Color me green, or gray, or brown…

Last month, in a post about the green anole, I mentioned that it was able to change color. Anoles and chameleons are not the only color-changing animals. If you’ve ever caught a frog outdoors in cold weather and it seemed to get lighter as it warmed up in your hands, that wasn’t your imagination.

Backyard Biology has a fantastic explanation of frog skin colors and how they can change.

Back Yard Biology

Gray Treefrog, Hyla versicolor The ever-changeable, Gray Treefrog.  How does it do it?

Green is a popular color for frogs, and birds too, but that lovely green color doesn’t come from a green pigment as you might expect, but from the interaction of multiple layers of specialized color and light-reflecting cells in the upper layers of their skin.

Frogs have three layers of chromatophores (color-producing cells) in their skin. The deepest layer are melanophores that produce melanin pigment giving skin a brown to black color. The middle layer are iridiphores which contain no pigment but instead have mirror like plates capable of producing iridescence, or when viewed from a certain angle, reflect blue light. The most superficial layer of chromatophores are xanthophores that contain a yellow pigment.  When the middle layer of iridophores interact with the top layer of yellow-pigment containing xanthophores, you get what elementary school students have learned:  yellow paint + blue paint…

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Common Nighthawk

The common nighthawk is a swift, graceful flyer capable of catching and eating insects on the wing. Its territorial “call” isn’t really a call; it’s a loud whirring buzz made by its wings as it dives. You’d think such a bird would nest high in a tree, as close to the sky as possible, right?

Nope. The nighthawk doesn’t build a nest at all. It just lays its eggs right on the ground, where their speckled pattern blends in with the dirt and leaves.

Common Nighthawk
Those huge eyes help it find flying insects at dusk.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: A very forgiving Pigmy Rattlesnake

This week’s photo challenge was “Beneath Your Feet.”

Pigmy Rattlesnake
Pigmy Rattlesnake

Pigmy rattlesnakes always look disgruntled, but this one has a really good reason!

It blended in so well, and I was paying so little attention, that I didn’t see it until I was bringing my foot down. I didn’t have time to stop it. I stepped right on it, trying at the last instant not to put too much weight on it.

Next thing I knew, I was standing about six feet away. I think I made an inarticulate squeak as I jumped away.

The snake never tried to strike at me. It just coiled up tighter and glared. I took a quick photo and then I left it alone. Every stick and leaf looked like a snake for the rest of the day.

My blog! It has a name!

As promised by the old tagline, this thing finally has a real name. After writing my introduction post, it was staring me right in the face, and, amazingly, the URL was available. So, henceforth, this site shall be known as Overlooked Nature, and will be located at overlookednature.com.

I almost made it Overlooked Wildlife, but there’s already a book with that title, and “wildlife” usually implies animals. I want to post plants, too. And rocks. And random interesting things that happened to catch my eye. If it’s found outdoors, and I know something about it or can find out something, it’s fair game. I figured “Nature” was a better fit even though it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue as nicely.

And because this is primarily a photo blog, above (or below, or somewhere on the page, depending on the theme and device you’re using) is a very easy-to-overlook bit of nature: the eggs of the common nighthawk. You have no idea how many times I almost stepped on one!