by janson jones
Alas, summer is starting to wrap up, and fall quickly approaches! Of course, I’m speaking more from the academic-year perspective than the actual seasonal one. We still have plenty of hot, sunny days ahead in 2016, but you get my drift. The relative ease of summer is about to give way to the rambunctiousness of the 2016-2017 academic school year. I can’t wait. I’m not sure if this summer will go down as one of my most productive summers on the wildlife front, but there were certainly highlights and spectacles here and there. It’s time to get to them as we gear up for fall!
Featured here is a non-venomous Southern black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus, a fast, agile, and common subspecies ranging throughout much of the American southeast. This decently-sized racer was found yard-cruising around our home. Heh. Racers have adapted quite well to suburbia and human development. This is not a species to entirely shy away from human habitations.
As we’ve noted before on phosTracks, racers have wickedly sharp visual acuity; they often see you well before you see them. They’re also extraordinarily agile and fast. I like to pride myself in being pretty good at catching (up to) Racers, but it’s not quite as easy as it used to be. I’ve missed a few more in recent years than I care to admit… Fortunately, this wasn’t one of the racers who eluded me. I (barely) caught up to the snake as it bolted toward our neighbor’s yard.
This individual is quite representative of the typical Southern black racer. Deep, dark, and glossy black scales accented with the light l9wer-jaw, the brown nose, the golden eyes, and the blue-gray ventral scales. When you get closer to the beach, you may start to find lighter, grayer individuals (especially in Brevard county), but this one is Grade-A, classic Southern black racer. It even sported the matching temperament: feisty.
Racers may be common as hell in central Florida, but I never grow tired of them. I find them to be fantastically capable and clever snakes. Beautiful, too. Incredibly beautiful. Just look that face!
A few weeks back, we posted a series of photos featuring an absolutely gorgeous Jamaican giant anole, Anolis garmani. As noted before, this was one of my holy grail species — a species I had yet to find in south Florida until this particular day. Fortunately, as luck would have it, we actually managed to find and catch two of them! This post features images of the other not-so-giant Jamaican giant anole from South Miami, Florida, on 11 June 2016.
This particular individual was actually the first one we found and caught on June 11th. I can’t quite describe the elation I felt at the time. I am, of course, more than a little infatuated with anoles, and this is a difficult species to find in south Florida. Their populations aren’t as ubiquitous and widespread as other non-native species in the region, and what populations have been found have a tendency to disappear for a time — likely because of collectors raiding known spots. This is one reason I won’t be more specific about this location. “South Miami” is as specific as I want to be. Heh.
In the images below, you can see a variety of angles of this particular female Jamaican giant anole. You may notice the ready-to-shed facial scales disappear in later photographs. This is because James, our guide so to speak, carefully finished the job for the lizard as we worked with it. Heh.
Eric and I never got our hands on a confirmed male Jamaican giant anole during our excursion, but James sent us a pic of a male he found in the same area later that day. Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic. I mean, damn! Anolis garmani is one damn-fine looking species!
Writing this post nearly a month and a half later, I find myself craving another trip to South Florida. This particular trip was more bountiful than most, but every trip I’ve made down south has been exceptional in its own right. Still, for as many anoles as I have managed to study and photograph in South Florida, it’s never quite enough. To pull a quote out of context from U2 and/or the Bellamy Brothers, “Too much is not enough” when it comes to anoles!
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South Florida is, of course, a veritable madcap laughs of non-native flora and fauna; anything and/or everything goes with very little rhyme or reason in the frame of predictability. It just is what it is, a postmodern ecology of non-existent borders, an implosion or range map predictability, and an absolute hyper-fluidity of ecological communities and fluctuation. The Miami-Dade region is particularly absurd (and thus glorious) on this front, though most of the Floridian peninsula fits my fantastical description of postmodern ecology in one way or another. Heh. Anyhow, for an anole fan such as myself, Miami-Dade county is the place to be in the Sunshine State. Our lone native species, the Green anole (A. carolinensis), is most certainly not alone in south Florida.
All this extra competition can certainly give our native Carolina green anoles a run for their money. Cuban brown anoles (A. sagrei) and Puerto Rican crested anoles (A. cristatellus) challenge them from below. From above, Cuban knight anoles (A. equestris) and Jamaican giant anoles (A. garmani) vastly outmatch our modest Carolina greens. And yet another non-native anole species thrown into the mix is the Bark anole, Anolis distichus, featured here.
A diminutive and modest species, the Bark anole scratches out a living between the fray of the trunk-ground and crown-giant anoles. You’ll often find these small anoles quietly doing their best to blend into the bark patterns of local tree trunks. I like to think of their South Florida mindset and mantra as this: Do everything you can to just stay the hell out of the way. This is, you see, not one of the “bad ass” anole species. Whereas Cuban browns can be rather (let’s say) assertive from below while the Cuban knight anoles absolutely dominate the higher climes, the Bark anole simply scuttles around the commotion, quietly going about the business of survival and reproduction.
I suppose we could think of these Bark anoles as bad ass in this respect; they’re pretty damn good at surviving despite being the equivalent of a knife in a gunfight. Heh. Fast, agile, alert, and well camouflaged, Bark anoles have done quite well in parts of South Florida — despite all that glorious competition from damn near everywhere! And I didn’t even mention all the non-anole non-native species! Seriously, Bark anoles are extremely impressive in their own right, though they may not be as fantastically energetic or obvious as their lizard compatriots from damn near everywhere.
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Featured here are even more photographs of yet another Cuban knight anole (Anolis equestris) photographed in Miami-Dade county on 11 June 2016. As mentioned earlier (here and here), we managed to get our hands on five or so of these behemoth lizards in a short period of time (and that’s not counting the others we spied in the canopy above). So manic was the equestris activity, I actually have a hard time differentiating between the individuals in my photographs. No sooner did I start to wrap up with one lizard when we’d catch another. At one point, I decided to reshoot with some slightly different settings, which meant re-photographing earlier individuals with very little pause in between. It got confusing, especially when —at one point— we had three in hand at the same time (as exemplified by Eric below):
I’m usually quite organized in how I photograph wild organisms. I always try to keep reference blank shots in the series to later differentiate between individuals photographed in short succession. On this day, however, my brain was apparently somewhat distracted by all the equestris goodness (not to mention the two amazing Anolis garmani we also came across). It really did get quite confusing. So much equestris!
I have to say, though, that this is not a confusion I will complain about now. Heh. Those Knight anoles were amazing, amazing, amazing. I could work with them all day long and never get bored. What a tremendously sparky and rowdy species! And what an awesome form of confusion — to be wrapped up in writhing scales of emerald and lime!
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Tail loss is a common occurrence in the world of Anolis lizards. Anoles are readily capable of shedding and breaking off their own tail when it best serves them — such as when a predator is attacking or when two males are fighting. This tail loss is typically only temporary, however. Anoles are also quite capable of regrowing these lost tails. Sometimes, however, the comeback of the tail, if you will, can be a bit funky.
Featured here is a young Crested anole, Anolis cristatellus, with a forked tail. I’m not entirely sure how or why the forked-tail formed, but you can see that somewhere down the line, this young anole formed two ends to its singular tail. I’d be interested to know how long this forked tail persisted. I can’t imagine having a big prong of a tail was advantageous to the lizard. Anoles like this depend on being able to quickly and efficiently scuttle through the underbrush and branches of its habitat. I can’t imagine its large fork made this easier!
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Here’s a fairly classic set of American white ibis, Eudocimus albus. The ibis is rather common throughout peninsular Florida. If there’s water nearby, there are probably some ibis, too. And in Florida, you have to work pretty hard to get away from the water. This pair was particularly awesome, though. Just chilling out in the heart of Big Cypress National Preserve, biding their time above the slow-drift current of Sweetwater Strand, surrounded by American alligators from below and Spanish moss from above. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, if you ask me.
It only seems natural to follow last post’s Black-crowned night heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, with Florida other night heron species: The Yellow-crowned night heron, Nyctanassa violacea. More specifically, this is an immature Yellow-crowned night heron photographed in Lee county a number of years back. Yellow- and Black-crowned night herons are by no means rare, but they are seen far less frequently than most of their heron and egret brethren. It’s always a treat when I find one — especially when they’re moderately patient and let me get within camera-shooting distance.
phosTracks is an independent photography blog focused primarily on Floridian wildlife and ecology. All text and images on this blog were composed and are owned by Janson Jones (contact). You can filter posts by organism type or by location using the banner menu. All featured species are listed below. Finally, you can learn about the author and this blog at the About page. Thanks for dropping by!
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