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).