This Northern watersnake found at the Preserve has the misfortune to resemble cottonmouths. Although the range of cottonmouths extends nearly as far north as Atlanta, it does not - despite common misperception - quite reach our city.
Heads of Northern watersnakes are less triangular, more rounded on top, with circular pupils. Their cream colored bellies are marked with reddish-brown spots in the shape of crescent moons Cottonmouths have flat, sharply triangular heads, elliptical pupils that appear as vertical slits, and heat sensing pits between the mouth and eyes. In contrast to Northern watersnakes, the eyes of cottonmouths are not visible when viewed from directly overhead and the smooth, shiny scales atop their heads do not extend as far rearward. The white oral cavity for which the cottonmouth is named is also diagnostic, but perhaps not a field mark you wish to confirm.
Yellow-Bellied Pond Slider
Upon approaching the pond, you may find the most common turtle in our region sliding off a log. It has a brown/black upper shell (carapace), yellow lower shell (plastron), and olive skin with yellow patches down the neck and legs. Although carnivorous as hatchings, they eat mainly plants as they age. They mate, hibernate, and usually sleep under water, but lay eggs on land.
This harmless snake - the most widespread in North America - bears 3 light stripes down a dark body and black vertical slashes on its face. Most live alongside water, feasting upon frogs, leaches, minnows, salamanders, and lizards. Others reside in meadows, dining upon earthworms, slugs, mice, and shrews. They have been found near the building and in the wetlands.
Unrelated to true chameleons, they can, in response to their surroundings and moods, change colors within a range from bright green to dull brown. Prey of these diurnal, semi-arborial lizards includes live insects, crickets, spiders and moths. In an effort to escape a humanís grasp, they may either bite - though rarely inflicting injury - or release segments of their tails. Look for them near the deck.
This Anole was photographed in a terrarium, but he is only a guest! He has a girlfriend who lives in the terrarium and enjoys meals with her, courtesy of Kerry Butler. He comes and goes as he pleases, thru a hole in a window screen. The female seems content to stay in the terrarium, which has a warm light and running water.