The Florida Scarlet Snake, 18 April 2015

Cemophora coccinea coccinea, the Florida scarlet snake;
Lake county, Florida (18 April 2015).

Not even reaching two feet in length as a grown adult, the Florida scarlet snake, Cemophora coccinea coccinea, is a small and reclusive non-venomous snake. As is the case with the Scarlet kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides), the Florida scarlet snake is often confused with the venomous Harlequin coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) because of its tri-colored patterning. They spend the vast majority of their time hidden under debris during the day and typically only come out of hiding at night. It’s not entirely uncommon to find Florida scarlet snakes patrolling the edges of backwoods highways throughout the central Florida night.

To compare and contrast Florida scarlet snakes from Scarlet kingsnake, check out this page. To do the same with Florida scarlets, Scarlet kings, and Harlequin coral snakes, check out this page. Those are links to little one-sheet graphics I made for social media purposes.

The Scarlet Kingsnake, 08 May 2018

Lampropeltis elapsoides, the Scarlet kingsnake,
(Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides);
Volusia county, Florida (08 May 2018).

The Scarlet kingsnake, Lampropeltis elapsoides, is a tri-colored, non-venomous species often confused with the venomous Coral snake (Micrurus fulvius). You’ve probably heard some variant of the rhyme before:

Red on yellow, kill a fellow;
Red on black, friend of Jack.

The rhyme implies that snakes with red rings touching on yellow rings are venomous coral snakes while snakes with red rings touching on black rings are not. Though this rhyme often applies in Florida, it’s really not a very good metric to rely on unilaterally. It doesn’t apply to all parts of the world (or even all of North America), and there can be aberrant Coral snakes in Florida that simply don’t follow the rhyme… Thus, while it may seem like a handy rhyme to remember, it’s simply not a reliable diagnostic overall. I discourage people from relying solely on it. When it comes to the complexities of nature, rhymes and slogans rarely carry much weight when truly tested in reality. The only exception I can think of is the phrase “Shit happens,” which is an apt description of the second law of thermodynamics (entropy). Heh. That’s pretty much always true in my experience. Shit does indeed tend to happen, and then we have to deal with it.

Scarlet kingsnakes are also somewhat similar to another tri-colored (non-venomous) species in Florida: The Florida scarlet snake (Cemophora coccinea coccinea), a species I’ll feature in our next post. As you’ll see, the head shape is different, as is the coloring and width of the rings. The most notable difference between the two non-venomous tri-colored species is the coloring on the ventral scales. Whereas the Scarlet king’s rings wrap all the way around the body, the Florida scarlet snake’s belly tends to be a creamy off-white.

To compare and contrast Florida scarlet snakes from Scarlet kingsnake, check out this page. To do the same with Florida scarlets, Scarlet kings, and Harlequin coral snakes, check out this page. Those are links to little one-sheet graphics I made for social media purposes.

I found the Scarlet kingsnake featured here prowling about my backyard — likely in search of a small lizard or small snake (their preferred diet). Scarlet kings only average upwards to a bit shy of two feet in length as adults, so this is a fairly small and reclusive species. They’re most active at night and spend much of the day hidden beneath surface debris or behind the bark of old, dying trees. They’re exceptionally good at hiding, which is twice impressive given the brightness of their coloring!

NOTE: I found this snake the night before I took these photographs. I kept it in a temporary terrarium overnight to share with my daughter the next morning. These photographs were taken shortly before releasing it back into my yard the next day.

Spring Break 2018: A Big, Old Brown Watersnake

Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake;
Collier county, Florida (15 March 2018).
Series: Spring Break 2018.

At last, we’ll wrap up our extended-run of Spring Break 2018 with one last Brown watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota.

Watersnakes tend to show the marks of time and history on their faces and on their scaling. In short, it ain’t easy scratching out a living as a watersnake, and if a watersnake makes it to a ripe, old age, there are probably going to be marks of survival and past calamities — scars worn like badges of endurance. This big Brown watersnake certainly carried some battle damage on its face. A big, beautiful, battered (but very healthy) Brown watersnake… Watersnakes are true survivors. They can really take a beating and keep on ticking.

Though younger watersnakes tend to be the prettiest by most standards, the older ones carry with them implied narratives of the endurance of time. I suspect this big Brown has had a wild ride in the aquatic tangles of Collier county, Florida.

Spring Break 2018: The Puerto Rican Crested Anole

Anolis cristatellus, the Puerto Rican crested anole;
Miami-Dade county, Florida (17 March 2018).
Series: Spring Break 2018.

We return again to the Puerto Rican crested anole, Anolis cristatellus, a non-native species now strongly established within parts of South Florida. Though this species may appear a bit brown (perhaps even a bit bland) from a distance, when a male reveals the colors of its dewlap, the fold of skin beneath the neck, the Puerto Rican crested anole truly stands out. Of the anoles now present in Florida, native and non-native alike, the Puerto Rican crested anole’s dewlap patterns are far and away my favorite.


The 2018 4th of July Fireworks in Ormond Beach, Florida

4th of July Fireworks in Ormond Beach
Volusia county, Florida; 04 July 2018.

The Fourth of July, the American day of Independence, has long been among my favorite holidays. It’s a holiday that carries deep meaning and value in my life, and I consider Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence to be my favorite work written in the English language. It’s a reminder of the power of language and the push of rhetoric. Further, just as Thomas Jefferson was a deeply flawed human being who also carried tremendous beauty, so too do I see my nation as a collective of deeply flawed human beings who also carry within them, within us, tremendous beauty. The same applies with American history. Incredible tragedy mixed with such optimism and hope… We are flawed to be sure, but we have so much potential (if we can just find the light again).

Though the 4th of July means much, much more to me than simple BBQs, fireworks displays, and flags, I’m a sucker for the whole nine yards. Give me Thomas Jefferson’s words and an awesome fireworks display (with some fried fish), thank you very much. I do love a good fireworks show.

With that in mind, I’ll save extended political commentary on the current state of our (dis)union for some other time… Instead, let me simply share a few hand-held shots of this years’s fireworks display in Ormond Beach, Florida — my hometown and the best place to live on the planet (in my humble opinion). These photographs were taken at Cassen Park on the corner of Beach and Granada — overlooking the Halifax (Intracoastal Waterway) on Wednesday 04 July 2018.

Happy 4th, folks. Let’s try to remember the dream, the idea, of America. Then —and only then— will we find true greatness.

Spring Break 2018: The Brown Anole

Anolis sagrei, the Cuban brown anole;
Collier county, Florida (15 March 2018).
Series: Spring Break 2018.

Of all the lizards in Florida today, the Cuban brown anole, Anolis sagrei, is likely the most frequently encountered. When I was a kid growing up in Volusia county during the last 70s and early 80s, however, Cuban brown anoles were fairly uncommon. We had them for sure, but they weren’t overly abundant. Back then, the Carolina green anoles were still more dominant around homes and down low among the house walls and yard shrubbery. The trunk-ground habitats of today’s Florida, however, are absolutely dominated by the ever-impressive and ever-adaptable Cuban brown anoles.

Because they’re so ridiculously common (you can’t go anywhere without seeing them scampering around nearby), I sometimes forget to pause and watch them more closely. That recognition was in my mind with little Brown anole, with this basic snapshot. It’s not a great photo by any stretch, but it marks an awesome little moment of watching this little Cuban brown anole flex his dewlap from his (moderately decent but not impressive) perch. It’s good to pause and focus on the overly-abundant and ridiculously-common.

Spring Break 2018: The Brown Watersnake, 14 March 2018

Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake;
Monroe county, Florida (14 March 2018).
Series: Spring Break 2018.

At long last, we’re winding down the big Spring Break 2018 series (which took much longer to work through than I’d originally anticipated), and all we have left are a few bonus watersnakes and anoles. Of course.

Featured here is a young adult Brown watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota, spotted in the heart of Monroe county, Florida — one of many such Brown watersnakes we came across during our trip. Perhaps because this individual was still relatively young in the long run of things, it was sporting a light mocha-with-cream base coloring. A very cool pattern on this one, and Browns aren’t particularly variable with patterning (at least not as much as their cousins Nerodia fasciata). At this point, I have no idea how many Brown watersnakes I’ve observed throughout Florida, but I’m always happy to get up close and personal with them. Such an elegant design, and such a *typically* chilled demeanor!