Spring Break 2023: Thalia geniculata

Thalia geniculata, the Alligator flag;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

I’m quite the fan of Alligator flag. This wetland-bound species is quite abundant throughout much of the Florida peninsula. We have a bit of it in my home territory of Volusia county, but nothing beats the masses upon masses of Alligator flag in South Florida, especially in Collier county. It’s quite abundant along the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk trail, too, and serves as a nice hiding place for wading birds.

Spring Break 2023: Cranium americanum

Crinum americanum, the Southern swamp crinum;
(Tentative Identification)
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

This identification should be considered tentative at best. While I believe these are the flowering petals of a Southern swamp crinum, I haven’t been able to verify the identification as of this posting. Regardless, those white petals certainly jumped out of me in the midst of all those dark, dark greens.

Spring Break 2023: Procyon lotor

Procyon lotor, the Raccoon;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Ah, yes, the sweet, sweet photo-carnage of a Raccoon mucking about in the shaded undergrowth of a shallow cypress swamp. Heh. Normally I’d toss an out-of-focus shot like this, but I rather like the chaos here. The little raccoon just wouldn’t stop mucking about. They’re busy little critters, aren’t they?

Spring Break 2023: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Here’s another view of the elevated boardwalk trail at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Running at just over two miles in length, this truly is a special short, loop trail in South Florida.

Spring Break 2023: Ardea alba

Ardea alba, the Great egret;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

One of our cooler local bird species in peninsular Florida (and one of our most abundant) is the Great egret, Ardea alba. This is perhaps how I prefer to see them: mucking about a cypress swamp. Of course, I also see them in Publix parking lots, on campus, and near retention ponds… but this is a more idealized representation!

Spring Break 2023: Pleopeltis michauxiana

Pleopeltis michauxiana, the Resurrection fern;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

A clear sign of the need-for-rain: A dried up Resurrection fern waiting to earn its namesake. This seemingly dead fern will quickly turn green and “reanimate” as soon as a solid wash of rain coats it. This epiphytic plant is quite remarkable and a fantastic diagnostic as recent levels of precipitation. Scroll the tag-feed for the Resurrection fern to see what it looks like when green.

Spring Break 2023: Campyloneurum phyllitidis

Campyloneurum phyllitidis, the Long strap fern;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

I find the Long strap fern to be fairly iconic of the South Florida interior. An epiphytic plant, this species tends to grow upon other, larger plants (such as cypress trees). It ranges throughout South Florida as well as much of the Caribbean and Central America. It has also been introduced to other regions and is, at times, quite popular as an ornamental plant.

Spring Break 2023: Herpothallon rubrocinctum

Herpothallon rubrocinctum, the Christmas lichen;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

The so-called Christmas lichen is an abundant (and always obvious) species of fungal lichen throughout the Florida peninsula. The red tones you see in this photo can sometimes appear nearly electric-pink in strong sunlight. It’s a striking lichen to come across on the side of a tree, a splash of brilliant reds mixed in with all those earthen tones of brown and green.

Spring Break 2023: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

A view of the boardwalk trail at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Collier county, Florida. Though it can be fairly busy with visitors, I do find this short 2-mile boardwalk trail to be immeasurably relaxing, especially in the morning hours.

Spring Break 2023: Romalea microptera

Romalea microptera, the Eastern lubber grasshopper;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

A small cluster (or “cloud”) of fairly young Eastern lubber grasshoppers forage about upon a tree at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. As they mature and age, these Lubber grasshoppers will become more yellow and red (and much, much larger).

Spring Break 2023: Tillandsia fasciculata

Tillandsia fasciculata, the Cardinal airplant;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

The Cardinal airplant is a fantastically brilliant epiphytic plant ranging throughout most of southern Florida (as well as the Caribbean and much of Central America). As an epiphytic plant, this species does not grow its roots in soil. Instead, it clings to, in a manner of speaking, and grows upon a variety of trees. This, in turn, provides extra habitat and cover for small creatures such as frogs and lizards. Though we occasionally see Cardinal airplants in Volusia county, they are extremely abundant throughout most of South Florida.

Spring Break 2023: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary;
Collier county, Florida (12 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

After leaving Lake county very, very early in the morning (but not as early as I’d intended due to the Daylight Savings change), my first real stop for Spring Break 2023 was Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Collier county, a private park protecting a considerable range of South Florida eco- and bio-diversity. The park features a 2.25 mile elevated boardwalk trail that traverses a range of habitats including pine flatwoods, cypress forest, and wet prairie. This photo is from the pine flatwoods area at the start of the trail.

Spring Break 2023: Anolis sagrei

Anolis sagrei, the Cuban brown anole;
Lake county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Spending the late afternoon and evening in Mount Dora, primarily in my mother’s pool-laden backyard, I came across this non-native Cuban brown anole perched on my mother’s back patio screen. In central Florida, Cuban brown anoles are a penny-a-dozen at this point and the most commonly observed reptile throughout the Florida peninsula. They’ve proven remarkably effective and successful in colonizing their new territory in Florida (and beyond).

Spring Break 2023: Eleutherodactylus planirostris

Eleutherodactylus planirostris, the Greenhouse frog;
Lake county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Featured here is a non-native Greenhouse frog I found floating in my mother’s Mount Dora pool. It had clearly been floating in there for quite some time and was a bit waterlogged and bloated. I pulled the little frog out and gave it a drying spot in the thick greenery at the edge of my mother’s yard. Despite being non-native, the Greenhouse frog is a fairly benign import to Florida and is not considered invasive.

Spring Break 2023: Pontederia crassipes

Pontederia crassipes, the Common water hyacinth;
Lake county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Water hyacinth, the green matte of vegetation you see here on Blackwater Creek, is native to South America but now well established throughout much of the world. In Florida, this invasive plant species can seriously clog up our freshwater systems and adversely affect native biodiversity. A preponderance of water hyacinth can actually reduce oxygen levels in the water. This in turn can thin out native fish populations and thus everything else that relies on the health of said fish populations (such as watersnakes). On this day, the water hyacinth wasn’t too overwhelming; I’ve seen it much worse here in years past.

Spring Break 2023: Seminole State Forest

Seminole State Forest;
Lake county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Another view of the fantastic terrain adjacent to Blackwater Creek in the Seminole State Forest. I’ve spent a lot of time in this habitat over the years. Sometimes it’s wet. Sometimes it’s dry. Right now, it’s leaning towards the latter and eagerly awaiting the rain.

Spring Break 2023: Osmunda spectabilis

Osmunda spectabilis, the American royal fern;
Lake county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Though I’m mostly ignorant of their evolutionary biology, I’m fascinated by ferns when I stop to look at them more closely. Fern-like growth dates back to around 390 million years ago or so, give or take, but fern really sprang to life during the Mesozoic. By the Cretaceous Period, the final act of the non-avian dinosaurs, ferns as we know them today were largely present and ready for action. They’ve been doing this dance a lot longer than we have. As for this species, the American royal fern, it ranges across most of the eastern portion of the United States and even the southern reaches of Canada.

Spring Break 2023: Seminole State Forest

Seminole State Forest;
Lake county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

You might relate, but I don’t really find anything quite as satisfying as quietly making my way through wild growth. The ever-so-light whisper of a breeze adorned with the soft rustle of leaves. The humidity wrapping around you body as the sun peeks down through the canopy above. The occasional scatting of a lizard or rodent. The endless bounty of greens dancing figure-ground contrast with one another. Yeah, man… I dig this kind of quiet.

Spring Break 2023: Cyclosorus interruptus

Cyclosorus interruptus, the Swamp shield-fern;
Lake county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

My next short-stop was the edge of Seminole State Forest in Lake county, more specifically the Blackwater Creek region near State Road 44. I’ve always liked this little corner of Seminole State Forest and resolved to get some foliage shots en route to Mount Dora. Featured here is the Swamp shield-fern, a species well situated throughout the Florida peninsula. A jagged little complex of greens.

Spring Break 2023: Nerodia taxispilota

Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake;
Volusia county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

The first official snake of the 2023 jaunt throughout the Florida peninsula was none other than Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake. Unfortunately, however, there was no opportunity for hand’s-on macro action. The snake was well fortified in a basking position draped over the water, so when my foot stepped on an attached vine, the snake quickly dropped down because I unintentionally rustled its perch. So it goes, right? Still, I was thrilled to see a Brown watersnake at this particular spot. It’s been some time since I’ve seen one in this corner of the Heart Island area.

Spring Break 2023: Pinus elliotti and Serenoa repens

Pinus elliotti, the Slash pine,
and Serenoa repens, the Saw palmetto;
Volusia county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Here’s another shot from the fantastic pine-and-palmetto southeastern region of Heart Island Conservation Area. This can be surprisingly tricky habitat to traverse. While the slash pines are fairly innocuous, those saw palmettos can really cut you up. “Saw” indeed. When I think of Florida, this is the kind of habitat I first see in my mind.

ID Note: Though I believe these are dominantly Slash pines, I’m not too knowledgeable of our pine species in central Florida. Take this identification with a grain of salt!

Spring Break 2023: Pinus elliottii

Pinus elliottii, the Slash pine;
Volusia county, Florida (11 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

My first stop for Spring Break 2023 was Heart Island Conservation Area in the interior of Volusia county — a bit west of Ormond Beach. I’ve adored Heart Island for years, and this certainly seemed like a good way to start my trip south. Why not celebrate the best of central Florida first?

ID Note: Though I believe these are dominantly Slash pines, I’m not too knowledgeable of our pine species in central Florida. Take this identification with a grain of salt!

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, 15 March 2023

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, the Florida banded watersnake;
Volusia county, Florida (08 March 2023).
Spring Break 2023

Less than a week before my 2023 Spring Break trip to South Florida, I came upon two Florida banded watersnakes in the Tiger Bay State Forest area just west of Ormond Beach. It was a fairly cool and overcast day, and I only had my iPhone with me… so the pictures aren’t too great. Still, the encounter was the real treat, and I took it as a good omen of the trip to follow. Pictured here is the larger of the two bandeds from this spot. Next up? Lots of wildlife and landscape glory from Spring Break 2023!

Acanthocephala declivis, 27 April 2013

Acanthocephala declivis, the Giant leaf-footed bug;
Lake county, Florida (27 April 2013).

One of my favorite non-cicada Hemipterans, the Giant leaf-footed bug may look intimidating, but the fear is relatively unwarranted. This is not a bug out to get you, despite its fearsome appearance to many. Fairly large and seemingly awkward in its build, the Giant leaf-footed bug can be surprisingly graceful by foot: Slow, deliberate, calculated motion. Flying, on the other hand, is a different thing… Hemipterans don’t tend to be the most graceful flyers in the class of Insecta. Heh. Like their cicada brethren, I’ve had a few Acanthocephala crash into my face over the years.

Hyla femoralis, 16 March 2016

Hyla femoralis, the Pine woods treefrog;
Volusia county, Florida (16 March 2016).

In my stretch of Florida, you’re far more likely to hear the Pine woods treefrog than you are to actually see one. They spend much of their time fairly high up, well out of view. On this particular spring day, however, I was lucky to come across a low-riding Pine woods treefrog biding the plenty of time only about five feet from the ground. It was a welcomed encounter; this species was high on my list at the time. Hell, it still is. I really dig Pine Woods treefrogs.

Deirochelys reticularia chrysea, 14 July 2014

Deirochelys reticularia chrysea, the Florida chicken turtle;
Volusia county, Florida (14 July 2014).

The Florida chicken turtle is a fairly small aquatic species. Check out that trimming/lining at the edge of each scute on the carapace! Though I sometimes have a devil of a time differentiating between some cooters and sliders from a distance, Florida chicken turtles are typically quite clear and distinctive. This is perhaps my favorite of Florida’s aquatic turtles (nearly neck and neck with the Florida soft-shell).

Nerodia taxispilota, 10 April 2016

Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake;
Lake county, Florida (10 April 2016).

An impressive Brown watersnake encountered and photographed in Lake county, Florida. Of all Florida’s non-venomous watersnake species, the Brown watersnake is the most consistent in coloring and patterning. Wherever you find them, this is usually what they like like. Though they do darken with age and can sometimes be fairly bright as youngsters, the patterning really doesn’t change much: Dark brown blotches on a lighter brown base.

Anolis carolinensis, 21 January 2017

Anolis carolinensis, the Carolina green anole;
Broward county, Florida (21 January 2017).

A tight shot of the Carolina green anole’s profile. There’s such a delicate complexity to all those greens.

North Peninsula State Park, 16 April 2014

North Peninsula State Park;
Volusia county, Florida (16 April 2014).

Alas, it’s Spring Break 2023, and I’m checking out for a decent chunk of the week. Central and South Florida beckon, and I’ll be sojourning beneath the Spanish moss for a bit. I’m pre-scheduling a post for each morning this upcoming week but will otherwise be offline. Hopefully I’ll have some fantastic new material on the flip side?

Pictured here is North Peninsula State Park one fine April morning back in 2014. Nothing quite like an Atlantic sunrise.

Masticophis flagellum flagellum, 26 May 2016

Masticophis flagellum flagellum, the Eastern coachwhip;
Lake county, Florida (26 May 2016).

Ah, yes, the mighty coachwhip. This species, the Eastern coachwhip, is sort of like a mega-version of the Southern black racer. Eastern coachwhips are typically larger and longer than Southern black racers, but they’re just as fast (if not seemingly faster). You can try to catch up to an Eastern coachwhip, but once they have you on their radar and get moving, they’re pretty good about staying out of hand and one step ahead, so to speak. A seriously impressive species.

Schistocerca alutacea, 21 November 2010

Schistocerca alutacea, the Leather-colored bird grasshopper;
Lake county, Florida (21 November 2010).

The Leather-colored bird grasshopper is one of our lesser-seen hoppers in central Florida, though I wouldn’t consider them rare. I just don’t see too many of them. This one was spotted in Lake county, Florida, quite a bit inland and on the edge of some serious central Florida undergrowth.

Nerodia floridana, 14 March 2019

Nerodia floridana, the Florida green watersnake;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (14 March 2019).

In south Florida, most notably in the Everglades, our Florida green watersnakes can take on a more-reddish tone, especially as juveniles. Featured here is one such juvenile Florida green watersnake from the Everglades system a few years back. This species can be ridiculously abundant down south, and the juveniles can sport some awesome colors and checkered patterning. They’re always fantastic to encounter, but I truly do adore the Florida greens of south Florida.

Libellula needhami, 02 July 2019

Libellula needhami, the Needham’s skimmer;
Volusia county, Florida (02 July 2019).

Here’s an iPhone shot of a Needham’s skimmer I came across along the edge of a roadside culvert in downtown Daytona Beach. Though I’m happy my phone was able to get this clear a shot, I really wish I’d had my Nikon with me at that moment. This skimmer was unusually patient and still! This is not a species I come across often (or can typically get close to).

Coluber constrictor priapus, 02 August 2020

Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern black racer;
Volusia county, Florida (02 August 2020).

There’s nothing quite like an attitudinal juvenile Southern black racer. If you know what adult racers look like, this juvenile’s appearance might be surprising to you. As juveniles, Southern black racers sport a light gray base color with black-bordered red blotches across their backs. As they grow older, the patterns fade away, and the racer takes on its slate-gray/black appearance. It’s quite the transition, really. It’s not surprising that juvenile racers are often confused as being another species entirely.

Pseudacris crucifer, 12 February 2013

Pseudacris crucifer, the Spring peeper;
Lowndes county, Georgia (12 February 2013).

Who doesn’t love a peeper in the middle of the night? Let me rephrase that: Who doesn’t love to see a Spring peeper, a type of frog, in the middle of the night? Throughout much of their range, Spring peepers are among the first frogs to begin calling and, well, peeping throughout the night each year. They tend to perk up and peep out before spring has fully arrived and often well before other species are up for the annual dance of reproduction. As you might imagine, their call is a series of peep-peep-peep sounds. This individual was one of many Spring peepers that lives around a small pond at the front of our neighborhood in Valdosta, Georgia.

Coluber constrictor priapus, 31 December 2016

Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern black racer;
Volusia county, Florida (31 December 2016).

Southern black racers are a lot of things (fast, reactive, attitudinal), but one thing they usually aren’t is patient. Thanks to some fairly chilly weather this particular New Year’s Eve, however, I was able to snag a few in situ shots of this Southern black racer which opted to patiently sit still rather than manically dart away.

Nycticorax nycticorax, 28 November 2010

Nycticorax nycticorax, the Black-crowned night heron;
Lake county, Florida (28 November 2010).

Though far from being considered rare (or even uncommon), the Black-crowned night heron is one of our lesser-observed heron/egret species in peninsular Florida; they’re a bit more reclusive than many of their cousins, and it can be hard to get close to them by land. In this case, I had the benefit of spotting this individual from offshore. Travel by boat has its advantages.

Anolis sagrei, 08 July 2011

Anolis sagrei, the Cuban brown anole;
Monroe county, Florida (08 July 2011).

Cuban brown anoles are tiny bio-packs of energy waiting to spring to action. They also know how to sport a damn fine posture when balancing on an oversized rope. Such balance and grace (typically followed by impressive push-ups or spurious springs to action).

Homo sapiens vs. Gallus gallus domesticus, Fall 1993

Homo sapiens, FSU Police in this case,
detaining Gallus gallus domesticus, the domestic chicken;
Gilchrist Dorm, Florida State University; Leon county, Florida (Fall 1993).

This was a wonderful observation. In my Fall 1993 semester at Florida State University, I was privileged to observe a fantastic interaction between two species. Featured here are photographs of two Modern humans (Homo sapiens of the FSU PD clade) detaining and presumably arresting a Domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) in Gilchrist dormitory at Florida State University.

Apparently somebody brought the chicken into the dorm the night before. Perhaps they had been at a Rodeo party just off campus? And perhaps they had, at first, brought the chicken from the rodeo back to their dorm room (perhaps even Room 218?) only to kick it out around 3:30 am because they couldn’t sleep from all the clucking? And perhaps they woke up later that morning and opened the door to find the chicken still standing there, utterly perplexed, as two FSU police officers approached? And perhaps the officers then asked, “Is this your chicken?” Of course, the only reasonable response would’ve been, “Who’s chicken is that? Let me grab my early-90s camera.”

I’m not proud of all the things I did as an undergraduate student at Florida State University, but that Rodeo party really was quite wild.

Nerodia fasciata fasciata, 28 February 2012

Nerodia fasciata fasciata, the Southern banded watersnake;
Lowndes county, Georgia (28 February 2012).

Another benefit to living in South Georgia for two years was getting some time with the Southern banded watersnake, Nerodia fasciata fasciata. Throughout most of the Florida peninsula, we have the Florida banded watersnake subspecies, Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, but the currently-recognized South subspecies takes over near the state line. Personally, I’m fairly skeptical of subspecies distinctions to begin with (they’re all just banded watersnakes, y’all), but what do I know? I also suspect there’s a lot of intergradation between the Southern and Florida populations in extreme South Georgia. Regardless, it was cool to hang around some darker, slightly different banded watersnakes for a few clicks on the odometer of life. I really dug hanging out with those South Georgia fasciata.

Kinosternon baurii, 14 July 2019

Kinosternon baurii, the Striped mud turtle;
Volusia county, Florida (14 July 2019).

The Striped mud turtle is a small, fairly common turtle that frequents the freshwaters of Volusia County, Florida, as well as most of Florida and the eastern edge of the United States. Their carapace usually grows to only around three to four inches in length; they are truly quite small. Still, what they may lack in girth they make up for in spunk. The Striped mud turtle can be a surprisingly active (and reactive) turtle when so inspired. This little one was on the brink of furiously swimming down through the growth, quickly disappearing from the view above.

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, 30 April 2020

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, the Florida banded watersnake;
Volusia county, Florida (30 April 2020).

If you’ve ever been told that venomous cottonmouths swim at the surface of water while non-venomous watersnakes swim under the water, well, that’s not always the case. Pictured here is a non-venomous Florida banded watersnake swimming very much at the surface of water. Though cottonmouth do tend to stay closer to the surface while waternakes are often quicker to dive under, both types of snakes can swim both at and below the surface of water. Another gentle reminder that life tends to be a bit more nuanced and complicated than tweet-sized adages and short guideline descriptions!

Tomoka River, 28 September 2019

The Tomoka River;
Ormond Beach, Florida (28 September 2019).

A moment of zen, as they say, on the Tomoka River. I spent countless hours on the Tomoka as a child, and it’s deeply gratifying to spend an afternoon out on that water in my kayak as an adult. The Tomoka is a calm, dark water river that lazily makes its way to the Intracoastal Waterway. Manatees and stingrays can be found in these waters, and the shoreline is nearly always adorned by a thick wall of Florida greenery. The color play of greens and blues can be almost overwhelming on a clear, sunny day. Ah, Florida!

Anolis equestris, 11 June 2016

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

If any lizard could play a 1940s mob boss, I do believe it would be Anolis equestris. Slap a cigar in that mouth, and the rest is already done. What a fantastically determined and rowdy species the Cuban knight anole is. Just look at that mouth! Anyhow, this large, non-native species has steadily been making its way north up the Florida peninsula. They’ve even started to show up in Volusia County in recent years. This particular Cuban knight anole was photographed in Miami-Dade county.

Libellula axilena, 16 June 2013

Libellula axilena, the Bar-winged skimmer;
Lowndes county, Georgia (16 June 2013).

The elegance of a Bar-winged skimmer taking a break from all that excellent aerial combat. We certainly had no shortage of dragonflies and the like in our Valdosta, Georgia, backyard. It was something special.

Diadophis punctatus punctatus, 11 December 2022

Diadophis punctatus punctatus, the Southern ringneck;
Lake county, Florida (11 December 2022).

I must admit I revel when encountering a wee Southern ringneck. This tiny species is quite abundant throughout central Florida (and elsewhere). They’re also quite reclusive and well-hidden, so I suspect most people don’t see this species all that often. If you dig around the plants in your yard, however, you’ll likely fine one or two (or three) Southern ringnecks silently slinking about the soil in search of earthworms and slugs.

Schistocerca obscura, 27 September 2015

Schistocerca obscura, the Obscure bird grasshopper;
Brevard county, Florida (27 September 2015).

Here’s an edgy Obscure bird grasshopper on the brink of taking flight in Merritt Island NWR, Florida. Most commonly seen in the late-summer and early-autumn months, this skittery species can be quite abundant along the edges of dirt- and rock-laden roadways in central Florida. I dig the darker, almost-leathery quality of their wings. It’s almost like a cape for a tiny Orthopteran superhero.

Captain Tony’s Saloon, 05 August 2017

Captain Tony’s Saloon in Key West;
Monroe county, Florida (05 August 2017).

If you ever find yourself in Key West, Florida, I recommend swinging by Captain Tony’s Saloon. While the address (428 Greene Street) dates back to the 1850s, it was in 1933 that the location first became the infamous Sloppy Joe’s bar, so named by none other than Ernest Hemingway (who frequented the bar throughout much of the 1930s). By the close of the 1930s, however, Sloppy Joe’s moved over to Duval Street, and 428 Greene Street began a decades-long dance through various ownerships and manifestations. Finally, in 1958, local gambler, sea captain, and sometimes-politician Captain Tony Tarracino bought the joint. Captain Tony’s Saloon was born. This is where Jimmy Buffett got his start in Key West back in the early 1970s. Bob Dylan has also been a repeat visitor. Above all, however, is the ubiquitous legend of Taraccino himself. Even after selling the bar in 1989, Captain Tony often made weekly appearances at his namesake saloon — until he ultimately passed away in November of 2008 around the age of 92; I was fortunate to have met him back in June of 2007. Today, you can still feel Captain Tony’s rebel-rousing spirit wafting about the saloon — along with all the adoration of his mythic legacy by those visiting (and drinking).

Romalea microptera, 29 April 2020

Romalea microptera, the Eastern lubber grasshopper;
Volusia county, Florida (29 April 2020).

This is a nymph-stage Eastern lubber grasshopper. Though impressively large already, this nymphal grasshopper will grow a bit larger and take on a more yellow-and-red appearance in its adult form. Lubbers can be very, very common in certain places, and a cloud of grasshoppers can do some serious damage to gardens and local foliage. This is not a beloved species to many gardeners in the eastern United States, but most should agree that it is a striking and lovely species — despite its reputation.

Anaxyrus quercicus, 29 September 2012

Anaxyrus quercicus, the Oak toad;
Charlton county, Georgia (29 September 2012).

The Oak toad is our other toad in peninsular Florida. Averaging only about an inch or so in length, this small toad isn’t as commonly observed as its larger relative the Southern toad, Anaxyrus terrestris. There’s a lot of awesomeness packed into that tiny, robust package, though. The Oak toad is somewhat hardy and resilient. They’re mostly active by day but spend much of their time hidden from view. After a nice rain, however, they can really fill the airwaves with their tiny little chirping calls when they conglomerate in pools of standing water.