Friday, March 6, 2015

Everglades Days Three and Four. Mar. 1 and 2, 2015

Being brave, we wanted to check out a different part of the Everglades for a change. I, for one, have always wanted to check out Big Cypress, a place about which I always hear wonderful things. Many are the herpers who have sung the praises of Loop Road and the natural beauty of BC. With that in mind, we woke up more or less on time and started our drive... which took a while.

Route 41 goes right into and through Big Cypress National Preserve. That's good and bad. The good thing is, it's easy to find and get to. The bad news is, it's 65 MPH going through and most drivers view that as a starting off speed. I'm not a happy highway driver, even less so when there are animals around but we found our way to the visitors center, interested in the bathrooms and the chance to get our bearings. We encountered our first herps later than usual with a bunch of Brown Anoles bounding around the buildings.
Nice crest there, big guy!

There were loads of American Alligators basking along the shores of the canal as well.

So, we went back to the road and looked for smaller roads to explore. We found our coveted Loop Road easily enough and decided to scout it out for the night's herping. Our friend Mark calls this road the most beautiful place on Earth and it's hard to disagree. Every couple of hundred yards, there is a scenic pull-off, filled with lush cypress swamps, birds, Gators and nature at its finest. Our first stop was a trail the evidently stays flooded for most of the year. This day, however, it was muddy at best. The dryness of the region reared its ugly head once again. We eventually stumbled onto a wet area that was animal-less, but gorgeous none the less.

We headed back to the car and decided to just slowly cruise the road, stopping at all of the open spots to enjoy the view. This way, we found many Gators.

One particularly rewarding stop had us observing some baby gators sitting on Mom's back!
There are a few on the shore as well. From Andrea's vantage point above, even more youngsters were visible.
We counted nine small gators here and even got to hear the chirping distress call.

It was here that I thought of our good friend Teá and got this shot of a Long Tailed Skipper.
Long Tailed Skipper

Birding is also excellent here and I added a few species to my contest and even one for my Life List, this Black Crowned Night Heron, clocking in at #122.
Black-crowned Night Heron #45 Life #122

There were some cute Brown Anoles along this stretch too.

Gators were sometimes in the road and we'd have to wait for them to move off. Usually getting out of the car would do it... the guys here aren't nearly as used to humans as the ones in ENP and skitter away pretty quickly.

Check out this natural beauty...
The anhinga above seems to enjoy living here!

Gators Gators Gators.

We had almost reached the end of the road and decided to keep going back out to Rt. 41 and get some food and gas, to prepare for the night's road-cruising. We passed this along the way...

Also a DOR Scarlet, unfortunately.

We went to the restaurant at the Miccosukee Indian Village, a place where we had enjoyed breakfast on a visit in March of 2008. (Hey, right! We had been through Big Cypress before! Just not much.) We enjoyed traditional Native American food like this Orange Creme Dream Cake!

After eating, we looked around back, where the sea of grass pretty much begins and goes on forever. Back in 2008, we had flipped a skink... in fact, here is a shot from that day...

This day, however, there was no flipping to be seen. A couple of decent sized gators were back there, though.

Some non-white White Ibises were scouring the lawn for treats too.

We headed back into the fast lane and looked for some more cruisable roads in the late afternoon sun. We got a few more birds, but my goal was turtles. What's a guy gotta do to see some turtles, anyway?! This large Redbelly fit the bill!

I finally added Mammal #2 of the year when a group of young Common Raccoons wandered to the road and back, following their mum.
Mammal #2 Common Raccoon
They hid in the safety of a tree cluster.
Mammal #2 Common Raccoon

We had seen a couple of DOR Moccasins on this road so we were really happy to see this very young and feisty individual very much alive!
Andrea has a new favorite snake!
She moved him off the road with a snake-stick... her first sticking ever!
He didn't seem to appreciate the gesture.

Dusk had settled so we went back to Loop Road with high hopes. Our first herp encounter was a slim Southern Leopard Frog!

Southern Toads started popping up all over!

We wanted a snake, dammit! Eventually, we saw this:

Surprisingly, looking at it now, we were confused for a few seconds. The kinked body was pure Rat Snake but we didn't recognize the blotches. But within seconds we both realized... duh... juvenile Yellow Rat! It was pretty obvious after all.
He liked my flavor.
YR nibble

He was a tough one to release. We just adore these guys!

Toads, and then some... they started becoming quite ubiquitous!
(Yellow Rat blossoms on hand...)

This guy made me think we had discovered some new toad and we'd become famous. But the prominent cranial crests prove that it's a fancy Southern Toad.

Our next (and last) snake was a chubby Moccasin who was all dusty.
We named her Springfield.

More Southern Toads!
I love their variety.

We cruised along, nearing the end of the road. There was a lump ahead. Andrea got out to inspect. "It's... umm... a catfish. A live one."
Road cruised Placo
Now there's something you don't cruise every day! It seems we had scared a heron (we had a couple of times along this road) and he dropped his Placo dinner. I took him back to the water and he jetted off like a streak.

Next up. we cruised a snail. Things were slowing down.

Our last herp on the road was a beautiful Green Tree Frog, a new species for the trip!

It was a grueling drive back, particularly on Rt 41 which was stained red with road-kill. Even if we were able to see anything living, the traffic kept you moving along and a pretty fast clip... pulling over would have been suicide. Luckily, the koi pond at our hotel (which we did reach eventually) had a slew of Bufo marinus hopping about, keeping us entertained.
FC Bufos
There was a massive one that I tried to catch but he hopped into a nook under the building, thus handing me my tired ass.

Admittedly, Big Cypress didn't give us the huge number that we get in ENP but we'll definitely explore it further next year. With experience comes greater success.

We slept well and awoke early, knowing our last few hours of herping were upon us. We checked out and enjoyed a "continental breakfast" at the hotel, then headed to the car. Or rather to the rocks on the grounds where we got our morning Southern Ringneck on!

We headed straight to the park, intent on seeing as many places as possible in our short time. On one of our favorite roads which had been pretty good for us this weekend, we scored three juvenile Florida Water Snakes in just a short stretch of road.

It was here that we also got Mammal #3 of the year, a group of White-tailed Deer!
Mammal #3 White-tail Deer
Mammal #3 White-tail Deer

Andrea pointed out a Brown Anole to me.

We went back to Royal Palm, Anhinga Trail to be specific, because we wanted to see some animals before we left and, let's face it, this place is practically a petting zoo. There were many Redbellies grazing at water's edge.

It would also be our last chance for Gators.

A Wood Stork was being atypically un-shy and Andrea got this gorgeous shot.

We also added a few more birds, including this Black Vulture munching on a catfish.
Black Vulture #53 (eating)

A stunning Brown.

The cormorants here are not shy at all. I almost stepped on one's tail.

But we had to get going. Just as we were leaving, this small Gator emerged from the depths to say goodbye.

We stopped at the visitor's center on the way out and I spied these two wee Redbellies basking under the boardwalk.

Last stop, Robert is Here- for just one last milkshake. The turtles in the pool said goodbye to us. (Actually, they always looked expectantly for food... even begging at times.)
Begging isn't beneath this small ferox either!

One last nose-nip...
and we were off.

We did, however, have to hit the rest stop on the turnpike, so I was calling out "Last call for Brown Anoles!" This guy peeking out from safety was our last herp of the trip.

We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We waited on American Airline's shitty service until boarding time. We thanked the kind folks who let us ahead of them in line, in the TSA line too, and ran (Andrea in her socks) to our gate and just made the plane. Fuck you, American Airlines. You suck.

But we made it home, for better or worse, to our 5 feet of snow and subfreezing temps; also a warm house full of cats and herps that we had missed. We racked up some great memories and wound up with 25 species of herps and 30 birds. This will have to hold us over until Big Night which, judging by the depth of the snow, might be a bit late this year. Thank you, Southern Florida, for existing.


  1. !Qué hermoso paisaje!!!!!,,Yustedes se ven muy bien, me alegro!!!!Les mando un beso Martha,

    1. Gracias Martha !! Se sentía tan bien para alejarse de la nieve por unos días !!
      Love... Mike