Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Muddy, Sweaty and Bloody: Florida Day One 1-31-2014

This Winter has been a miserable one for us in the Northeast. Record snow and cold and death by hypothermia! (I don't know if any of that is true, but it probably might be.) We had made plans last Fall to take a herping vacation for Andrea's birthday in February. One enticing offer came from our friend and fellow herper Tim, who said he could show us around Southern Florida. So enticing, in fact, that we accepted his offer and planned a trip for the last day of January and the first two days of February... a good two weeks before Andrea's birthday, but it was the best we could do!

Our 5:30 AM flight from Boston arrived in Miami a bit before 9 and we aimlessly walked the length of the airport to find the rental car area. 6 people-movers and a train later, we had arrived. It was already warm, too... not the 16° that we had left behind in Boston! Our car rental place was Fox, an outfit located (previously unknown to us) off-Airport. Whatever. We made mental noted to arrive earlier than planned on Sunday.

We got our car and were off!!! We drove a half-block away and stopped to herp a tree and junk pile! Our first predicted herp was Brown Anole but instead it was a lifer Green Bark Anole!
Green bark Anole

There were loads of House Geckos hiding in the trees and junk; one even dropped his tail on me (sorry). But we finally got our hands on two.
Hemidactylus mabouia- House Gecko

Another GBA!
Green Bark Anole

And another House Gecko (sleeping inside a tire), all within a block of the rental place!
Hemidactylus mabouia- House Gecko

We hit the road and once wen were on the thruway, we hit the first rest stop. There, we were reminded about how fast Brown Anoles are! We managed a few shots.

Let me reiterate... this is January 31st!! Andrea took a moment to thaw in the sun!

Southern Florida would also be a good place to work on my Big Year! Here's #4, a Boat Tailed Grackle!
Boat Tailed Grackle

Big Year #5- American Crow!
American Crow

Before heading to the Everglades, we photographed one last Brown Anole- a real stunner!

So we went to the Everglades National Park Visitor's Center to meet Tim. Just outside, this chubby Brown Water Snake was resting. We couldn't get great shots, but it was nice to see out first BWS in 5 years!

About 8 feet away from him was this hatchling turtle... probably a Florida Red Belly!
Red Belly or Peninsula Cooter... you decide!

In back, our first glimpse of an American Alligator!

Big Year #6, Lesser Blue Heron
Lesser Blue Heron

We all piled into Tim's truck and started to cruise for Eastern Diamondbacks. We didn't find any of those and sadly, our first snake on this road was a smooshed juvenile Water Moccasin. Andrea photographed it for ID purposes. While she was out doing that, Tim and I saw something in the road up ahead. We hurried her inside and flew over to a turtle crossing the road... a Florida Box Turtle!
What a beautiful sight! We enjoyed him for a while.

We headed to a spot outside the park to look for Yellow Rat Snakes, one of my personal targets! As we walked along, Tim told us a great deal about the area. We learned a lot! I saw him heading towards a tree trunk with great interest. What did he see? Surely that's a root... or is it?
Bingo! Yellow Rat!! It even did the Rat-Snake-Kink we all know and love! Andrea caught him peeking around the other side!
I was instantly in love!
The snake didn't seem to like Andrea as much as it liked me...

We tried to get it to pose properly but it would have none of that. We settled for OK poses and let him go back to his Rat-Snake duties.

Damn, what a beautiful snake!! Thank you, Tim!

Next, we cruised for Coral Snakes, but it was too early. We did, however, get the Anole hat-trick with this lovely Green Anole!

We went to an awesome Corn Snake place (still outside the park), but it seems that some collectors have been tearing through there and disturbing the habitat. It was Corn-free. We got a brief glimpse of an Everglades Racer but it sped off while I was clumsily tripping about with my camera. The only critter I was able to secure a shot of here was this snoozing Cuban Tree Frog.

So, we took some time out and checked into our hotel and get a bite to eat (Mandarin Buffet... just like our favorite in Taunton). Then we headed back to the Coral Snake spot. It had just turned dusk. Corals remained tough to see, but this Peninsular Ribbon Snake was seen crossing the road!

We parked and decided to search on foot... for Corals, Rough Greens and whatever might cross our paths. Tim showed us this endangered Tree Snail.

Plus, he found our only Green Tree Frog of the trip!

While driving to our next destination, Tim stopped his truck, so we pulled over as well. He said a Bufo had been trucking across the road! We eventually found him and he proved very difficult to photograph, so Andrea grabbed him.
Our lifer Bufo Marinus!
I know these guys are invasive and sometimes considered pests but I have always had a fondness for them... ever since the 1972 film Frogs.

We parked nearby and went to chase lizards. Being dark, our targets (Knight Anoles, Basilisks and Chameleons) would be sleeping and thus easier to find. Or so we thought!!

Also up and looking for lizards was our first Corn Snake of the trip!
Tim had said the local Corns here were beautiful but when I saw this guy, my mind was blown!

Here's a sleeping Knight Anole.

Here is the same Anole, now awake.
Tim made a nice grab on the lizard to show it to us up close, much to the disgust of said lizard!

We released him and he went back to bed.

Guess what? We found another Corn crawling through the branches!
This was Andrea's first-ever Corn catch!
Again, just gorgeous!

Another sleeping Knight Anole, who we didn't bother to wake up!

This Bufo had been making a racket. This is one of my favorite pictures of the whole weekend. It just makes me laugh.

We went to another spot... I'm not sure where! But there were tons of sleeping Brown Anoles... they don't sleep as soundly as the Knights and were awake and wary!
anolis sagrei
A dew covered anole is a sleepy anole...

One of our targets was a Rough Green Snake. This might be one, but we couldn't get a picture so we can't claim it as a find. It was way up there! It might also be another Knight.

Tim spotted a sleeping Yellow rat Snake and made the funniest and perhaps most spectacular capture I have ever seen. It was high up, so he hooked a hoe further down the branch to bent it, making the sleeping snake fall out and into Tim's waiting arms!
The snake (who still showed some nice saddles) was not amused.

I held him and got much the same response.

It took Andrea, who had been devoured by the earlier Yellow Rat, to tame this beast.

We released him and he returned to the trees to sleep it off.

Our last animal of the night confused us at first. It was way up and it's shape had us guessing. It turned out to be a very large Green Anole with a remarkably long tail. Sleeping in the open like that, it's a wonder he got so big!

So ended Day One... a smashing success, I say!! Much thanks to Tim for his time and teaching! It should be noted that once we showered and our heads hit the pillows, we slept the sleep of the dead.

Trip Count... 15 Species, 5 of them lifers.


  1. That bite on my right index finger knuckle pour blood down my hand right after you took that picture.

  2. ¡Me alegra ver que ya están bien y contentos!!!!unbeso x 2 martha

  3. the second corn, and the yellow rat are both gorgeous. they'd be lifers for me. glad you guys got your box turtle :)

    1. Yellow Rats were lifers for us, too! Florida Boxes rule, but we still need Eastern!!! This year!