Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Herping Southern Florida Cottonmouths and Crocs

One of my friends is always going off to conferences here there and everywhere. This year he had a four day event in Naples, Florida USA. So from the 9th of May, Richard Plant, Martin Crookes (non herpers) and myself had 2 nights in Miami, 3 nights in Naples and 3 nights in Florida City. Obviously there is plenty of wildlife in Florida and so I was anticipating finding some good stuff when given the chance. Having never been to this region before pretty much everything found was a new species. In the event I managed a respectful (for a non intense herping trip) 25 species of herps plus 2 DOR.

The weather and mosquitoes were the limiting factors during the trip. Miami had near record breaking temperatures plus very high humidity (97% one day). Mosquitoes were everywhere finding gaps in deet application and easily penetrating through clothing, giving a peppered with a shotgun look to certain skin surfaces.

All Photographs © Carl Corbidge no unauthorised use

Day one MIAMI

After an uneventful flight we picked up our hire car and set off for our hotel at South Beach. It was already late afternoon but a walk onto the beach revealed the first herp in the form of a Brown Anole Anolis sagrei one of many introduced species in the Miami region. There were also a few seabirds evident, the first of many thunder storms forced us back inland for some food and beer. Walking back to the hotel for a change of clothes (before beers) revealed a couple of Puerto Rican Crested Anoles Anolis cristatellus on a hotel sign.


A couple of Ladies lagers after getting caught in a downpour.
Puerto Rican Crested Anole

Day 2 MIAMI/ KEY BISCAYNE.

After breakfast we headed south for to an area of coast. While Martin and Richard had a look around a lighthouse I headed off for some herping. First species found was a Brahiminy Blindsnake Ramphotyphlops braminus, quickly followed by lots of Brown Anoles, Gray's Spiny Tailed Iguana Ctenosaura similis, Green Iguana Iguana iguana and Giant Amieva Amieva amieva which were very difficult to photograph. Then after all those non-native species a native Green Anole Anolis carolinensis.
Above and Below Brown Anole

Giant Amieva
Coastal Habitat
Brahimny Blind Snake
Green Anole

Green Iguana
Gray's Spiny Tailed Iguana

As with the reptiles and amphibians most of the birds were new species for me so I was keen to tick off as much as possible.


 Red Cardinal
 Gray Kingbird
 Laughing Gull
 Royal Tern
 Ring Bill Gull
 Royal Terns
White Ibis
Common Ground Dove

Late in the afternoon near our hotel I spotted a Wood Slave Hemidactylus mabouia an Osprey Pandion haliaetus and lots of Terns.

 Wood Slave

Least Tern

Day 3 Drive to NAPLES and the first encounter with Gators and Mozzies

We took the Tamiami highway heading east through the glades as the suburbs gave way to countryside we started to see more and more birds. We quickly found Alligators Alligator mississippiensis of all sizes this is the first crocodylian i've seen. I found 3 Southern Leopard Frogs Rana utricularia, Squirrel Treefrog Hyla squirella and hundreds of toadlets spp. A Barred Owl  Strix varia posed for photos. The first turtle of the trip was a Florida Softshell Apalone ferox.

 Barred Owl

 Black Vulture
 Alligators


 Florida Softshell
 Southern Leopard Frog
 Squirrel Treefrog

Toadlets ? spp

Day 4 NAPLES area.
A bit of a slow day but added a few new species. There were quite a few Cuban Treefrogs Osteopilus septentrionalis and Squirrel Treefrogs calling. Ticked off a few new birds including quite a few Red Shouldered Hawks Buteo lineatus.
 Anhinga
 Cuban Treefrog

 Alligator
 Green Anole
 Everglade Sawgrass Habitat
 Red Shouldered Hawk

Red Winged Blackbird

Day 5 NAPLES
The first herp of the day was a bit sad a very recent (ie car that passed us a few minutes earlier)  dor Island Glass Lizard Ophisaurus compressus one of these was high on my wish list. However things picked up with a large Gopher Tortoise Gopherus polyphemus which I wasn't expecting to see out in the high temperatures.
 Island Glass Lizard

 Gopher Tortoise



 Anhinga
 Great White Egret
 Juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk
A Turkey Vulture closely inspects 2 Englishmen getting poached alive whilst having the blood sucked out of them by flying devils.

Day 6 NAPLES to FLORIDA CITY
Richard just had half a day left at his conference before picking him up a little scoot around revealed a nice Loggerhead Shrike Lanius ludovicianus. We started to walk down another trail but we were quickly beaten back to the car by a plethera of mosquitos. So we drove to a more open area, a walk around here revealed a few birds but driving back out a nice Corn Snake Elaphe guttata was moving across the road. We then picked Richard up and headed across to Florida City through an almighty thunder storm. A bite to eat at a trusy Burger King and out came the sun.

Loggerhead Shrike
 Red Bellied Woodpecker
Corn Snake
In the evening I decided to do a drive along roads just before and after sunset. I think my non-herping friends enjoyed this activty, spotting many stick snakes etc. On the first road was a dor Eastern DiamondBack Rattlesnake Crotalus adamanteus already down to bones. Just after dark I found a lovely Yellow Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata. This was followed by a large Corn Snake which constantly struck out at me despite me rescuing it from an oncoming car (ungrateful ****). As it got darker many amphibians came out including Southern Toads Anaxyrus terrestris, Green Treefrog Hyla cinerea, and Pig Frog Rana grylio.

2 different Southern Toads

Yellow Rat Snake

Big Fiery Corn Snake no 2

Day 7 EVERGLADES proper 
Today we went down into the National Park I was hoping to see some American Crocodiles Crocodylus acutus. However first up was the amphibian that was top of my wish list finding 3 Eastern Narrow mouthed Toads Gastrophryne carolinensis and a Marine/Cane Toad Rhinella marina. Southern Florida is the only place where both Alligators and crocs can be seen together however the crocs tend to be in saltwater and the gators in fresh water. We weren't to be disappointed and spotted 3 with one very big individual coming in close. We also saw a Manatee Trichechus manatus, numerous Ospreys and a lovely Swallow Tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus.

Little Green Heron
Marine/Cane Toad
Narrowmouth no 1
Narrowmouth no 2
Narrowmouth no 3
Above First Croc and below Second bigger one


Ospreys

A small and a large Florida Softshell

Above and Below Swallow tailed Kite

Manatee
Another night drive in the evening revealed another Yellow Rat Snake and I managed to photograph some frogs that had shot off the previous night.
 Common Nighthawk
 Cuban treefrog
 Pig Frog
 Yellow Rat Snake



THE LAST DAY and a HALF
I added Florida Redbelly Turtle Pseudemys nelsoni to my growing list but not a lot else during the day. That night I finally found a Florida Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti which was in my top 3 snakes to see list and the usual bunch of frogs and toads. The last new species of the trip was a Florida Box Turtle Terrapene carolina bauri.

 Florida Redbelly Turtle
Green Treefrog
 Southern Leopard Frog
 Alligator
 Juvenile Alligator
 Cottonmouth

 Florida box Turtle
 Mockingbird
Black Bellied Whistling Ducks

Species List Reptiles and Amphibians

Southern Leopard Frog Rana utricularia
Pig Frog Rana grylio
Green Treefrog Hyla cinerea
Squirrel Treefrog Hyla squirella
Cuban Treefrog Osteopilus septentrionalis *
Southern Toad Anaxyrus terrestris
Marine/Cane Toad Rhinella marina *
Eastern Narrow mouthed Toad Gastrophryne carolinensis
Alligator Alligator mississippiensis
 American Crocodile Crocodylus acutus
Florida Box Turtle Terrapene carolina bauri
Gopher Tortoise Gopherus polyphemus
Florida Redbelly Turtle Pseudemys nelsoni
 Florida Softshell Apalone ferox
Giant Amieva Amieva amieva *
Puerto Rican Crested Anole Anolis cristatellus *
Brown Anole Anolis sagrei *
Green Anole Anolis carolinensis
Gray's Spiny Tailed Iguana Ctenosaura similis *
Green Iguana Iguana iguana *
Wood Slave Hemidactylus mabouia *
Island Glass Lizard Ophisaurus compressus dor
Brahiminy Blindsnake Ramphotyphlops braminus *
Yellow Rat Snake Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata
Corn Snake Elaphe guttata
Florida Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti
Eastern DiamondBack Rattlesnake Crotalus adamanteus dor

* = introduced/non native species

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