Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Everglades Day One: Feb. 27th, 2015

The first thought in my head, in fact the first words out of my mouth when the alarm went off at 4 AM that Friday morning was "What's a guy gotta do to see some turtles these days?" A fair question since our area has been shelled with record snow and cold for the last month. Our postponed trip to the Everglades had finally arrived, though, and we got up and out and into the air with speed and gusto.

We got to Miami on time, got the car with no trouble (I even got a shot of my favorite obnoxious Florida avian, the Boat-Tailed Grackle for my bird contest) and hit the road. That's where the trouble started... getting out of Miami! With poorly posted exits and my own perpetually fried brain, I made some miscues, but eventually found our way. First stop?? The Turnpike rest stop to look for herps! Not surprisingly, our first finds of the trip were some lovely Brown Anoles.

Some Tree Snails were crawling about as well.

All of the expenses and stress leading up to the trip disappeared when I saw Andrea looking beautiful and happy. This is what its all about.

One more Brown Anole and we hit the road.

We went straight to Florida City, bypassed our hotel (too early to check in) and kept going toward Everglades National Park. Nothing could slow us down. Except Robert is Here. We had missed out on the milkshakes there last year and wanted to make sure we didn't do it again. But first, we noticed there was a small petting zoo-type thing out back so we went to see the animals. Goats, geese, lots of Sulcatas, farm animals... it was wonderful! A goose kept yelling after me... it wanted its neck scratched! We went around the back and were surprised by our first lifer of the trip hanging out by a dumpster... an Argentine Black and White Tegu.
Lifer Tegu
I had heard that these were established in the area but it was still the last thing I expected to see! He slowly slipped away under the dumpster.

Browns were well represented here as well. This little guy was claiming a coconut all for himself.

There was a turtle pond with plenty of Florida Red Bellies there, too... it did my heart good. But we moved on after fulfilling the real reason for the stop...
They are as good as they say.

We made our way into ENP and headed right to a road that we cruised somewhat successfully last year. Things were very dry, including a thin canal that runs along the side of the road. Half filled, it was still good enough for this small Southern Leopard Frog!

We decided to cut to the chase and head right to the Royal Palms stop to scratch a few birds off the list and see some Gators. Of course, the Browns there were beautiful too!

We were extremely happy to have a Florida Softshell emerge from the depths and say hi to us!
It took forever to see one last year! Thanks, Mr. ferox!

Our first American Alligator then cruised by, tossing us a furtive glance.

Andrea spotted this Green Anole giving some serious anolitude.

Remember the question in my head in the morning? Evidently, it takes travelling 1500 miles for a guy to see some turtles! This Florida Redbellied Cooter was doing some serious yoga while a larger one looked on from the water.
He was fabulous and he knew it.

We were in Gatorville, though and they were all over the place.
I just adore the Everglades.

We checked off a few more bird species... no lifers yet, and Andrea got this excellent shot of an Osprey in flight.

I submitted this for my Great Blue Heron contest shot just because its such a gorgeous photograph, again Andrea's work.
Great Blue Heron #29 (hey, I like the habitat shot)

Before leaving, we saw another big Redbelly, munching on plants at water's edge.

We left the park to make our way back towards the hotel (to check in) but stopped along the way. We make a lucky catch of a Brown Anole that Andrea quickly tamed by stroking his neck.

We next flipped the world's weirdest snake... the parthenogenetic Brahminy Blind Snake!
Little and squirmy, you never know which end is which on these guys!

We checked in and decided to go to the Mandarin Buffet near the hotel. It's the same place as the one we go to in Taunton so we knew what they have. We couldn't resist flipping a few stones on the hotel grounds on the way out... and it paid serpentine dividends! We got our lifer Southern Ringneck Snake.
Lifer Southern Ringneck
While Andrea was cooing over that guy, I flipped another Brahminy!
Yes, they both musked. While the Brahminy's musk isn't bad, the Ringneck's musk had us scrubbing like mad before we could touch our food.

After dinner, we got supplies and headed out to cruise. It was dark by this time. We didn't head straight to ENP; we decided to hit some of the dirt side roads we had sized up earlier. We didn't have much luck until we finally had a glimpse of something. We both thought it looked like a rabbit at first but realized it was a huge Bufo Marinus! We stopped and looked in that general direction, but didn't see him. We did, however, see an old tire with two other Bufo residents hanging out.
Unable to resist (and knowing you can't handle stuff once inside the park), we both grabbed a fistful of Marine Toad!
I wonder where the massive one got off to!

We cruised a bit more (unsuccessfully) and decided to hit the Park. It was fairly cool.. the wind was keeping it below 70° (I know, everything is relative- it was less than 20° when we left Boston) and with the dry conditions, there wasn't much movement on the roads. We pulled in to one of the areas that we like and saw a wee snake on the road. Andrea peeked out the door... "it's a... something."

We were up in the air a bit at first... Salt Marsh? Pictiventris? Having never seen a juvenile Florida Water Snake, we were a tad confused but we finally settled on the latter. And a beauty it was!
Admittedly, we broke the law a little for ID purposes... yep... there's the pictiventris!
Since we had him in hand, we moved his chilly little body off the road.

One of my very favorite parts of the trip came next. We parked and decided to poke around on foot. We took to the boardwalk there. It was very very dry here; usually it is watery but it was reduced to small puddle areas this night. But one of those places was hoppin' with herps!
There were five Brown Water Snakes and one Green Water Snake (our lifer!!) hunting fish in this small pool. Two of the Browns are above... here is the Green, a young one with a distended belly!
Lifer Green Water Snake
Here's another one of the Browns. It's so hard to photograph in the water at night... this is the best I could do.

There was also a large tadpole present. I'm thinking its a Pig Frog but I hesitate to call "lifer" just yet.

Elsewhere, this large Tropical Orb Weaver was sitting in a glistening web.
Eriophora ravilla (Tropical orb weaver)

Exciting to us, we saw a big fresh poop in the parking lot. Definitely snake poo. But the only thing out there was this big Southern Toad hopping about.
The "master" at work. HAH!

That was our last herp of the night. We headed back, very satisfied with our finds. Sadly, we saw a DOR Brown later on and what would have been our lifer Glossy Crayfish Snake, again DOR.

We hit the hay and slept like the dead, preparing for a big Saturday. Would we score bigtime? Or would we fail miserably? All will be revealed in the next chapter.


  1. My favorite post from you guys yet! Your photos are wonderful! The Everglades is one of the greatest sanctuaries of reptile Life in the country. Your photographs really did it justice.

    1. Thank you so much, Mykal!! Kind words from a photographer as talented as yourself mean a great deal to us!!

  2. Great adventure! I love that worm snake, so cool.

    1. Thanks, Jef!!! Those Blind Snakes are so weird! Supposedly, there is a population of them in Boston's North End, too.