water or at least living in moist environments. They also like rocky boarders and areas with lots of grass and vegetation to hunt in. They are important in the ecosystem controlling the amount of insects and arachnids living their.

 

So…..If You See Us, Be Thankful!

As I discover new creatures in God’s Creation I am so thankful to know that each was designed with a specific purpose and is a testimony of the greatest of the Creator that designed them. I thank God for creating such a wonderful variety of creatures for us to discover and study. The more we look, the more we can praise the One who made them all for us to enjoy.

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Colossians 1: 16

“For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him and for Him.”

Let’s Catch Some Shellcrackers!

Spring Has Sprung The Time Has Come!

One of the best times of the year for fishermen is the Spring Time. That is when the fish are the most active! One of my favorite fish to catch at this time of the year is the Shellcrackers.

 

Largest of the Centrachidae family, they fight aggressively as you bring them to shore. (I personally think they outfight the bass in the lake where I fish!) 

Bottoms Up!

One of the most important things to know when targeting this species is to put your worm on the bottom of the lake where you are more likely to find them. I like to use a sliding sinker with a small split shot beneath so when the fish take the bait you can feel the tug and set the hook before they completely swallow the bait.  Since they often take the bait deep before you have a chance to set the hook, it’s good to have a pair of long-nosed de-hooker pliers handy to remove the hooks.

Great Eating!

Of all the sunfish varieties, I think these are the best tasting as well as the largest. Catch a few and you will have more than enough meat for a meal. One of my favorite ways to eat them is in fish tacos.

                                     The meat is flaky and sweet! 

 

Helpful Fish:

Since these fish specialize in feeding on Mollusks they rarely compete with the other sunfish species that feed at the surface. In addition, they help control the rapid growth of many native species of water snails and especially are helpful in keeping many invasive species in check (like the infamous quagga mussels). Since they are equipped to crack and crush the hard shells of these creatures they are often introduced into waters infested with these alien species. They have been found to be very successful in this venture as well as providing an excellent sport fishing species.

Spring Spawn:

If the water is clear you may see them sitting on their nests near the shore in the Spring Time. This is where they congregate in the Spring.

Daddy Does His Job!

The male builds the nest, and if he does a good job, the female will come and lay her eggs there. Understand that they will be very active at this time.

Don’t Forget The Future!

When I catch them in the Spring I often carefully remove the hooks of the large females with swollen bellies full of eggs. In this way I help insure a healthy population next Spring. This is a good practice with other species as well, but it’s all right to keep some for dinner!  They reproduce well and taking a few won’t cause a problem.

Call Them What You May:

Shellcrackers, Red-Earred Sunfish, Chinquapins, Mollusks Eaters, Georgia Bream, Cherry Gills”, are some of the names given to these fish. No matter what you call them they will make your fishing trip a success. Why not get out there and catch some?

                       Bright Yellow Breast.

 

This Fish Is Full of Eggs. She Went Back In The Lake.

When Wiggling In The Light They Are Like Peacock Feathers.

They show off their many colors.

When God Created These Fish He Used A Colorful Pallet! The colors change as they move in the light.

Baby Cottontail Rabbits In My Garden

What’s That Growing in My Garden?

 

I had an interesting experience this afternoon. As the weather has finally changed to Spring Time, I decided it was time to clear the weeds out of my garden. All was going well until I noticed some fur at the base of one of the large weeds I removed. All of a sudden the ground began to move and out popped the head of a tiny bunny rabbit. In fact, there were five little cottontails inside the shallow fur lined depression. I learned that these are called “forms” and are used as nest for baby rabbits in the Springtime. Apparently, cottontails don’t dig burrows in the ground for homes. Instead, some find old holes dug by skunks, squirrels, and other animals. Since the mother only feeds her baby cottontails twice a day, they choose the best time to avoid detection, morning and evening. The grass, weeds, brush, and other plants around the “forms” provide great concealment during the day.

 

Many Enemies

Rabbits are very productive. They pump out babies in bunches of five or so, and just keep bringing new ones into the world. The number of individual babies an animal produces is usually directly related to their mortality rate. Since very few of the babies will ever reach maturity the mothers produce many litters every year during their short life spans. Dogs, coyotes, owls, snakes, foxes, cats, many birds of prey, raccoons, weasels, crows, man, and even squirrels attack baby rabbits and their parents. Cottontails are classified as a game animal and rules are established by the Department of Fish and Game for their protection. Farmers are allowed to kill them if they are causing agricultural problems.

 

 

 

Live and Let Live

I don’t mind sharing some of my vegetables with wildlife in my yard. I think it is interesting to observe the creatures that live in my area. In the hope that these little rabbits survive I pushed a little of the dirt around the form and replaced one of the weeds I pulled to partially cover the bunnies. I’m hoping the mother will come back and move them to a more secure place this evening.

Interesting Rabbit Facts

Why the White Tails?

Scientists have studied animals with white tails to try to figure out their function. Most conclude it actually confuses prey animals chasing them as they dart to and fro in their bouncy escape. It’s sort of like a bull fighter waving a red flag.

Wow! That’s a Lot of Babies!

Each batch of babies is called a “kit”. A mother rabbit can produce up to seven kits a year. That potentially would be about 35 bunnies in all, however, most only produce about five kits. A lot depends in the environmental conditions, food, water, and rate of predation.

What’s Been Chewing On My Tree?

Sometimes these rabbits can develop a taste for the bark of certain trees and can cause damage or even death of the trees that they gnaw on. Many tree experts put metal or plastic guards around the bases of trees to prevent this kind of damage.

Worldwide Distribution

Of the more than 60 species of rabbits the kinds of cottontails make up 13 of them. There are nine species of cottontails in North America and Mexico. Cottontails are found all around the world in both cold and warm regions.

And In This Corner We Have The Lightweights

A fully developed Eastern Cottontail is about 15-19 inches long (38-49 cm). They can weigh from two to four pounds.

Speedy Rabbits

Cottontails can run a speeds of 18 mph for up to a half mile. They have to be fast to avoid capture.

 

 

The pictures above are two days later. Notice the hair starting to form.

Now That Smells!

They have excellent ability to smell having about 100 million sensing receptors in their noses. (That compares to about 5-6 million in humans).

Specialized Teeth

Rabbits have teeth that just keep growing. The grasses and other vegetation they feed on and their gnawing on tree trunks help keep their teeth trimmed. These unique teeth enable them to maintain healthy teeth for all their dietary needs.

Consider the Evidence for Design

As I observe these, and other creatures, I am called to consider how all this specialized design came to be. I personally believe it all points to a common Designer. How about you?

The picture below was taken on April 19, 2018. Note that one of the original bunnies died. He was the runt of the litter. The others seem to be doing well in spite of some really cold evenings and a couple down pours. 

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I finally caught the Mother with the babies in the morning.

 

Below are some more pictures a few days later:

Notice that they are getting bolder. This one left the nest when I lifted the weeds from on top. He stayed close and went right back into the shelter once I stood back. Not long from now they will have to fend for themselves.

Baby Snapping Turtles

 

You Must have Been A Beautiful Baby!

Isn’t it fun to look at baby pictures and try to guess who they are many years later? The same is true with animals. Some go through dramatic transformations and look totally different as they go through metamorphosis. Isn’t  it amazing how different a butterfly is from the caterpillar it was formerly? Other animals go through dramatic growth stages. One such animal is the Snapping Turtle.

This last week I received the pictures that are in this post. This little “snapper” was found while my friend, Danae Was cleaning out the garage in Arlington, Texas. You probably remember the blog post about the turtle survey we participated in at Spring Lake. The two large snappers that were seen in that blog are what the turtles look like when they grow up. You can also see pictures of even larger snappers in my earlier blog post. (I’ve included one at the bottom of this post.) So……let me show you the baby one:

Isn’t It A Cutie?

Notice Its Size In Relation to the Quarter.

Bottoms Up! Notice It Already Has Long Claws.

 

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Wow! You’ve Changed A Lot Since I Last Saw You!

Notice how the ridges on the back smooth out as the turtles grow. Turtles have very long life cycles. Some live to be 100 years old. Wow! It’s best to leave the turtles to grow in their natural environments and go and observe them in their home territories. Turtles do best in the wild and you are more likely to observe their natural behaviors there. 

As you look at these turtles and consider their amazing design, just think of the amount of information that must be stored in their DNA for this growth process to occur over the turtle’s life span. Amazing design demands an Amazing Creator. I thank God for designing these amazing creatures.

Why don’t you see if you can find out more about these wonderful creatures? There are many articles on turtles on the internet. See if you can learn something new through ongoing research. You won’t be disappointed!

 

 

 

Turtle Survey at Spring Lake, Texas

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How we captured, measured, weighed, and collected data on the turtles:

I just returned from an exciting trip to Texas where we were invited to participate in a turtle survey at the small lake at my Son’s house in Arlington, Texas. I learned a lot in the process and thought you would love to see how it was done.

The girls around the lake have a club that is interested in studying and preserving wildlife. Three of the turtle specialist from the university there came to show the girls and the rest of us how to conduct a scientific survey of turtle species. They plan to follow up this study with future visits to the lake.

It all began late in the afternoon. Many traps had to be set up and baited. We had to punch holes in plastic bottles and fill them with bait: sardines, chicken liver, chicken legs, chicken breasts, various kinds of fruit, and more. Each bottle then had to be placed inside the nets and hung so they could attract turtles.

Next, the nets had to be placed in the water. It is important when setting nets to keep the top part out of the water so the turtles can come up and take a breath and not drown. Here are some pictures of the process: The girls used kayaks and well as waded in the water to get them in place.

Once the nets were in place it was time to wait. The girls had a camp out by the lake and got up early the next morning to inspect the traps.

Early risers with their turtle pajamas.

The first turtle found in a small net was Cracker. This turtle was the rescued turtle that helped the girls get in contact with the turtle experts. The turtle was near death when first found last year and it was captured and rehabilitated and returned to the lake where it is thriving. Good thing the girls found it before it died in the lake.  It’s interesting that this turtle was the first to be captured in the survey.

This is Cracker. See the broken shell on the left side by the head.

Next, they pulled the other traps. They found two more turtles, both snappers.

Collecting Data:

Once the turtles were captured and placed in containers, it was time to do the measuring, weighing and examining of the turtles. The girls recorded their data in small field logs indicating the species, whether or not they were male or female, their weight, the measurements of their carapace length, width and depth. They also measured the plastroms and checked the female to see if she were carrying eggs. No eggs were found. The two larger snappers were both males. Calipers were used for the measurements.

After measuring, the shells were inspected for damage and any markings. We discovered some of the turtles were missing claws on their feet and others had part of their shell damaged. This data was recorded using the turtle shell maps given the girls for this purpose.

Releasing the Turtles:

After all the data was collected the turtles were released back into the lake and were rewarded with all the left over bait. It was fun to watch them crawl back into the water and know they were living in a safe place where they would be appreciated.

The Celebration:

After all the excitement it was time to celebrate with turtle pancakes for breakfast. 

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everyone Lend a Hand:

After the celebration all the equipment had to be gathered up to be taken to the next survey over at the river. Many hands made light work.

Thank You to Our Leaders:

We would like the thank all the people from Texas Turtles who helped us, especially Viviana Ricardez  , Andrew Brinker, Carl J. Franklin, our turtle experts. We would also like to acknowledge all the residents of Spring Lake who helped set up this adventure and Calvin and Danae and Barbara at whose house we did the survey.

We learned a lot and have a deeper appreciation for these reptilian creatures.

How to Fold An Articulated Origami Snake

Scales and All:

One of the unit Origami creatures I have created takes on the characteristics of an actual snake. It even has an articulated body with scales. Whenever I have taught classes of kids Origami and offered them an opportunity to select their favorite fold from a wide selection, they usually choose these.

Begin with a Pinwheel Base:

To begin your snake you will need to fold several body segments using the Pinwheel base as a starting place.

Next you will need to raise each of the four points of the Pinwheel up like a shark fin. Push down on the tops so they look like the picture above. Then you turn the fold over and fold the four corners to the center while letting the flaps from the underside pop out. It looks like this:

If you turn it over the underside should look like this:

You can make as many of these as you like, the more you make the longer the snake.

Add just a tiny drop of glue between the units to hold them in their tucked position. Keep adding body units until you reach you desired length.

Heads or Tails or Both?

Now we need a head and a tail. To make a head choose a square of paper slightly larger than your body units. You will fold it in the same way as the body units and then add three more folds to shape the cheeks and nose.

The tail is the easiest part (unless you want to make a rattlesnake). Start with a rectangle as wide as the squares of paper you used to make your body units. Fold an airplane point on one end. On the same end, fold two more airplane points on top of the one you already made. This will make the tail long an slender. On the opposite end fold a single airplane point to make the flap that attaches to the body of the snake. Again, a small drop of glue will keep it attached.

If You Want to Make a Rattlesnake You will have to look at my blog on the Hexoflexagram. The rattle is just an unglued segment of the flexograms. 

Here Is a Finished Rattlesnake:

Here Are Some More Snakes 

 

Add a Tongue and Eyes:

You can create a tongue with a small thin triangle of red paper. Slit it down the middle and curl the sharp end. Glue into the slot under the snake’s nose. You can either add eyes with a felt tip pen or cut out pieces of paper to form the eyes. You can also add “wiggle eyes” that you get from the craft store.

Snakes Are Often Feared But They Get a Bad Wrap!

It’s interesting to see people’s responses to snakes. Though these paper ones are less fearful, the real ones are often greatly feared. If you know the first mention of the snake in the Bible you get a little insight into this response. It’s interesting to see that mankind is responsible for the fearful aspects of this creature. Before the fall of man into sin the creatures were considered just another part if God’s wonderful creation. It was the result of Satan’s possession of the snake and man’s disobedience to God’s command that the snake, as well as all creation, was cursed. I look forward to the day when God removes the curse in the new creation. In the meantime, we can still enjoy observing and learning more about these beautiful creatures.

Wrap Your Paper Snake Around Your Neck or Arm:

Since the body naturally curls it will easily wrap around your neck or arm. Share your creation with others.

Now That’s a Wrap!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Origami Penguins: Make It Your Own

Modify to Get What You Want:

 

One of the exciting things about Origami is that you can take an existing form and improve it. Several variations are possible.

From 2D to 3D

 

  The original model.

 

 

 

3-D Model:

 

 

 

 

 

The original penguin fold I learned several years ago was pretty basic and it was a flat 2-D model. It worked well for flat surfaces like greeting cards. I desired to create a 3-D form that could be placed on a flat surface to mimic a penguin standing on ice. It took several attempts to arrive at a model that seemed to represent a more realistic penguin model.

 Here was one of my first attempts. I made a smaller one and inserted it into the larger one to imitate an adult caring for its young.

 Here was another model.

 This model has a rounded belly.

Cut an Iceburg 

If you take a piece of white paper and cut an irregular shape, you can create a base. You can also make the base 3-D by placing rectangles on each edge and folding them down. You can also use a sheet of plastic foam or styrofoam for your icebergs.

Party Favor or Place Marker:

When mounted on a sheet of paper, these make great party favors or centerpieces for the table. You could also put names on them to indicate seating arrangements. I suppose you can think of many more ways to use them.

Do You Want To Fold One?

Start with a square of two-sided paper: black and white. Put the white side up to begin.

Next , fold a crease down the middle with the paper in the diamond position.

Now, fold an air-plane point on the top meeting in the middle.

Think of a Teepee for the next fold. Fold up the two sides of the black so it looks like an open door on a teepee.

Then fold the paper like this to the corner points on each side:

Next, pop fold the top part under the back like this:

 Repeat on the other side wing.

Turn the paper over to the black backside.

Fold the paper like this to form the head. It is like a zigzag:

 

Now, fold the form in half like this:

Pinch the head and pull back. Then squeeze the paper to hold the shape.

 

Now let’s form the head and beak:

 

 

Lay the  bird on its side. Next, fold the tail end diagonally up to shape the belly pocket:

 Pop fold it in:

Now, let’s form the foot:

Now, let’s open the belly pocket: put one finger in front to open the pocket. Put another finger in the back to push forward widening the body and forming the belly bulge:

Put a dab of glue on your iceburge and place the penguin where you want it.

 

Create a whole colony.

These amazing creatures like to live in large colonies. God gave them the ability to live in places other creatures would freeze. This allows them to raise their young with few predators to bother them. The fathers incubate the eggs and raise the young while the mothers are out to sea gathering food. Soon the mothers return to assume the responsibility of raising the young allowing the fathers to return to sea to eat after such a long time of going without eating.

Learn More About These Amazing Birds:

I am always amazed at the great design of our Creator, God, Who gave each creature the ability to reproduce after its own kind and survive in unique places. Each creature is a testimony of His greatness. Why not read the story of Creation in the Book of Genesis in your Bible. You can also learn much more about the various types of penguins by doing research on the internet or reading books about them from the library.

Origami Jewelry Using Sonobe Joshie’s Jewels:

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Origami  Earrings Take It to the Next Level:

Origami forms can be taken a step further by using them in jewelry constructions. One of the best forms that works well for earrings, necklaces, and bracelets is Joshie’s Jewel made from the Sonobe base.

First Things First:

In order to begin you will have to fold up a couple jewels which require six Sonobe parallelograms, three unit for each jewel. Once you have formed your jewels, you are ready to go to the next step.

What You Need:

You should have on hand the following items to complete your earrings: earring hooks (I found a package of them at Walmart), some thin silver jewelry wire (also at Walmart), a large needle,  some colored beads, a pair of needle-nosed pliers, some clear fingernail polish or spray on clear acrylic, wire cutters, and a lot of patience.

How to Assemble:

Cut off a couple strands of silver wire. Thread one end through the needle and bend it over. Place one bead on the wire and twist it so the bead stays in place at the bottom of the strand. Poke the needle through the jewel from the bottom up out a top point. Pull the end of the wire out of the needle and place another bead on the wire above the Joshie’s Jewel. Now, thread the wire into the earring hook and twist it to secure the wire to the hook. Cut off any remaining wire.

 

Seal the Deal!:

After you have constructed two earrings it is time to seal them with a coat of clear acrylic spray, or paint the surface with a coat of clear fingernail polish. This will make the form more rigid and render it water-proof. It also gives it a shiny surface.

 

Now All You Need is a Pair of Ears!

These make great gifts for birthdays, and other special occasions. You could also just surprise a friend with them or give them to a young person who might want to learn how to make her own. I bet the guys would quickly make friends with a girl by giving her a pair of these. He could also make a pair for his mother, a sister, grandma or a teacher.

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Try Other Origami Folds:

There are also many other origami forms that would be delightful in earrings. Butterflies, Birds,  Sonobe cubes and more complex forms. The trick is that they have to be small which requires more skill to fold than larger forms. Take a look on-line under “Origami Jewelry” and you can see many other types of earrings, bracelets, necklaces and more.f

Sonobe: The Origami Unit That Changed the Art Form

Over the hundreds of years that origami has been developed one unit caused a stir in the origami world. It opened a whole new three-dimensional way of viewing the art forms that could be created using multiple units combined together.

 The Sonobe Cube

 

The Sonobe Base:

 

Where It All Began:

It all began, (we think), with Mitsunobu Sonobe when he first published a cube form made from his units in 1968. Once this came out many other origami enthusiasts decided to experiment with module unit Origami. The Sonobe base unit was the key since it could be combined in many ways.

Joshie’s Jewels

Soon thereafter, a new form was developed using only three Sonobe units. Toshie Takahama, in 1970, developed a hexahedron that became know as the Toshie Jewel. It is actually used as a jewel in necklaces and other ornamental structures. In order to form these units the central axis must be inverted so that the middle point goes outward, just the opposite of the former form. This was exciting because it suggested the base could be varied to create more construction possibilities.

The Octahedron Was Formed Using 12 Pieces:

After Joshie’s Jewel came more elaborate designs like Steve Kimbal’s 12 piece Octahedron ball.

These lovely forms were ideal for mobile applications in that they could be hung from a string allowing for circular motion. When strung on string many can be combined to form interesting hanging forms.

This Was Only the Beginning!:

Since the 70’s and 80’s, many new forms have been developed including forms using 30 pieces, 90 pieces, 270 pieces and more. Some create elaborate geometric shapes that have inspired architects and others in building forms. Others have experimented with variations in the forms to create wonderful patterns.

Here Is A Thirty-Piece Form:

 

 

New Surface Treatments:

Once the basic parallelogram shape was established it became obvious that many different color patterns could be developed using two-sided paper. By altering the surface color patterns some amazing designs become possible.  I have only experimented with 6 of these so far, but am interested in finding more and even developing some of my own. Below are a few variations combined in a similar cube form.

You Can Find More Examples:

If you are interested in exploring  Sonobe Unit Origami, I encourage you to go on-line and see what others have done with this exciting base unit. Some have even designed patterns for hanging on a wall or even becoming a wall. There seems to be no end to what you can do with this origami creation.

Strength In Unity:

As I work with these amazing paper constructions, I am reminded of the need for others. In I Peter 2:5, God’s Word tells us that each believer in Christ is like a living stone that must be combined with others to form a house, His Church. “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” As I form each structure it has no integrity or strength until the last unit is added to the mix. When altogether you can actually make the structures better by adding pressure to the outside, just like a snowball. When together we can withstand the pressures that come our way from the outside and even become stronger.

 

Here is a side-to-side comparison of a twelve piece and thirty piece ball.