Thursday, February 6, 2014

Scarlet Fever: Florida Day Two 2-1-2012

We woke up a bit later than planned. It was funny to us just how much mud we had tracked in the night before.I'm sure housekeeping disagreed! We were meeting Tim in late afternoon, so we set about on our own to explore the natural beauty of the Everglades. What would be the first herp today?

We picked up where we left off with a Green Anole (a real speckled one) skittering about on the visitors center bridge (we had to pee).

One of their windows was where a Cuban Tree Frog had decided to sleep the day away.

So, we picked up a map and started exploring the park. We did a few laps of the EDB road, but saw nothing. Even the road kill from the night before had been cleaned up, thanks to the hard work of the local vultures. We found a spot to hike, parked, and walked along the edge of the trees. I figured I'd look around for lizards and Rough Greens. While looking up, I walked right past this, which Andrea spotted:
Our lifer Everglades Racer! I caught him for some close-ups (and a few nips)
Not quite as striking (visually... the biting was just the same) as our Northern racers, but still quite beautiful!

Howza 'bout the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly?

Our first Brown Anole of the day...

We flipped tons of limestone but saw no herps. I saw plenty of Tailless Whip Scorpions, though!

But we were walking quite a lot and not seeing herps so we cut to the chase and hit Anhinga Trail. I wanted to see some Gators, dammit! The first things to notice about this place, besides the tons of birds, are the fish! There are many many huge Florida Gar here, a native species among the invaders!
Florida gar

Speaking of birds, Big Year #7- the Double Crested Cormorant!
Double-crested Cormorant

#8 Green Heron!
Green Heron

We could see a large Florida Red Bellied Cooter off in the distance.

But a trip to Florida is nothing without the American Alligator! Let us bask in their glory like they bask in the sun!

Andrea did the ol' thumbs up...
and dropped her water bottle! I took a picture of her retrieving it rather than get it for her.

This being called Anhinga Trail, it's only fair to now call Big Year #9... Anhinga! (There were tons here... cormorants, too!)

These two Cooters were hanging out, unphased by our presence. It looks like they have survived some serious gator bites! That's why they have shells, yo!

I need more Gators!

Here's a pretty good look at what is going on inside an American Alligator's mouth...

#10 Great Egret, walking among the gators!
Great Egret

A White Peacock Butterfly.
White Peacock Butterfly

This fella bid us adieu as we headed out to explore elsewhere.

#11, the road cleaners... Black Vulture.
Black Vulture

We went further south through the park and stopped at one point where a boardwalk jutted out through the swamp and into a wooded area. The swampy part was clogged with a white algae. Before becoming too alarmed, I learned that it was periphyton, which is food for fish and tadpoles and a refuge for insects and other little critters. Pretty cool stuff. Just as the periphyton ended and the water became clearer, we spotted this small Brown Water Snake at the base of a bush.

We walked through the trail under a canopy of trees and branches but saw no more herps. On the way out, in a bush about 4 feet above the water, another young Brown Water Snake was resting.
Once I knew nobody was looking, I picked him up... I'd never caught a Brown before!
Much like their Northern counterparts, he bit me and musked me. Oh well...
Lookit that belly!

An elderly British woman with whom we'd been talking along the trail wanted to sniff my hand to see what Water Snake musk smelled like. My kind of dotty old woman!

We started further south through the park and didn't see many herps, except this hiding gator.

One pull-off was a pond filthy with ducks!! I figured I'd work on my Big Year!

#12 Common Moorhen!
Common Moorhen

#13 American Coots
American Coot

Behind the Moorhens are #14, Green Winged Teals.
Moorhens and Green Winged Teal

So we got to the bottom of the park, in Flamingo, Florida. There were supposed to be crocs here, so it was definitely somewhere we wanted to be. There were also #15... Ospreys!
That's a massive nest!

Right near the Ospreys was our lifer target... an American Crocodile was swimming through the channel... being disturbed by an idiotic canoe person.
What a majestic animal!

Another one was basking just out of the water beyond the fence.

#15, the Spotted Sandpiper, in it's Winter plumage
Spotted Sandpiper

The mother Osprey was pissed at a nearby Crow who wouldn't leave.

On our way to grab some veggie-burgers, tons of Laughing Gulls (#16), also in their winter-wear, watched us pass. The juvenile in the background was very noisy!
Laughing gulls

We dined on Flamingo's finest fare and returned to flipping to digest our meal. I flipped a couple of those cement water-drain-ramp-thingies and all I got was ants. One also had a worm under it that I thought I should move. Then Andrea noticed the worm had scales...
We had found a Brahminy Blind Snake! I never expected such a find!
This little girl was very fragile and when we put her down, she slipped under a rock like a strand of spaghetti! This parthenogenetic snake is said to have established itself in Boston's North End, making an unofficial 15th snake species in the Bay State. Their other common name, the Flower Pot Snake, explains how they travel so far!

The basking Croc had since shifted and I was able to get a good shot of her chompers!

We met up with Tim who was still setting up to camp for the night, so we bummed some bug spray and 'skeeter jackets off of him and headed off to look around some ponds and get ready to road cruise at dusk. Our last critter before dark was a sturdy Brown Anole.

Even as the sun went down, it was still a beautiful place... as you can see, working by the light of the moon wouldn't be easy!

Our road cruising got off to a great start when we saw a gorgeous Corn Snake!

I had never considered road cruising a bug but this mating pair of Two-Striped Walking Sticks strutting across the road caught my eye. They didn't bother spraying me with their musk, thankfully.
Anisomorpha buprestoides - Southern Two-striped Walkingstick

Moving on, as I was pulling over to let another car go past me I saw a wee snake squiggling in the road... I was terrified that I would run it over as I pulled off. I jumped out of the car and found a very feisty young Corn Snake, which I brought to the car for Andrea to see,
This guys saddles were so tight on his back half that he seemed almost striped. My favorite looking Corn of the weekend.

Our next two cruised snakes were freshly hit and dying. A Scarlet Snake and a Peninsula Ribbon. Heartbreaking. I moved them off into the grass.

This Cuban Tree Frog was up, wide awake and as cute as they get!

Heading back, we saw a thick bodied snake on the side of the road. When we approached, we saw it was another lifer... a Florida Banded Water Snake. We thought it might have been hit as there was a small blood stain and a drop on its mouth...
But as I touched it, we saw it was very much alive... maybe a bit stunned. It had some dirt-scratches on its neck and back... perhaps a car had sped by and blew it away in its wake? At any rate, this guy was moving just fine now.
It kept trying to go past me, back into the street, so I let it go... but I kept my eyes out for any cars on the horizon. In a very ungainly Water Snake fashion, he squiggled across the pavement and disappeared into the grass on the other side.

We met up with Tim at a preordained area to look for Scarlet Snakes, one of our most coveted targets. As we went along the trail, we had to keep an eye out for Scarlets and spiderwebs... the arachnids had built webs right across the path.

Andrea and I were thrilled when we found another lifer-target... a small Narrowmouth Toad. We had both thought they were bigger than they are, but this guy is fully grown.

Another web, complete with occupant!

As we shined our lights ahead to look for webs, we couldn't help but see eyes peering back. Cuban Tree Frog eyes. They were all over! We stopped to photograph a few, much to Tim's amusement. He said the line of the night... "You're only as good as your last Cuban"...
We eventually stopped and concentrated on the matter at hand... Scarlets.

It wasn't long before Tim said... "Look at the base of that tree"... sure enough, there was a Scarlet Snake there... a stunning lifer! He brought it closer for photos!
Wow. Just... wow.

As we walked along, I saw a dark snake coming into view over the side. I called out "some kind of water snake... black and red... wait... white speckles..." Tim came over to look... "Salt Marsh Snake! And it's a beauty!" He jumped over and grabbed it!
We're truly happy with this lifer, mainly because according to Tim, this is an especially fine specimen! I haven't seen any that look like it in my subsequent research, so color me thrilled!
What a memorable day this was turning out to be!

Next up, a Southern Toad! Our first in 3 years!

We followed that up with another Scarlet... one with interesting, broken up saddles. (I feel badly, I was walking in front of Andrea and saw it first... I should have been being a gentleman.)
Check it out... he has Mickey Mouse ears on the second saddle below the neck!

We said goodbye to Tim, gave him back his 'skeeter gear, and thanked him profusely for an amazing weekend! We learned so much from him, it was really so kind of him to spare so much time for us! A true gentleman and nice guy.

We slowly cruised back north, working our way up through the park towards Florida City and our bed. We saw a lot of DOR destruction, and I started getting very saddened by it. Two fresh but utterly mangled Moccasins and then 4 Florida Banded casualties right in a row. It made me very happy that just after midnight, Andrea spotted another one just off the road... and she added "and it's alive!"
This Florida Banded was crawling through the dewey grass and looked just as sleek and shiny as a babe!
What a beautiful snake!

Well, our heads hit the pillow at about 1:30 AM... it had been 15 hours or so of herping that day. We had to get up at 6 AM or so to meet our friend Steve by 8 AM the next morning! No rest for the wicked herpers!

So, we had upped our totals for the weekend thus far to 23 species, 12 of them lifers!


  1. oh man those scarlets…especially that first one. SUPER jealous of that. i want to find one so badly. and the whip scorpion is awesome too

    1. Yes, Scarlets are among my new favorite animals!

    2. Those scarlets sure were special.