As we’ve seen in Parts I, II, and III, the “gray-dewlap” Green anoles of southwest Florida are quite awesome and distinctive. Gone (to a certain extent) is the pinkish dewlap, the little fold of skin under the neck, replaced instead by a muted, dark, grayish dewlap. Of note, while the Carolina green anole can change much of its body coloring from bright green to dark brown, the dewlap itself isn’t designed to change color in response to environmental or temperamental factors. The dewlap is the dewlap, and while its colors may vary within populations such as this, the colors don’t vary per individual on a a day to day basis. Whether sporting its green or brown “coat,” if you will, this Green anole features a rather dark dewlap. Check out Part I for more context to the “Gray dewlap” Green anoles of southwest Florida.
Every time I hit south Florida, the glory of the Miami area beckons me for some good old fashioned Anolis Lizard Time™. To be honest, however, my beloved anoles, native and non-native alike, have another genus chasing and bobbing after my heart: the Agamas. More specifically, the African redhead agama, sometimes referred to as Agama picticauda (see this post for an overview of classification woes regarding non-native agamas in Florida).
The agamas in Florida seem to be steadily expanding northward. Though they haven’t quite reached my corner of Volusia county just yet, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them show up within a decade. Fast, alert, and visually sharp, these little afterburners know how to defensively use Florida’s various habitats. Though they prefer rocky, hard surfaces such as walls and sidewalks, they’ll also take to trees and give the anoles a run for their money. Because they’re so fast and defensive, they can also be somewhat difficult to get close to and/or catch. On this particular trip, we didn’t really go for any hand’s-on contact with the agamas. I settled instead for a few cursory shots with my old, dying zoom lens. That’s good enough for me, I suppose, but I must admit that while typing this I now really want to get my hands on another agama.
Lest we ignore and disrespect our lubber friends! Featured here is a gaggle of young Eastern lubber grasshoppers, Romalea microptera, a pesky and fairly abundant species of biggish ‘hopper. Growing upwards to two-to-three inches in length (give or take a little), Eastern lubbers can certainly be a problem for folks-with-gardens. These little dudes and dudettes can eat, eat, eat. As juveniles, they tend to be black with a thin yellow or orange dorsal stripe. As adults, they’ll take on a far brighter and more-ornate pattern of yellows, oranges, and blacks. The cluster photographed here (on a restroom wall in Big Cypress National Preserve) as, of course, juveniles. Perhaps not as impressive as a massive Cottonmouth or a non-native iguana, but, hey, they’re cute in their own right, right?
Prior to our jaunt south for Spring Break 2018, it had actually been a while since I’d come across a Florida banded watersnake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris), which says quite a bit about how busy I’ve been. This is an extremely abundant and adaptable species of watersnake. More so than any other watersnake species, the Florida banded watersnake isn’t too picky in terms of habitat — so long as there’s water nearby and stuff to eat. From ponds to rivers, from creeks to swamps, you can stumble across this non-venomous species damn near anywhere throughout the Floridian peninsula. I was certainly delighted to get a chance to photograph a few more down south over Spring Break. Of all the species we have in Florida, Nerodia fasciata pictiventris remains my favorite. I think it might be in the running for Eric’s favorite, too… It’s at least in the top five for him, I suspect.
The Florida cottonmouth, Agkistrodon conanti, a venomous species, isn’t exactly rare. They’re fairly abundant in various pockets and habitats throughout peninsular Florida. Still, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such density of cottonmouths as in south Florida. Collier, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties nearly always present a variety of cottonmouths from young to old. Our Spring Break 2018 sojourn south certainly yielded a sweet, though modest, array of cottonmouths.
Featured here is a young Florida cottonmouth exhibiting fairly typical defensive behavior. Though this particular cottonmouth held back from gaping its white, cottony mouth in a defensive display, it certainly still struck the pose: Coil up and stare straight on with utter conviction. Heh. Pretty soon, however, the young, venomous snake decided it had enough of the big, lumbering hominids staring down at it. Quickly enough, it beat a retreat off the road and back into the bushes.
As always, Florida cottonmouths are not aggressive snakes. Though they can be rather determined in going where they want to go, one should not confuse their stubbornness as being aggression. Of all the cottonmouths I’ve worked with (and there have been many), not a single one has been what I would call “aggressive.” This little camper struck out a few times, of course, but that’s a defensive behavior — not aggression. As usual, this cottonmouth certainly didn’t chase me around with deliberation. That’s just not how they think and behave.
Because they are venomous, however, people should always treat Florida cottonmouths with due respect and consideration. Give them space, and they’ll move on. Try to catch or kill them, and you stand a better chance of being bitten and/or envenomated. Just give them a bit of room, and everything will be just fine.
One species we didn’t really find in abundance while in Miami-Dade county was the Cuban knight anole, Anolis equestris. I’m a mega-fan of this big, beefy non-native species as you’ll see if you check out the knight anole posts on this website. Though we may not have seen too many adults scampering about on this particular trip, we did manage to come across a few youngsters. I photographed this ornate and vivid juvenile trolling about some tropical foliage in the South Miami area. I almost got my hands on it for some macro-scale shots, but the wee tiny knight decided to head up, up, and away at the last possible moment. This is not uncommon in the world of Catching-Anoles-By-Hand! These are fast, agile, and reactive animals, and they usually see you coming, you big, lumbering hominid you…
Below is a simple iPhone reference shot that ended up being fairly fantastic in its way, this is a biggish Brown watersnake (Nerodia taxispilota) basking on the edge of a strand of slow-moving Big Cypress waterflow — as photographed from above, looking down. Big Cypress herp fans probably know this spot even without the context of the surrounding environment. That little limestony outcrop is often populated by at least one Brown watersnake soaking in the plenty of time. It is a fantastic basking spot, is it not? I wouldn’t mind spending a day lounging about on that (if not for all the nearby gators)…