Agkistrodon conanti, 19 March 2015

Agkistrodon conanti, the Florida cottonmouth;
Monroe county, Florida (19 March 2015).

A juvenile Florida cottonmouth in south Florida striking a fairly classic chin-up pose. This is a cautionary stance. If further threatened, the snake would likely gape its mouth open to flash the cottony-white inside of its mouth. In this case, the wee snake simply held its ground for a few moments, decided I wasn’t that much of a threat, and then continued onward off the path.

Ophisaurus ventralis, 01 October 2012

Ophisaurus ventralis, the Eastern glass lizard;
Lowndes county, Georgia (01 October 2012).

It’s not quite what I’d call the “stink eye,” but it’s about as close as a lizard can get to giving me the stink eye. Heh. Honestly, I adore the Eastern glass lizard. One of our moderately sized so-called “legless” lizard species, O. ventralis is often confused as being a snake due to its, you know, legless physique. Look closer, however, and you’ll notice the creature has very functional eyelids. If you ever get a chance to hold one, you’ll also find that their body is far more rigid than their serpentine relatives. I’m always delighted to come across one of these fantastic lizards.

Bulimulus guadalupensis, 27 November 2015

Bulimulus guadalupensis, the West Indian bulimulus;
Monroe county, Florida (27 November 2015).

The West Indian bulimulus is an air-breathing, terrestrial snail fairly well established throughout southern Florida and various stretches of the Caribbean (especially Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico). It’s fairly small and slow moving, but it’s also pretty good about scratching out a living within the tangles of South Florida. On iNaturalist, the current most-northern observation of this species in Florida is Bethune Beach, between Daytona Beach/Ormond (my home territory) and Merritt Island/Cape Canaveral. There have also been a range of observations reported from the Orlando area. They are most commonly observed, however, across the Southeastern coastline, from West Palm down through the Miami area.

Storeria victa, 22 February 2015

Storeria victa, the Florida brown snake;
Lake county, Florida (22 February 2015).

The Florida brown snake is common, harmless, and wicked small. They spend most of their time fairly well hidden under surface detritus and within loose soils. Given their habitat preference, it makes sense that they primarily feed on earthworms and other invertebrates such as snails and slugs. Because of their reclusive nature, Florida brown snakes are not as obvious or commonly seen as some of our larger species, but they can be extremely abundant in certain areas. Most of the individuals I come across are around eight inches in length (or so), but they can, at times, grow up to a whole, whopping foot.

Nerita versicolor, 04 August 2017

Nerita versicolor, the Four-toothed nerite;
Monroe county, Florida (04 August 2017).

Whenever I camp in this Florida Keys, I can almost always count on spotting Four-toothed nerites clambering around the rocky shorelines at night. This species of sea snail forages about, often in groups, within the intertidal zone and is quite variable in its colors and patterns.

Opheodrys aestivus, 13 May 2013

Opheodrys aestivus, the Rough green snake;
Lowndes county, Georgia (13 May 2013).

Though certainly not uncommon, I don’t often spot the Rough green snake. They can, when tangled through the varied, lush greens of the American southeast, be somewhat invisible (to me at least) given their slim, bright green coloring. A non-venomous species, Rough green snakes are quite stealthy from my vantage. Another species pretty well adept at hiding in plain sight.

Antheraea polyphemus, 15 May 2019

Antheraea polyphemus, the Polyphemus moth;
Volusia county, Florida (15 May 2019).

I’m a sucker for moths. The big ones, the little ones, the brown ones, and the way-the-hell-more-colorful ones. Seriously, butterflies tend to get all the attention, but moths are gangbusters of diversity and beauty. The Polyphemus moth is a good example. Just check out this big, beautiful beast of a moth chilling out on a window at work. What a fantastically beautiful creature, right? Heavens, I do love moths.

Acanthopleura granulata, 13 March 2021

Acanthopleura granulata, the West Indian fuzzy chiton.
Monroe county, Florida (13 March 2021).

While these may look sort of like fossils, these are living West Indian fuzzy chitons, a species of specialized mollusk that latches onto rocky surfaces and sports a mineralized outer shell. They primarily feed on algae at night. If you ever find yourself in the Florida Keys, carefully explore some of those limestone shorelines. You may find some chitons hidden in plain sight!

Epiaeschna heros, 19 June 2013

Epiaeschna heros, the Swamp darner;
Lowndes county, Georgia (19 June 2013).

A nice reference shot, at least, of a magnificent dragon. This is the Swamp darner, a fairly large and impressive species. I do wish I had more artsy photographs of the Swamp darner, but I’m happy to at least have a clear reference shot like this. What a fantastic dragon!

Chortophaga australior, 27 August 2013

Chortophaga australior, the Southern green-striped grasshopper;
Volusia county, Florida (27 August 2013).

A sort of dicey photograph on its own, but I rather like it. This is a Southern green-striped grasshopper hanging out on some glass. This species ranges throughout the American southeast. I don’t see them all that often, but they’re certainly not rare. Florida sports a heavy concentration of Southern green-striped grasshopper observations on iNaturalist.

Anolis carolinensis, 13 July 2014

Anolis carolinensis, the Carolina green anole;
Volusia county, Florida (13 July 2014).

At our previous residence in Ormond Beach, we had a small group of Carolina green anoles who would be active at night. Generally speaking, this is a diurnal species, meaning they’re active by day and sleep at night. It seems our moderately well-lit back patio helped lull some of them into more-nocturnal habits. They likely benefited from the array of insect life drawn to our patio lights. Them is good eats, you might say.

Pterophylla camellifolia, 07 May 2014

Pterophylla camellifolia, the Common true katydid (nymph);
Volusia county, Florida (07 May 2014).

This is an extremely tiny Common true katydid nymph; as an adult, it’ll look quite different from what you see here. Of note, I simply could not identify this one myself. It took some brain-bursting, crowd-sourcing, power-action through a variety of online discourse communities to whittle this identification down, but the consensus was ultimately clear: The Common true katydid.

Libellula vibrans, 19 June 2012

Libellula vibrans, the Great blue skimmer;
Lowndes county, Georgia (19 June 2012).

A quick shot of a Great blue skimmer’s impressively bulbous and (relatively) huge mug. Dragonflies are, of course, quite excellent. Great blue skimmer’s are high on my list of favorites. A strikingly lovely species when seen up close.

Liodytes alleni, 08 February 2015

Liodytes alleni, the Striped swampsnake;
Brevard county, Florida (08 February 2015).

Though common, the Striped swampsnake is a less commonly observed species. They spend most of their time in the water, but they do come up onto land from time to time, especially after a nice rain. This species is entirely non-venomous and non-aggressive. They are fairly smooth to the touch and quite eager to avoid human contact.

Ctenosaura similis, 08 May 2014

Ctenosaura similis, the Black spiny-tailed iguana;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (08 March 2014).

When it comes to iguanas, South Florida sports more than just the well-known Green iguana. This is a Black spiny-tailed iguana, a Central American species now well-established throughout various stretches of the southern peninsula. You can find them in the Miami area, as well as the Gulf Coast region from Sarasota south to around Naples. They also pop up from time to time further north (not all that far south from where I live in Volusia County, Florida). Though they are excellent climbers, this species hangs out quite a bit on the ground, especially around rocky, hard surfaces. They’re quick to retreat into whatever sturdy crevasse may be around. This individual was photographed on rocky terrain beneath and adjacent to a pedestrian footbridge at a municipal park.

Crotalus adamanteus, 08 May 2013

Crotalus adamanteus, the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake;
Lowndes county, Georgia (08 May 2013).

When I was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon to come across Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes in Volusia County, Florida. Sometimes you’d see them coiled up; other times you’d just hear them somewhere nearby, warning you to stay away from their hiding spot. Nowadays, however, Eastern diamondbacks aren’t all that common in my neck of the woods. The perpetual fear and violence of people has seen to that. Though venomous (and at times very large), Eastern diamondbacks are not aggressive snakes. They’re quite shy and reclusive. The individual featured here was a young diamondback in the process of being re-located from a Valdosta business property to more a remote, protected area.

Crotalus horridus, 12 June 2013

Crotalus horridus, the Timber rattlesnake;
Lanier county, Georgia (12 June 2013).

Though they don’t quite range as far south as my home territory of Volusia county, Florida, I was fortunate enough to live in South Georgia for a few years — within their range. This is the infamous Timber rattlesnake (think: “Don’t tread on me!”) of American lore. Though not aggressive, this is a large, venomous pit viper. It is indeed best to not tread on it. This individual was photographed on a lonely rural road in Lanier county, Georgia (just northeast of Valdosta over the county line).

Romalea microptera, 10 June 2016

Romalea microptera, the Eastern lubber grasshoopper;
Collier county, Florida (10 June 2016).

The foil to many home horticulturists, the Eastern lubber grasshopper is a very large species that carries with it an equally large diet. The species can do quite a bit of damage to home gardens in a fairly short period of time, especially when they swarm (as they sometimes do). A strong, resilient, and robust species.

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, 31 July 2016

Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, the Eastern garter snake;
Brevard county, Florida (31 July 2016).

A little electric blue action going on with this one — and, in fact, many of our local garters in Flagler, Volusia, and Brevard counties. In this part of Florida, the Eastern garter snakes sport a fantastic array of blues, greens, and blue-greens. This individual was photographed in the Merritt Island region.

Osteopilus septentrionalis, 06 September 2006

Osteopilus septentrionalis, the Cuban treefrog;
Seminole county, Florida (06 September 2006).

Here’s a fairly old shot. By now, this non-native and invasive Cuban treefrog has likely rocked and rolled its way through life, from the treefrog cradle to the grave. Along the way, it probably took down and consumed an impressive array of native treefrogs. Further, it likely helped further entrench the species in Florida through lots and lots of, you know, reproductive activities. Yeah, this species, the Cuban treefrog, is actually quite destructive to our local treefrog populations. It’s much larger than our native treefrogs and quite adaptable. Though impressive in their lifeskills and adaptive abilities, the Cuban treefrog is most certainly a problem throughout their expanded (and still expanding) range within the Florida peninsula. They’re extremely abundant these days where I live, which is bad news for all our native treefrogs.

Princess Place Preserve, 22 January 2023

Princess Place Preserve;
Flagler county, Florida (22 January 2023).

A triple-set of shots from Princess Place Preserve in Flagler county, Florida. The main lodge is largely composed of coquina stone, the coquina and shells extracted from Flagler county’s beaches. The lodge also features the first in-ground swimming pool in Florida, which is continuously fed by an artesian well (but is no longer open for a swim). Whereas Princess Place Preserve was once a very private estate for very wealthy people, today it’s the heart of this very public park.

Pleopeltis polypodioides, 22 January 2023

Pleopeltis polypodioides, the Resurrection fern;
Flagler county, Florida (22 January 2023).

With a recent bout of (somewhat chilly) rain just behind us, our local Resurrection ferns are alive and kicking right now. This epiphytic fern can thin out, turn brown, and appear somewhat dead during our dry spells, but a bit of rain seemingly reanimates it as it springs to life, flashing thick, strong tones of ferny-green across its host’s nearly-always-brown limbs. If I had to pick a favorite group of plants, it would probably be any of our varied plants that scratch out a living growing on other plants. Epiphytic plants are awesome adaptors, and the Resurrection fern may be my favorite of all of them.

Anolis sagrei, 22 January 2023

Anolis sagrei, the Cuban brown anole;
Flagler county, Florida (22 January 2023).

It seems I’ve been a recent fan of mid-frame, mid-zoom anole shots recently. I usually frame them pretty tight and up close, but maybe a little pan-back action is fine from time to time. This Cuban brown anole was enjoying a break from the overcast skies in Flagler county, and I was content to simply snag a shot from a distance. Cuban brown anoles definitely enjoy a nice cyad perch, and given how meh the weather’s been, I didn’t want to disrupt its fantastic basking opportunity.

Along the Edge of Pellicer Creek, 22 January 2023

Near the edge of Pellicer Creek at Princess Place Preserve;
Flagler county, Florida (22 January 2023).

In the midst of another fairly overcast weekend, we had a break in the weather for a few hours on Sunday afternoon, so we decided to book north a bit to Princess Place Preserve just south and west of Pellicer Creek in Flagler county. We didn’t hike around for too long or too far, but the sun was most-excellent and the views were soul-invigorating. I do love “winter” light in Florida.

Butorides virescens, 23 May 2013

Butorides virescens, the Green heron;
Brevard county, Florida (23 May 2013).

This is one of our smaller, more active, and shyer species of heron in the Florida peninsula. I often come across the Green heron in tighter, more limb-strewn shoreline areas with plenty of growth around, above, and sticking into/out of the water. They can be fairly shy and difficult to photograph from time to time, given their apparent habitat preferences.

Russula rosacea, 02 January 2023

Russula rosacea, the Blood red russula;
Volusia county, Florida (02 January 2023).

Consider this one tentatively identified. I’m pretty sure this is a Blood red russula, but I’m still fishing for some confirmation from the mycology corners of my social networks. Whatever it was, it was strikingly beautiful and stuck out like a big, wet, red sponge in the middle of the scrub. Fungi tends to be all or nothing when it comes to visual splash.

Anolis cristatellus, 18 March 2017

Anolis cristatellus, the Puerto Rican crested anole;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (18 March 2017).

Check out the fantastic duo-tone dewlap design of the Puerto Rican crested anole. A non-native species now quite abundant throughout portions and stretches of the southern Florida peninsula, the Puerto Rican crested anole’s dewlap is particularly notable and distinct.

Hemidactylus garnotii, 11 August 2013

Hemidactylus garnotii, the Indo-Pacific gecko;
Volusia county, Florida (11 August 2013).

Native to the Indo-Tropics (as its common name might suggest), H. garnotii is now well-established throughout much of the Floridian peninsula along with numerous other pockets around the world. This species is entirely parthenogenic, meaning all individuals are female and fertilization occurs without the existence of any males. Male Indo-Pacific geckos, in short, don’t exist. Another reminder that, yes, life finds a way and that biological eco-diversity is far more complex than the simple binaries we were taught as kids)!

Erythrodiplax berenice, 24 May 2019

Erythrodiplax berenice, the Seaside dragonlet;
Brevard county, Florida (24 May 2019).

The seaside dragonlet is exactly what its name suggests: A small species of dragonfly that hangs out among the dunes adjacent to the shoreline. Though Florida has absolutely butchered and cleaved down much of its natural coastal dunes, you can still find Seaside dragonlets zipping around what remains, but it’s not always to get a clear view of them. They’re fast and extremely active.

Atlanticus gibbosus, 11 May 2020

Atlanticus gibbosus, the Robust shieldback;
Volusia county, Florida (11 May 2020).

I come across the Robust shieldback, a squat species of katydid, every now and then in Volusia county. I suppose I’ve walked past many more I never even noticed. They’re moderately small (at least compared to other katydids) and not brightly colored. They seem to content to scratch out a more discrete living. In a sense, they’re sort of the crickets of the katydids.

Plestiodon inexpectatus, 16 May 2015

Plestiodon inexpectatus, the Southeastern five-lined skink;
Lake county, Florida (16 May 2015).

Ah, yes, our beloved Southeastern five-lined skink. In central Florida, this is our dominant, most commonly observed skink species. Fairly small and quite slinky, I often find these scrambling and scurrying about the ground early in the morning, typically near the edge of patios, sidewalks, and shrubs. Most of the time, however, they’re pretty well hidden, bunkered down beneath surface litter and detritus.

Anolis equestris, 11 June 2016

Anolis equestris, the Cuban knight anole;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (11 June 2016).

A profile shot of a large, strong Cuban knight anole in south Florida. This non-native species is quite a site to behold when cruising about the Miami area. Not quite as large as Green iguanas, this anole species still vastly outweighs and outguns Florida’s other anole species, native and non-native alike. They’ve got some beef!

Zachrysia provisoria, 11 June 2016

Zachrysia provisoria, the Cuban brown snail;
Monroe county, Florida (11 June 2016).

The Cuban brown snail is a non-native terrestrial species that is now well-established in parts of Florida and many other pockets of the Western hemisphere. They can be potentially problematic for agricultural centers and are considered to be invasive (not merely non-native). This one was photographed in the Florida Everglades.

Hyla squirella, 11 June 2016

Hyla squirella, the Squirrel treefrog;
Monroe county, Florida (11 June 2016).

Ah, yes, the Squirrel treefrog. This is the jack-of-all-trades of our local, native treefrog populations. You can find them pretty much anywhere and damn near any circumstances, in my experience. Extremely variable in appearance and seemingly adaptable in habitat, you never know what you’ll come across one of these small treefrogs hanging out.

Ophiocordyceps humbertii and Mischocyttarus mexicanus cubicola, 20 September 2015

Ophiocordyceps humbertii, a parasitic fungi, and
Mischocyttarus mexicanus cubicola, a Neotropical paper wasp;
Volusia county, Florida (20 September 2015).

This was a fairly cool encounter. What you see here is a now-deceased pseudo-“zombified” Neotropical paper wasp enraptured by a parasitic fungus, most likely Ophiocordyceps humbertii. The fungus penetrated the paper wasp’s body and then essentially hijacked it, taking control. The hapless wasp was then directed to higher ground by the fungi (this one was about five feet above ground) and finally locked down in place via secretion (as you can see in the photos below). From this death perch, the fungus then began replication to spread its spores to other unwitting hosts to be colonized (fortunately not humans). You can see the fruiting bodies emerging like strange alien antennae in these images. While ants are a more common host for these types of parasitic fungi, social/paper wasps also make the list for species like Ophiocordyceps humbertii.

I figured now was a good time to post these pictures given the release of The Last of Us on HBO, a series (based on a game) about strain of Cordyceps fungi that takes over and zombifies the unwitting humans of Earth. Fortunately, Ophiocordyceps hasn’t made the jump to humans, although it did in M. R. Carey’s 2014 novel The Girl With All the Gifts, written concurrently with the script to the 2016 film of the same name. In that particular story, however, it was Ophiocordyceps unilateralis that did humanity in, not the star of these photographs, Ophiocordyceps humbertii. Still, representation matters, and Ophiocordyceps got its fantastical due.

I should note I’m fairly confident of both identifications in these photos (with community support); however, with a fungus like this, you can’t really be absolutely positive without some seriously close scrutiny — and that’s above my pay grade (and technological means), so to speak.

Here are a few more shots of the same biological incident. Check out those fungal outgrowths! A little over seven years later, I still have not been zombified, so I think we’re good for now.

Anolis sagrei, 02 January 2023

Anolis sagrei, the Cuban brown anole;
Volusia county, Florida (02 January 2023).

I do more (and better) with macro studies, of course, but I kind of dig the extreme figure-ground contrast of this in-situ Cuban brown anole meekly scratching out a living within the harsh contrasts of Florida’s tangles.

Sabal palmetto, 02 January 2023

Sabal palmetto, the Cabbage palmetto;
Volusia county, Florida (02 January 2023).

I couldn’t help but snag this quick shot of a fallen palm on a morning hike near my home.

Neoscona domiciliorum, 08 September 2013

Neoscona domiciliorum, the Red-femured spotted orbweaver;
Volusia county, Florida (08 September 2013).

Orbweavers are fantastic. The little ones rock, the big ones rule. This is one of the larger ones, the Red-femured spotted orbweaver. They have a propensity for spinning a fairly large web over somewhat open areas in hardwood-laden environments. I often come across them early in the morning — after what must’ve been a cozy night’s work.

Sistrurus miliarius barbouri, 04 September 2016

Sistrurus miliarius barbouri, the Dusky pigmy rattlesnake;
Volusia county, Florida (04 September 2016).

Ultimately, I’ll probably post more dusky shots on Floridensis this year than any other species. Though I’ve worked with them steadily for the better part of a decade, my admiration and fascination for this species has skyrocketed in the past two years. Anolis and Nerodia are high on my all-time-favs list, of course, but I think Sistrurus has definitely cracked the top three.

Schistocerca damnifica, 15 March 2015

Schistocerca damnifica, the Mischievous bird grasshopper;
Volusia county, Florida (15 March 2015).

I never get tired of saying the name “Schistocerca DAMNIFICA!” Why a fantastic name to say aloud. In central Florida, this is one of our more-abundant grasshoppers. Rather, I should say it’s one of our most-abundantly noticed grasshoppers. Others may perhaps be more common, but Mischievous bird grasshoppers tend to pop out in clear and present view. I see them frequently and often.

Alligator mississippiensis, 11 June 2016

Alligator mississippiensis, the American alligator;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (11 June 2016).

Here’s a nice, tight shot of a young American alligator striking the pose. For a time as a small child, gators weren’t all that commonly seen in my area of central Florida. Thanks to protections, however, their populations continued to regain their footing, and today they are fairly common anywhere there’s a decent habitat. I’m grateful. Alligators are resilient, beautiful, and important members of our ecological matrix.

Gymnetis thula, 27 April 2013

Gymnetis thula, the Harlequin flower beetle;
Lake county, Florida (27 April 2013).

A fabulously strange and ornate Harlequin flower beetle loitering abut the interior of Lake county, Florida. In the United States, this species appears to mostly be limited to Florida, Louisiana and Texas. This is, to date, the only individual I’ve seen, and it was a sight to behold.

Anaxyrus terrestris, 17 June 2020

Anaxyrus terrestris, the Southern toad;
Volusia county, Florida (17 June 2020).

Common as they may be (at times), I never grow tired of a nice, frumpy Southern toad giving me The Look.

Neoconocephalus triops, 08 March 2015

Neoconocephalus triops, the Broad-tipped conehead katydid;
Volusia county, Florida (08 March 2015).

As I’ve said before, I’m a huge fan of katydids. What a marvelous little subject of Orthoptera. Grasshoppers and crickets are cool and all, but KatydidLand is where it’s at. Long live the katydid. I photographed this one on a plant adjacent to our front patio in Ormond Beach.

Egretta tricolor, 18 August 2006

Egretta tricolor, the Tricolored heron;
Lake county, Florida (18 August 2006).

Who doesn’t love a nice Tricolored heron? This species is very abundant in Florida but probably less noticed and recognized than their bigger, louder Great blue heron and Great egret cousins. This Tricolored heron was loitering about on an elevated dock path in Lake county, Florida. Wasn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last. This species is very common on elevated dock paths.

Libellula axilena, 18 June 2013

Libellula axilena, the Bar-winged skimmer;
Lowndes county, Georgia (18 June 2013).

Another dragon-of-the-skies. When I see a dragon like the Bar-winged skimmer, I find myself very relieved to have not been born a small insect. Imagine how terrifying this creature must be from the vantage of its prey.

Coluber constrictor priapus, 22 July 2016

Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern black racer;
Volusia county, Florida (22 July 2016).

A Southern black racer reminding me how much more agile it is than I am. With their sharp visual acuity, lightning fast reflexes, reactive defensiveness, and rapid-fire speed-on-command, racers are a challenge to catch up to and work with. I love them, but they don’t always make it easy. Sometimes, however, their punkish attitude results in an interesting shot. I was trying to get a reference shot of the snake’s dorsal scales, and the snake threaded through its own coil to stare me down.

Hyla cinerea, 12 April 2014

Hyla cinerea, the American green treefrog;
Gilchrist county, Florida (12 April 2014).

With its bright yellow freckles in full bloom, this American green treefrog was pretty easy to spot from afar. This particular weekend in Gilchrist county was absolutely wild. I camped out there for a night, and much of the area was absolutely inundated with standing water. Tons of mosquitos and heaps of frogs. I wasn’t one to complain. I found this one before the sun set (and found many, many more once the dark had risen).

Anolis carolinensis, 31 August 2011

Anolis carolinensis, the Carolina green anole;
Lowndes county, Georgia (31 August 2011).

A native Carolina green anole giving me the look around in Valdosta, Georgia. During my two years in Valdosta, it was nice seeing so many Green anoles relatively close to the group. Because the lower-dwelling Cuban brown anoles weren’t widely distributed in this area at the time, the Carolina greens felt more comfortable close to the ground. In peninsular Florida, most of our Carolina greens now spend their time a bit higher in the trees, likely to avoid confrontation and competition with their Cuban brown anole relatives.

Iguana iguana, 18 March 2017

Iguana iguana, the Green iguana;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (18 March 2017).

The best kind of green is the green of a juvenile Green iguana chilling out in a thick tangle of greenery. What a sight. This little one was photographed on the edge of somebody’s yard in South Miami.