Of all the reptiles in the American southeast, I’m perhaps loosest and least confident when it comes to identifying cooters (Pseudemys sp.) and sliders (Trachemys sp.). While some individuals of each species can be ridiculously easy to identify, others seem to nebulously waffle between distinguishing physical characteristics. Cooters and sliders have much in common in habitat, generic appearance, and generalized behavior. All that being said, I’m pretty darn sure this is a young Florida red-bellied cotter, Pseudemys nelsoni, basking in a marshy stretch of pond in Collier county, Florida. In the in-land reaches of south Florida, Pseudemys nelsoni seems to have a more solid grip on native distribution — whereas the Trachemys scripta sliders are a bit more limited and introduced to the coastlines via dense human populations and urban development. You’re more likely to find a slider in a South Florida botanical garden than in the thick of Big Cypress. At least, that’s been my general experience!
Here are two fairly lame (“drive-by”) shots of one extraordinary bird species: The Crested caracara, Caracara cheriway. A member of the Falcon family, the Crested caracara is a large raptor that spends much of its time on the ground rooting about for carrion, as well as living amphibians, reptiles, or any other good stuff to eat. Federally listed as threatened in the United States, the Crested caracara is typically only seen in the southern portions of the Floridian peninsula — though it also natively ranges throughout much of central America and the northern reaches of South America in greater numbers. This was the first Crested caracara I’ve been able to photograph with any semblance of clarity — though these snapshots from a moving vehicle don’t exactly do the bird justice; it quickly flew away when we slowed down. I have no doubt it was trolling for watersnakes — just as we were. Nice.
This is our third Florida green watersnake (Nerodia floridana) post for the Spring Break 2018 series. Some may say Too much is not enough, and I generally agree with that (with the notable exceptions of taxes, Transformers movies, and vodka), but in the case of our little Spring Break romp around south Florida, I think we were just about right on target with watersnake action. Too much by most reasonable amounts, perhaps, but not quite too much for us, and certainly not even remotely close to too little. Heaps of watersnakes. Beautiful watersnakes.
They may be a dime a dozen in Miami-Dade county these days, but I’m always happy to find each and every Puerto Rican crested anole (Anolis cristatellus) I manage to come across. Though not as ubiquitously successful throughout the Floridian peninsula as the Cuban brown anole (Anolis sagrei), the crested anole has done quite well in south Florida. This individual was sporting a bit of goiter on its lower jaw — something I see fairly frequently in some of the urban populations of crested anoles in the Coral Gables area. I’m not sure what causes these spikes in goiter-like activity. I wonder if may be stress-related? There’s plenty of competition for these crested anoles from above and below — a medley of non-native lizards each trying to scratch out a living amongst and often against each other in the tangles of the south Florida postmodernistic ecology.
Though we’re not quite through with the very busy and hyper-productive first portion of Spring Break 2018 in Collier and Monroe county, let’s skip eastward to the latter portion of the break in Miami-Dade county for a few clicks. I’ve got an itch for some non-native anole action, and this little critter is just what I need. Featured here is a lovely and agile Bark anole, Anolis distichus, a species native to Hispaniola and the Bahamas. Though they’re still somewhat limited in their Florida range, Bark anoles have quietly been scratching out a living in South Florida since the 1940s or so. A trunk-ecomorph, meaning its adapted to live primarily on the “mid-range” trunk level of trees, the Bark anole has plenty of competition from above and below, from other lizard species (native and non-native alike). Understandably, Bark anoles are thus very skittish and quick to retreat around the circumference of its homestead.
Here’s a set of in situ shots of a Florida banded watersnake, Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, scouting the swampy shallows of Collier county, Florida. This non-venomous species is extremely variable in coloration and pattern throughout its range, and the banded watersnakes of south Florida tend to be quite dark. Unfortunately, this can confuse more than a few people — folks who assume that dark snake + water = venomous Cottonmouth. Fortunately, this individual was romping about well beyond the reach of typical tourists and visitors.
As an aside from our rather-lengthy Spring Break 2018 series, enjoy this fine video clip of Stephen Colbert meeting a few lizards on The Late Show. After surviving an impressive and sloppy mishap on his desk, Colbert enters the not-so-secretive society of those who have worn Carolina green anoles as earrings, something I often did as a child (and still do as an adult, I must admit). Enjoy the glory, and Congratulations, Colbert!
Filed Under #Oneofus.