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."


Some cool Florida herps

Sarah and I have been pretty busy so far, but I've gotten to see some neat things already without spending much time or effort on it.

Juvenile Southern Black Racer

Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake

Juvenile Eastern Cottonmouth

Southeastern Slimy Salamander

Southern Toad

Florida Bog Frog (one of the species I'll be working with on Eglin Airforce Base)