A visit from a friend

This past week, our friend Kirk visited us from Indiana. It was great to see him, and being that he likes going out and finding interesting plants and animals as much as I do, we spent quite a bit of time doing that. As might be expected, we put special effort into finding herps. Here are some of the highlights:

Kirk holding adult Loggerhead Musk Turtles (Sternotherus minor), with male on left and female on right

Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) in burrow

Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)

Southern Black Racers (Coluber constrictor) copulating

Southern Coal Skink (Eumeces anthracinus) - this was an unexpected find and a lifer for me. We actually weren't herping at this point, but were actually helping my friend Mary Ann and Dr. Minno look for larvae of rare butterflies on food plants. We had pretty limited success with the leps, so this skink was a nice bonus instead.

Occasionally, we had to take a break and recharge. Not sure if this was more or less appropriate given our searching for things like frogs, but we enjoyed some excellent frog legs and BBQ at Doobie Brothers Barbecue in Bristol, FL.

One-toed Amphiuma (Amphiuma pholeter) - I've tried to find this species before, but without luck. My friend John came out with us to look for these, and luckily for Kirk and me, he ended up finding this one.

John also ended up finding this adult Reticulated Flatwoods Salamander (Ambystoma bishopi).

Eglin Ravine Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus cf. conanti)

Southeastern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon grobmani)

This was the first of a few calling male Florida Bog Frogs (Rana okaloosae) that Kirk spotted.

River Frog (Rana heckscheri)

An unusual find at this time of year, this young Ornate Chorus Frog (Pseudacris ornata) was out and about in the middle of the day.

Kirk and I were able to spend one fun but challenging evening looking almost exclusively for the seven species of treefrog that occur in the area. We succeeded in hearing and seeing all seven species in about four hours. Some were more or less challenging than others, with this Bird-voiced Treefrog (Hyla avivoca) being one of the more challenging to actually see. This may have been due in part to the water being deeper than our waders under most of the singing males. We ended up getting pretty soaked, and I was glad I had put my phone and camera in ziplock bags.

The Jewel of our treefrogs, in my opinion, this Pine Barrens Treefrog (Hyla andersonii) took a while to find, but was well worth the effort.

Though early in the season, we found evidence of breeding in a few spots. This egg mass is probably from Cope's Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis).

We didn't find as many snakes as expected, but we did find some other things while looking under large pieces of tin. This female Eastern Woodrat (Neotoma floridana) was one of a few that we found with babies spread out under different cover objects.

We spooked up this Hispid Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus) while walking around in a wet area.

It's that time of year when it isn't uncommon to see Swallow-tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus) flying around. This one was eating a large grasshopper on the wing.

This is a video of Pine Warblers (Dendroica pinus) bringing food to their nestlings. This was the first Pine Warbler nest I've found.

We saw many beautiful flowers, including this Florida Flame Azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) in full bloom.

Kirk spotted this Upland Spreading Pogonia (Cleistes bifaria), one of three orchid species we saw during the week.

Orchid #2 - Pale Grass Pink (Calopogon pallidus)

Orchid #3 - Rose pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides)

This lucky little Stone Crab's (Menippe mercenaria) claws were both too small for eating and it was returned to the water. We did get some large stone crabs later, as well as some large Blue Crabs (Callinectes sapidus) that were delicious in garlic butter and in crab omelets.

I'll add a link here soon to a list of the herp species we found during Kirk's visit.


My first Florida pompano

I've been wanting to catch Florida pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) since I first tasted one that I bought at a fish market shortly after moving to Florida. My friend Steve is quite the fisherman, and he's taken me out a few times to try for fish like pompano. I've also been trying to shoot a turkey during this Spring turkey season, but have been quite unsuccessful. I decided to give up a morning hunt to go pompano fishing, and it was definitely the right call. I was fortunate to catch not just one, but four pompano! I have to give Steve props for helping me get a feel for the pompano scene. I also have to give Mark Walker props for pointing me in the right direction on using small tackle. I just did what the experts told me to do, and the fish had no chance.

me with pompano (great to catch; great on the table)

Steve with pompano (the real pompano fisherman)


Interesting recent stuff - Strange Birds!

I've enjoyed some interesting birds recently. The first was a second-year female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) that was all black and white, missing it's red and yellow. My guess was that the bird was not incorporating any carotenoid pigments into its feathers, but I really don't know much about this sort of thing.

The second interesting bird was this American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) that followed me around in the woods while I was working for an hour and forty-five minutes, and for over half a mile from where it first found me. The video is somewhat long, but pretty interesting. You will need to have the volume up pretty high to hear the odd sounds the crow makes. This video is pretty representative of how the bird was acting around me for most of the time. I was dressed like a hunter, so my hypothesis is that the crow has ended up getting a pile of deer guts from the last person that looked like a hunter, so it thought it would get the same prize if it followed me around. That's just my guess.