“Open your log book.” “Don’t forget the date!”

How many times have you heard me say the words in the title of this blog post?   I just thought I’d share that I use a science log book too!  

I’m using my log book these days for scientific drawings of the corn snake babies.  I need to make sure I can tell which baby corn snake is which.  It is important that I know who’s who so that I can keep track of each baby’s health.  Who shed? Who ate? Who made waste?  Who didn’t?   I keep the log book by their habitat.  

This drawing is of a little Okeetee that I’m calling “Torch”.

Feel free to help me out! Send me your scientific drawings of the baby corn snakes as you observe my pictures and videos. Do you have any names you’d like to suggest? 

“Herp” Fans Wanted!

It’s  been a few days since the first of Cookie and Brownie’s offspring started to peek out into the world.   Sadly two eggs are still in the incubator with no signs of hatching.  It’s not too late for hopeful thoughts but the odds of them hatching now are slimming. 

On a happier note, we do have a bunch of healthy little snakes that I have moved into their new home.   Here is a video of them moving in…

I know several of you are interested in adopting one of these cuties so today I thought I’d share how to set up a baby corn snake home. 

I have Cookie and Brownie in the 20 gallon low and long terrarium you see on the right.  It has two very sturdy locking lids.  The “locking’ part is really important as captive corn snakes have good reason to be nicknamed the “Houdini Snake”.   I bought my habitat at an awesome independent reptile shop out in Tomball: http://www.ultimatereptiles.com/

The owner and staff are extremely knowledgeable and helpful especially if you are a first time herp owner. (Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.). If you never have visited this place …. GO!!  It’s better than the zoo. 

I have all the baby corns right now in the small terrarium you see far left.  I line the floor with paper towels as they are easy to change out every few days while I have so many little ones.  You should start with paper towels too.  Later I will change to the small pebbles/sand you see in the bigger habitats.  

Above is the 50 lb bag of pebbles/sand that I buy from Pets a Plenty. (Fish R Us on 242 sells it too for $17.99) Don’t let anyone talk you into using cedar shavings as a floor material.  Too difficult to clean!! 

I like to add all sorts of cool places for the baby corn snakes to hid.  Cardboard paper towel rolls or empty yogurt cups work well.  You will need a nice light to keep your corn snake warm.  As soon as I placed the new snakes  in their new home several sped over to get a drink of water.  Hatching must make you thirsty 🙂 You will need a heavy water dish that can’t be knocked over. 

Important…. I wet a bunch of sphagum moss and put it in under the snakes’ hide structure.  The moisture makes it easier for them to shed their skin.  

Corn snakes usually have their first shed about one week after hatching and will shed every few weeks as they grow.   A few days after the first shed I can offer the baby corns their first meal.  After the babies have eaten two meals with me then I know that they are healthy and ready for a new home!

Want one?

LIVE ACTION…Corn Snakes are Pipping!

I woke up this morning to this corn snake excitement!  Clearly I need a tripod or something for my phone.  The shaking is a bit annoying, but still the time-lapse video results are pretty amazing to witness.  These are big video files so be patient with the download.

Above you’ve seen a few of Cookie and Brownie’s newest offspring “pipping”. Pipping is the name given to the animal behavior of breaking or tearing through an egg to hatch. Birds and reptiles all “pip” and they all have a special sharp adaptation called an “egg tooth” that sticks out from their snout that is used for this purpose.  Corn snakes and most reptile eggs are soft and leathery so the egg tooth tears the shell so the little snake can peek out into the world.

So far, seven of Cookie’s nine eggs have some sort of “activity” as you can see below.  I am careful not to disturb them because I don’t want to startle the hatchlings causing them to leave their eggs too soon.  It is important that they fully consume their first “meal” before venturing fully out into their shoe box   …. Thanks for the egg yolk, mom! ...


The pebbly looking material the eggs are resting in is called vermiculite.  Vermiculite (available at most hardware stores)  is a natural mineral product that is known for being porous and holding moisture/water.  I use it to help maintain a humid incubator environment.  It is also a friendly first material for the hatchlings to explore once they have bravely exited their egg. Here is one of our first bold explorers.  And yes, she is amelanistic!!

Are you looking closely at the picture and videos????  How many amelanistic babies have you counted?

Remember the word amelanistic “dissected” works like this….  a = not,  melanistic = melanin.  Therefore, not or no melanin in these corn babies. Melanin is a pigment found in animal skin and hair that provides black/brown coloration.  Without melanin corn snakes will be red, yellow and white only.  Their eyes of course will be red instead of black because of the absence of melanin.

It’s not too late to take the poll below! We are waiting on two more eggs….




Survey says… Countdown to Baby Corn Snakes!

Anxiously Awaiting!


It has been 63 days since Cookie laid her second clutch of eggs.  ( Remember the first clutch sadly perished due to mold and heat in the homemade incubator at school 😦 )

This clutch of eggs have been snuggled in the Reptibator at a consistent 85° F and 85% humidity since May!  Two of the eggs shriveled and turned yellow so they had to be removed. There are now just nine viable eggs in waiting.   About three days ago some of the eggs began to dimple inwards which I have read is a sign of hatching soon to come.  I can’t wait!
Join me in anticipating the new hatchlings by completing the poll below.
HINT:  Cookie and Brownie both had an amelanistic mother.  Their dad was a normal. Amelanism is a recessive genetic trait (aa).  This website could help:  Corn Calculator

I’m anxious to see the “answer emerge” soon 🙂
Stay Curious!!

Celebrating “One Giant Leap for Mankind”

Today is the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.  This moment, 9:56pm Houston time is the 48th Anniversary of the first human foot step on the Moon.


At 3:18pm (CT), on Sunday, July 20, 1969,  Neil Armstrong successfully landed the Lunar Module (named the Eagle) on the lunar surface.  Six hours later, Neil Armstrong descended the steps of the landing module.  At 9:56pm (CT), Neil Armstrong became the first human on the moon.  He spoke these famous first words; “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”   Twenty minutes later,  Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the second human to step on the moon.

Armstrong and Aldrin then “unveiled” a plaque mounted on the leg strut behind the ladder that had two drawings of the Earth; the Eastern and Western hemispheres. It remains there today and reads:

“Here Men From Planet Earth
First Set Foot Upon The Moon
July 1969 A.D.
We Came In Peace For All Mankind”

Video of First Steps!

The two lunar explorers spent a little over two hours collecting surface material, planting the American flag and taking photos.  They then climbed back into the Eagle and slept for several hours while their “unsung hero”, Michael Collins, continued to patiently orbit in the Command Module (Columbia).  On Monday, July 21st at 12:54pm Houston time the upper stage of the Eagle blasted off the surface to rendezvous with Columbia.  After a three day return journey covering 200,000+ miles, on July 24, 1969, the three astronauts splashed down just before dawn in the Pacific Ocean 825 nautical miles SW of Hawaii in the Columbia capsule.

Apollo 11 capsule after splashdown

On this day, 48 years ago, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first of only 12 humans (all men, all Americans) to walk on the moon.  Those 12 men are the only humans to ever leave Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and step on another natural object in space.

Mankind has not left LEO since the last Apollo Mission (17) in 1972!  No rocket as powerful as the Apollo missions’ Saturn V has been launched since 1972.   However, those “fun facts” are likely to change in our lifetimes…..

Interestingly, a remarkably similar photo to the one above, appeared in the Houston Chronicle just last week (below).  The photo however was not a celebrating a past NASA mission but instead was from recent NASA maneuvers in the Gulf to practice astronaut exit procedures for the new ORION spacecraft.

Orion capsule testing off the coast of Galveston

LINK: Orion Testing News Story

The Orion crew capsule will launch aboard the new SLS rocket!
Beyond LEO Here We Come!!


A Fish Tale with Teeth!

Earlier this month we were fishing on the more remote “backside” of Southern California’s Catalina Island.  We tied up the bow line of our little boat to a large kelp frond just outside Catalina Harbor to hold us in place around the off-shore “forest”.

Cat Harbor

The water was crystal clear so I could see the bright orange Garibaldi Fish (CA State Marine Fish) and Calico Bass frolicking below.  Nature’s aquarium!

We dropped our fishing line loaded with squid between the kelp stalks hoping to bring a big speckled “Cali” home for dinner.  Instead, we were treated to catching several beautiful California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher).  A beautiful fish in the wrasse family, the sheephead has some pretty crazy teeth.  The front two incisors look very human like.  The tale of the teeth is obvious from these images of one of the fish we caught. Fingers beware! Carnivore or Herbivore?  You decide.


While reportedly very tasty, this omnivore decided to “catch and release” all the sheepheads we caught even though many were CA Fish and Wildlife “legal” at over 12″ in length.  The California sheephead is classified as a vulnerable species due to overfishing and the relatively long time that it takes them to reach reproductive maturity. Sheepheads are also considered (like the cuter and more celebrated sea otters) to be a critical keystone predator in the kelp forest.  Their specialized teeth allow them to feed on the sea urchins that can dangerously overpopulate and overgraze the kelp.
See Video on Kelp Forest Keystone Species
#NoSheepheadNoKelp  #SavetheKelp

urchin on kelp

I learned a final fascinating fishy fact after observing some very different color patterns in the sheephead fish we caught.  Several of the sheepheads were a beautiful pale pink color (females) but one big one was mostly black with a broad pink stripe (male).  There is a large color variation between the male and female California sheephead that is typical of many animal species (think Peacock!).  BUT those of you observing closely…. may be wondering about the one that I caught with the toothy grin in the picture above. It doesn’t quite look like either of these; does it? Odd?


That’s because my fish is in the process of changing from a female to a male.  What?! Yup, it is changing its sex and has not completed the change fully yet!!  Cool fact…. California sheephead fish are all born female!   When the females reach 12-14″ in length hormones trigger the biggest among them to develop the coloration, square forehead and reproductive parts of a male.   Nature never ceases to amaze!  Get out there and explore.  Share your stories!