A place to call home.

We've had some requests for pictures of our apartment, so we thought we'd indulge. It's a teeny little place, but it's affordable and we've really grown to love it--especially being so near the water. We hope these photos give you a good idea of what it's like, inside and out. And we hope as many of you can see it in person as possible. Until then...enjoy!

First things first...Our "water view."

We know, it's just a sliver, but it's still nice to walk out our front door, or look through our bedroom window and see the sunlight sparkling on the water. This is actually the Choctawhatchee Bay, not the Gulf.

This little inlet from the bay is on the East side of our apartment. The picture is taken from our balcony. (We commonly see Belted Kingfishers, Osprey, Common Loons, Horned Grebes, Double-crested Cormorants, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, and Brown Pelicans in this inlet-KJ)

This is our living room. The bookshelves along the wall were here when we moved in...we supplied the books! :) (And Christmas lights!)

The reading nook.

Looking at the dining area from the living area. We have a vaulted ceiling with a skylight, which is pretty cool, although you can't see it in this picture. We recently re-upholstered the dining chairs, and we were super happy to find a rug that matched the new colors perfectly!

Our teeny tiny little kitchen. One nice thing, which you can't see from this photo, is that the right side of the kitchen opens into the living area, so it's easy to be working in the kitchen and conversing with people in the living room.

It wouldn't be Florida without beautiful sunsets. This series of photos was taken in a half-hour time span on the bay just out from our apartment.


Winter breeders in pine flatwoods

Last night, I spent a few hours in some flatwoods ponds after a much needed day of rain. I was pleasantly surprised to find eight herp species, with five that were actively calling. The two frog species below were new species for me.

Ornate Chorus Frog (in brown phase; this was the only Ornate Chorus Frog I heard all night, and it took a long time to track him down)

Southern Chorus Frog (Pseudacris nigrita)

Cottonmouth (out of water on a cool night made this a pretty docile snake)


Marine creatures

Living next to salt water, you never know what you'll see when you take a look into the water.

This is one of probably thousands of Ragged Sea Hares (Bursatella leachi) that have been grazing on algae in the water outside our place. This one was medium sized, and it was between 4 and 5 inches long. This is a gastropod molusk, and it moved pretty much like a huge snail without a shell.

These are Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris). They are relatively solid and strong swimming for a jellyfish. This species is apparently quite common at times, but is not to be feared, as it has no stinging capabilities.


Thanksgiving in the land of Hoosiers!

Sarah and I had a great time with family and friends in Indiana. It's always uplifting to spend time with such great people that care more about us than we deserve. As a major bonus for me, my friend Ben and I joined some folks who capture and band Northern Saw-whet Owls (Aegolius acadicus) as they migrate south into Indiana during the winter. I had never seen this owl species before, so it was a fantastic treat for me when we caught three owls! I got to hold and release two of them after they had been banded, aged, and sexed. They were soft and cute, and I kissed one on the head (lucky owl).



My first Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). I've been looking forward to this for a long time. I got the whole rattle threat display and everything. You can hear it on the video. It was great! It was as fat around as the thickest part of my forearm (not exactly popeye, but still...). Below is the diamondback's little cousin, the Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri). These heavily persecuted species elicit fear in many people, which I think leads to the hatred. They certainly deserve a fearful type of respect, but they don't really want to bite people much more than people want to get bitten. The whole point of the rattle is to give us the option of avoiding conflict.


Fall Salamanders in Virginia

I had a meeting in Virginia, so I went a day early to go poke around for salamanders and see the beautiful fall colors that are lacking in Florida.

This is a Peaks of Otter Salamander (Plethodon hubrichti). Its entire range is limited to the small Peaks of Otter region of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There was a good deal of variation across individuals that I found, but they all had the nice brassy flecks on their dorsum (top).

This is one of the most common and widespread salamanders in the eastern US. The Redback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus) is aptly named, although some individuals lack any red coloration altogether.

This beauty is a Northern Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber ruber). It's the northern subspecies of the red salamander in the photo from my last post. The intensity of their coloration fades in older individuals, but they sure are striking at this age.

This is a Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera).

This is a Northern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus fuscus).


More fun herps

Our friend Brendan visited from Texas this weekend, and we had a pretty productive time herping. All told, we observed about 15 species of amphibians and reptiles. I've included the two new species for me first, followed by a few other highlights.

This is the first and smaller of two Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) that we found in conveniently clear water. Their size is intimidating, but they are far less "snappy" than their smaller cousin, the Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina).

This is a Southern Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber vioscai). We found four under logs in a wet lowland area.

Above is a Florida Bog Frog (Rana okaloosae), and below is a young Banded Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata fasciata). These watersnakes are commonly seen in bog frog habitat, and are a known predator of that species.

I was pleasantly surprised to see some Eastern Spadefoot Toads (Scaphiopus holbrookii holbrookii) on the roads. This species is an explosive breeder that typically remains underground except on nights immediately following or during heavy rains. They get right down to business, and their larvae develop quickly in ephemeral pools of water. Apart from their interesting natural history, I think they just look really unique with that face and those huge eyes.

For those of you that don't know, Sarah has a real knack for seeing cryptic animals, whether it's a Least Bittern hiding in the reeds 150 m away, or this tiny juvenile Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) whose head could fit in a drinking straw, and whose body is clearly even thinner.


Unto us a neice is born...

...and her name shall be called Rowan Olivia.

We're so excited to welcome this beautiful, talented, smart, and spunky little girl into the Jones family! Congratulations Alex & Megan!


Recent herps

Sarah and I went out to check nests with an endangered species biologist who works on sea turtles. Unfortunately the photo quality is poor, but we had to share with the world that we got to see baby sea turtles.

In total, we got to see nine hatchling Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas), and Sarah got to turtlesit while we were recording data. It might sound easy, but you can't really hold onto nine at a time, and they just got faster and faster.

A couple of days ago, I was happy to see my first Florida Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus). It was a pretty young one, so its markings were relatively well defined.

In this photo, you can see how the markings go from being clearly defined near the tail, to being very vague and indistinct toward the head. It isn't because of that part of the body being over the tire mark.


The Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Since most of my job here in Florida focuses on Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (Picoides borealis), I figured I might as well put up some photos. We band a segment of our population because it allows us to answer some important questions that we could only make assumptions about if we couldn't relocate known individuals. Also, one of our management strategies involves moving young individuals from highly successful groups in densely populated areas to areas that are currently unoccupied by the woodpeckers. All of that said, we have to catch the birds to band them, and that gives me the special privilege of seeing the birds up close and taking some close-up photos.

This is a male showing the red "cockade," which was historically a term that referred to a special type of ornament worn on the side of a fancy hat. With rare exception, only the males have the red patch on their heads, and it's usually covered up by black feathers. They usually reveal it when trying to show off what an impressive male they are... or when they're pissed off because someone is holding them.

This one might be a little hard to see unless you enlarge the photo, but it shows the nets we use to put up to the woodpecker hole to catch them as they fly out. Sometimes getting the net up there before they fly out is the trick; other times getting them to fly out at all is the trick.

If you know the size of my head, then this photo will give you an idea of how large/small the woodpeckers are.


Spear fishing

Spear fishing has been my most recent hobby addition. I dig it. I'm not very good yet, but some fish take less skill to shoot than others, so I don't have to be a pro to eat. So far, I've made fried fish, lots of fish tacos, and Indian fish curry with roasted local chestnuts added. This photo is from last week when I went with a couple guys that I've met that are good at this. I shot two of the spade fish (the silvery, long-finned ones). Tonight, we'll be eating fresh snapper shot in the bay out from our apartment (this statement only applies to the day I'm posting this, and hopefully many other random nights).


Little Metalmark

I recently went out into the field with a neat woman who does a lot of work on butterflies in this area. I got to see some local rarities, along with what is apparently not rare in these parts, Little Metalmarks (Calephelis virginiensis). I love metalmarks, which are really pretty tiny, especially the "little" ones. Click here to see some photos that do better service to the silvery markings on their wings for which they get their name.


Life in the Sunshine State

Well, it's official. I have a Florida license plate on my car, a FL driver's license in my wallet, and I'm officially registered to vote in the country's most populous swing state!

Don't be fooled, though. I am still a Midwesterner, and it shows. I wear capris when it's 95 degrees and 70% humidity outside, and I bring my zip-up hoodie sweatshirt with me everywhere I go just hoping for an excuse to wear it--which there frequently is, since every building is over air-conditioned to compensate for the boiling temps outside. I have to ask people to repeat themselves--and vice versa--since I'm still not used to the Southern drawl (of course, it's *me* that has the accent and talks too fast, according to the locals), and since I'm not willing to get skin cancer just because I changed my zip code, I'm as fair-skinned as ever, and will probably stay that way.

We have been enjoying the Southern hospitality, though--everyone we've met has been extraordinarily friendly and welcoming. Kelly has already caught fresh fish for dinner off our pier (snapper!), and he's anxious to put his scuba certification to good use as well. We take walks on the beach at night and have a hurricane-preparedness brochure stuck to our fridge. (Okay, not exactly, although during an extreme thunder storm that woke us up in the middle of the night about a week ago, I asked Kelly, "Do they have a hurricane siren here?" Which, of course they don't--another of my Midwestern "lost in translation" moments [I mean, come on, I'm used to hearing the practice tornado siren going off every Friday at 11:00 a.m.]. Since we don't have TV, either, we've asked our over-protective grandmother-ly neighbor to let us know if one is headed our way.)

The best part is strolling around our neighborhood in the evenings...which of course, brings us to scenes such as this:

We seriously feel like we take a mini-vacation whenever we go to the beach. It's easy to forget that we actually *live* here!


Some cool Florida arthropods

I know they get a bad rap, but when you take the time to get a good close look, "bugs" can be pretty awesome. Here are a few of my favorites from the past week or so. The grasshoppers get quite a bit of the attention here, and that's because they've been grabbing my attention lately.

Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes) Almost every time I see this species, there's a male and large (sometimes 4+ inches long including legs) female in the web together. I wonder if it's a seasonal thing. Their silk really is a golden color instead of white or cream.

male rhinoceros beetle (Strategus antaeus) Males of this impressive species use those huge "horns" on their thorax along with their strong legs to fight each other for mating rights.

Handsome Grasshopper (Syrbula admirabilis) A fitting name in my opinion.

female Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea guttata) This is a hulk of a grasshopper, with its width equal to that of my thumb.

unidentified grasshopper - Even if I can't figure out what someone named this thing 100 years ago, it's still an attractive enough animal to include here.

Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops) I've seen this species in other states, but I just really like hairstreaks. I mean, look at the black and white striped legs and antennae, along with the obvious cool wing markings when you blow up the photo. What is there not to like? As an interesting natural history note, the caterpillars of this species feed on dead and decaying leaves on the ground rather than living leaves that are still attached to the plant. Definitely not a "garden pest."