I know, I know, everyone is filled with excitement after that intro, so we’ll jump right into it.
The time of year was right, so I made the 5 hour trek to Daniel’s place and join him, his son Mike and Jake Scott to go kick (ok, photograph) some herpetofaunal tail (maybe I should just say “Caudates.”)
But before that, we took a day to seek out one of my favorite groups of snakes, running into Mike Rochford and joined by Lloyd Heilbrunn along the way. Mike was newly married (Congrats again Mike!) and hoping for the road to spit him out a wedding present. Meanwhile in another car, Lloyd was also hoping for some good fortunes, and I was secretly pulling for him (I was in his car, after all.) After not too much time, bam!
This Southern Hognose came a few minutes after a pygmy, which for some reason I neglected to use my flash on.
Mike stuck around after we were on our way and had similar luck – maybe he’ll throw up a picture on the forum at some point.
Meanwhile, on with our journey, the next find was quite novel to me: I enjoy Box Turtles, and seeing the sheer size of one of these Gulf Coasters had me dumbfounded.
And look at that head!
Moving onwards, the sun set and we began to hike around. We were hoping for rain, to no avail. We nearly stepped on a couple of lurking Cottonmouths. Ok, maybe “nearly” is a bit sensationalistic. . .
But persevere we did, through every danger, toil and snare (see aforementioned). I was taking a gander at this little fellow for a while.
Finally, I heard a whoop from ahead.
Now that’s the stuff dreams are made of. We returned to our car, victorious, and headed to other areas. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that too much was out and about – though I managed one additional lifer for the eve’; a River Frog.
What a weekend! Team Aquatica was victorious, though it was bittersweet as I had not encountered one of my targets for the weekend, the last of the Nerodia clarkii subspecies I had yet to find: the Gulf Saltmarsh Snake (Nerodia clarkii clarkii.)
So, I waited. Patience is one of those herping virtues that allows one to do things like have a life outside of herping: you know, have a job, family – all that stuff that people have been doing since time unmemorable. Well, a month later I hopped back in the car and back up to northern Florida for yet another reunion of Team Aquatica. This time the target was clarkii.
We met up with Jason and he promptly showed us four he had gotten earlier in the evening. Primed for action we got walking through the marsh…
Well, that was anticlimactic. Fortunately for you (and us) we sacrificed our health (late night) and sanity (see previous bracket) completely beyond what is reasonable, advisable or intelligent and decided it would be a jolly good idea to drive a little father north to another spot. We hopped out at a culvert and began shining – Mike had eyes like an Osprey and said he saw something on the edge of the salt creek. Well slap me silly! what did we see before us but the biggest, most impressive clarkii we’d ever seen (it was actually a first for Daniel, and I believe Mike too.) So I showed them my clarkii-wrangling expertise and did a flying leap into the knee-deep mud to find my writhing quarry in my hand:
(Please allow for a short intermission to allow my adrenaline levels to recede.)
What a beauty.
Happy with our victory, we headed to camp for a couple hours of sleep, and then on the road again. Once again, pesky terrestrial herps waylaid us on our journey. There was that one that nearly caused an accident when Dan laid on the breaks in front of me:
A young and beautiful Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
One Diamondback in a day is pleasant enough, two (for me) is rarely ever even worth hoping for. A Little later in the day, whaddaya know:
It did that funky thing EDB’s sometimes do where they’ll stick out their tongue and just let it sit there.
I was tempted to touch the tongue, and would have had the snake not been highly venomous
Another successful trip and pretty soon we’re in the month of December. I just finished the last class of my Master’s Degree and was up for a little celebration. I gave Josh Young a call to invite him on a trip to completely circumnavigate (or was it circumvent?) Lake Okeechobee. A more complete account of the day can be found here: http://fieldventures.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/a-schools-out-field-venture/ We got going around 7am, and quickly began flipping debris, turning up a Blue-tailed Mole Skink, which did not stick around for photos. Soon thereafter though:
We kept on looking for our next target: Nerodia clarkii from Lee County. We scouted out some great looking habitat and began hiking as the sun went down. After a long while we turned up a good number of clarkii:
The vast majority were hybrids, looking mostly like Florida Watersnakes
Well, heck of a day so far – why not keep it going? I thought.
My friend Jason joined us for this leg of the journey, here’s him and Josh photographing one of the Veiled Chameleons from the evening:
A great day, for sure. That’s mostly the end of the narrative portion of this post, but I’ve also, of course, accrued some et cetera shots from one-night outings here and there, so here are some of those finds:
An axanthic Striped Crayfish Snake from an otherwise unproductive night:
I’ve found that I’ve hardly photographed any cornsnakes in the past couple of years. A shame, I thought and made it a point to photograph one or two this season:
One of five Bobcats seen one evening:
A group shot from a field trip with the South Florida Herp Society:
A Juvenile Veiled Chameleon from the same evening:
That’s about all everyone, thanks for looking… Hopefully Episode VI will be coming in a few months.