I sure do love a Florida-wild Pantherophis guttatus. Breeders may lust after variable color morphs of the Red rat snake, also known as the Corn snake, but I don’t think there’s anything prettier than a vividly-patterned, wild specimen romping about the Floridian peninsula. This youngster was no exception. Incredible patterns!
The Northern curlytail lizard, Leiocephalus carinatus, is one of many non-native lizard species now scratching out a living among the tangles of the Floridian peninsula. They’re also a nice reminder that non-native lizards can work their way south just as much as they work their way north… Introduced in the Palm Beach county region, Northern curlytails have now fairly well penetrated the Florida Keys. This individual was photographed on Bahia Honda Key in the Lower Keys, and I’ve seen plenty more darting about the bushes and shrubs of both the Lower and Middle Keys.
Interestingly, Northern curlytails have been observed predating another non-native species in Florida: the Cuban brown anole, Anolis sagrei. There’s certainly no shortage of sagrei-snacks throughout the entirety of the Floridian peninsula. There’s also no shortage of shrub-lined sidewalks, which Northern curlytails seem to really enjoy. I most often find them basking along the edges of sidewalks with adjacent shrubbery — which they’ll quickly duck into as “danger” approaches.
I haven’t seen any Curlytails in Volusia county yet, but they seem to be fairly well established in Brevard county at this point (just to our south), and I’ve seen a report of at least one in the Port Orange area in Volusia. I suspect we’ll start seeing Northern curlytail lizards in Daytona and Ormond Beach sooner than later. Watch out, you brown anoles you!
This not-so-new-year (it’s March already?) has thus far been a little more than wicked busy on my end of the wires, but I finally managed to duck south for a few days of photography and reptile scales this past weekend. This little roadtrip south was my first extended excursion into the scaly tangles of south Florida for the new year. The trip certainly did not disappoint in all manner of scales and teeth (and feathers to boot).
I spent most of the daylight hours frolicking about the Florida Keys and hiking various trails around Everglades National Park, but my nighttime hours were an entirely different affair. Road-cruising was the name of the game — the fine art of driving around while looking for snakes slinked up on the roadways to absorb the residual heat of the receding day.
Featured here is one of the fifteen snakes I came across on my first day and night back in South Florida. This is a somewhat-young and entirely-non-venomous Brown watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota, chilling out in the middle of a roadway. I must admit, as much as I adore snakes, I have to admit they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed. Many of them really do love resting atop open roadways after the sun goes down. Not exactly the smartest place for a snake to spend the evening hours… but, alas, so it goes. Snakes will be snakes, and people-who-love-snakes-and-cameras will be people-who-love-snakes-and-cameras. I certainly added some mileage to both my Jeep and my Nikon over the weekend.
Fortunately, this little Brown watersnake soon enough slinked away into the brush — free to live another day and, hopefully, many more asphalt-laden nights.
I’m in a bit of a stasis-mode on Floridensis right now. I have tons of (awesome) work flowing on my end of the wires, and I need to conserve my energy a bit, stay a bit focused — at least until it warms back up and the reptiles come out to play. I’m expecting a fantastic spring for wildlife, hiking, and all that jazz, so I’ll save my photo-blogging energy-mojo for that.
In the meantime, I’ll still post some photos here and there on my 500px account. If you enjoy photography, 500px is certainly a fantastic site to drift through and around. There are some tremendous wildlife/nature photographers doing their thing in that community. If you’re interested, here’s a link to my account page:
Alright, I’ll be back in a few moths or so. I suspect by mid-March (if not sooner), I’ll be itching to get back to Floridensis and all things Florida wild!
As the push of time obfuscates 2018 somewhere behind the wake of the New Year, it’s time to once again get rolling with Floridensis. Kicking off the new year, here are a bundle of snappy-type shots of a number of Roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) observed (as they often are) at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Brevard county.
If you think about it, this is the bird that should be the mascot for the Florida Lotto, not the Caribbean flamingo (as impressive as they may be, too). Whereas Caribbean flamingos are only seen every now and then (usually in south Florida), Roseate spoonbills have a bit more presence in central Florida. They can be quite common along the marshy coasts of Brevard county. You’ll often find them wading in the shallows, slicing through the water for some snacky-goodness with their moniker spoon-bills.
A strange-yet-graceful species, perhaps — and one that’s pretty easy to see from a distance. Those pinks can really pop out from afar!
In Florida (and elsewhere, of course), you’ll find much more than epiphytic plants such as the Resurrection fern growing atop the limbs and branches of our oak trees. One particularly nifty and cool organism you’re likely to find on Florida’s Live oaks and other bark-laden trees is the Christmas lichen, Cryptothecia rubrocincta.
Generally speaking, you can think of a lichen as a kind of fungi, only it’s a fungus that lives in relationship to an algae or a cyanobacterium. Any specific species of lichen is a singular biological system, an “organism,” but it is really a biological system comprised of multiple organisms functioning together as a singular system. People often call lichen species “lichenized fungi.” Beyond that, the biological systematics of lichenized fungi are far beyond my pay grade. Flying caribou make more sense to me.
The Christmas lichen is so named for its bright red wreath-like trim. It’s often quite circular in appearance, though the lichen photographed here were a bit erratic and less spherical than you may find otherwise. Christmas lichen tends to stick out somewhat among the more traditionally-green lichens and the typically-brown hues of oak tree bark. Bright reds make for remarkable figure-ground contrasts on all that vegetative base coloring. When it comes to green and red, every day can be Christmas in Florida (but not so much with the powdery white snow stuff).
Following up on our last post, the Carolina green anole (Anolis carolinensis) is no longer the sole species of anole lizard quietly scratching out a living amongst the flora and foliage of the Floridian peninsula. The Cuban brown anole, Anolis sagrei, is an extremely adaptable and resilient non-native species. They’re now perhaps the most-commonly-seen reptile in the state of Florida.
While Carolina green anoles are a bit more adapted to living among the branches of Florida’s foliage, Cuban brown anoles are adapted to scampering about on the ground and among low lying vegetation such as shrubs and bushes. Interestingly, the Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides) patches adorning so many of Florida’s Live oak (Quercus virginiana) branches seems to be an interesting transitional zone. In short, it works very well for both Cuban brown anoles and Caroline greens.
As we saw previously, the Resurrection fern is a non-parasitic, epiphytic plant that grows atop other plant matter. Though not limited to Live oaks, Resurrection fern can be very common when you have large, sprawling branches such as those of Quercus virginiana. Because their branches are so big, thick, and sprawling, Live oaks create a kind of elevated system of micro-habitats at every possible degree. When you have a really big Live oak, such as this one (the Fairchild oak in Ormond Beach, Florida), their branches can even grow down into the ground and emerge elsewhere. Thus, the trunk of the tree is not the only gateway to the Resurrection fern gardens above. This is beneficial to Cuban brown anoles, of course, as it creates more on-ramps, if you will, directly connected to their ground-level climes.
I typically see younger Cuban brown anoles tuckered throughout Resurrection fern. This kind of micro-habitat seems to be a safe(r) area for them to make their way into the business of life. Whereas the larger Cuban brown anoles are more daring on the open ground and tend to dominate the lower trunk-range, if you want to find young Cuban brown anoles, look for thin, whisy bushes and low-lying Resurrection fern gardens.