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.
In Florida, habitats are typically somewhat… jumbled. Such is the certainly the case in these photographs. Here’s the breakdown:
First, you have a rather large Live oak tree (Quercus virginiana). Specifically, this is the Fairchild Oak in Ormond Beach, a somewhat famous and rather long-lived chunk of tree matter. Growing atop many of the Fairchild’s branches are sheaths of Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides), an epiphytic, non-parasitic plant that essentially grows atop other plants. Finally, quietly scratching out a living within the Resurrection fern micro-habitat is a young Carolina green anole, Anolis carolinensis, doing its best to survive, grow up, and eventually reproduce.
Truly, one of the joys of plugging in to the natural world around you is realizing how much stuff is happening right in front of you, just above you, and even below your own feet. In a region such as Florida, every square inch is in play when it comes to the game of life — sometimes hidden in otherwise-plain sight.
Updated: I’ve got to take
the week two weeks off from the wiki-wiki-wild-wild-web. It’s the end of the semester, and I have heaps of work to do over the next few weeks. Teaching university composition is awesome, but things do get a bit cray-cray at the end of the semester. Anyhow, I’ll have to hold off on photo-posts until after I clear the final week of classes. Floridensis will kick back in with new content on Monday 17 December!
In the meantime, here are some shots of my home territory, Ormond Beach, right at sunrise a few years back. I’m reminded I need to find more time to hit the Atlantic to watch the sun greet the day. But not until grades are done. Must finish grades first.
See you on the 17th!
The Snowy egret, Egretta thula, is a common-yet-charming species in the Florida I know and love. These smallish egrets sport bold yellow feet and equally bold yellow lores — the featherless facial areas from the base of the bill to the front of each eye. White, black, and yellow. That’s the Snowy egret in a nutshell.
You can find Snowies damn near anywhere. Though they tend to hang out mostly near water, especially along the coast, I’ve seen plenty of Snowy egrets in a wide range of habitats. I suppose if they can find something to eat, that’s good enough for them, and Snowy egrets will eat damn near anything: fish, crustaceans, snails, lizards, snakes, frogs, small rodents, worms, insects… It’s all good. Snowy egrets don’t seem to be too picky.
Outside of Florida, the species ranges throughout much of North America and down south into Central America. They are as well-adapted and durable as they are lovely and active.
In the summer of 2011, my family and I moved back from Alaska to the American southeast. Four years in Alaska proved to be enough for my family, it seems, and we decided to head back down to more-consistent sunshine, less snow, and slightly less elevation. As for the move itself, we shipped the bare essentials and irreplaceables. As for everything else? Buh-bye. It was an awesome, icy, “garage” sale in Anchorage, Alaska. When it came time to actually make the move, my wife and daughter flew down to Florida. I, on the other hand, drove from Anchorage to Florida — across the continent, hiking and camping along the way. It was, to put it bluntly, one hell of a roadtrip.
Featured here are images from Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah. I hit Capitol Reef on Day 11 of my roadtrip from Alaska to Florida — about 4,444 miles after departing Anchorage (though, I should note, I actually cruised north to Fairbanks before eventually turning east and southward).
Southern Utah is one hell of a region. I seriously don’t know how anybody gets anything productive done while living there. Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Zion National Park… They’re all right there, right next to each other, waiting to suck you in like the desert does the rain. I’ve never seen a region so packed with incredible scenery and mind-boggling beauty. Honestly.
In the images below, you can see dark sandstones and the lighter outcrops of the Navajo sandstone “caps.” In fact, much of this region is defined and shaped by the Waterpocket Fold, a 65 million year old geologic ripple, so to speak, revealing a geologic history encompassing much of the Age of Dinosaurs, more formally known as the Mesozoic. More specifically, most of these images were photographed in the Cohab Canyon area of Capitol Reef.
The river you see is the Fremont River; the roadway traces and weaves parallel along the winding valley-like swath of the Fremont and Cohab Canyon. Pull over damn near anywhere, and you’ve got incredible sandstone formations, brilliant flora, and the Fremont staring right back at you. I could’ve easily spent an entire week in this area alone (and don’t get me started with Canyonlands, Arches, and Bryce Canyon…).
I am from head to toe a Florida swamprat, but I must admit I connected with Southern Utah (and Northern Arizona) in a way I simply did not anticipate. I spent several days (more than originally planned) in that region, bouncing my way across the state from east to west before eventually heading back south and east again. I simply didn’t want it to end. Southern Utah was so tremendously gorgeous — and this is what I felt after leaving the epic majesty of Alaska, a region known for its own gargantuan beauty.
In future Elsewhere Wednesdays, we’ll explore much more of this remarkable roadtrip from Alaska to Florida, and we’ll certainly see much more of southern Utah.
A simple set of shots for an otherwise chilly day in the temporal Here & Now. Featured here is a Great egret, Ardea alba, sporting its breeding colors (see the green in front of the eye?) at Merritt Island one March afternoon a few years back.
Great egrets are very similar to Great blue herons, Ardea herodias. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s up with “heron” vs. “egret” when it comes to herons, egrets, and their respective common names. Both the Great blue heron and the Great egret are two species of the same genus (Ardea). Meanwhile in the related genus Egretta, Egretta thula is the Snowy egret, and Egretta caerulea is the Little blue heron. So what’s the difference between herons and egrets when it comes to common names? Honestly, I’m not sure. Not a clue.
I’ll save solving that mystery of common nomenclature for another time. Right now, I just want to think about how awesome Merritt Island is in early spring. I wouldn’t mind trading places with this
heron egret for a day. Bask in the spring sunshine and let my freak colors fly.
Alright, alright, alright.
Perhaps the Eastern narrowmouth toad, Gastrophryne carolinensis, is an apt species to introduce to Floridensis on the heels of the Thanksgiving holiday. It is, after all, a remarkably plump, little amphibian. I don’t know about you, but I too feel a bit plumper than usual. it was a good Thanksgiving.
When thinking of frogs and toads, people tend to think of any given species as being either a toad –or– a frog, as if that’s an either-or binary. In reality, Order Anura (within Class Amphibia) features a number of related-yet-distinct families. Family Bufonidae, for example, consists of the “true toads” you probably already know about and have seen. Family Hylidae consists of the “tree frogs,” and Family Ranidae consists of the “true frogs.” There are plenty more. This species, the Eastern narrowmouth toad, is a representative of a distinct family, Family Microhylidae. Despite its common name, the Eastern narrowmouth is not a “true toad.” So what is it? It’s a narrowmouth!
Eastern narrowmouths are small, bulbous, terrestrial amphibians that spend much of their time buried somewhat within loose soil or under surface matter. They come out and are a bit more active at night and after nice, sustained rains. Though not as slick and smooth as most frogs, they also do not have the dry, warty skin so commonly exhibited by their “true toad” brethren. They are truly in a family of their own.
In these photos, you can get a sense of the Eastern narrowmouth’s ridiculously tiny head and mouth. Seriously, this species packs quite a girth at the hip — especially when contrasted with its relatively tiny head. In short, they’re adorable, but also quite good at doing what they need to do: hunt for ants, termites, and other small arthropods in loose soil. It’s always a delight to come across an Eastern narrowmouth (usually hidden beneath a fallen log or under a sheet of wood in the forest).