I've recently been enjoying seeing the unique blossoms of plants in the genus Polygala.

Candyroot (Polygala nana)

Orange Milkwort (Polygala lutea)

Chapman's Milkwort (Polygala chapmanii)

Hooker's Milkwort (Polygala hookeri)

Procession Flower (Polygala incarnata)

Tall Pinebarren Milkwort (Polygala cymosa)

Linear to lanceolate basal leaves of P. cymosa

Low Pinebarren Milkwort (Polygala ramosa)

Elliptic to spatulate basal leaves of P. ramosa

Drumheads (Polygala cruciata)

Littleleaf Milkwort (Polygala brevifolia)
Similar to Drumheads, but with longer peduncle, typically shorter leaves, and blunter wings on each flower.

Showy Milkwort (Polygala violacea)

Scalloped Milkwort (Polygala crenata)

Racemed Milkwort (Polygala polygama)

Do scales and no legs always = snake?

No. There are a number of lizards with no legs (represented in North America by some members of the families Anguidae and Anniellidae, glass lizards and legless lizards, respectively), which are often mistaken for snakes. This confusion sometimes results in the stomping of these harmless lizards by highly sophisticated folks who think that "the only good snake is a dead snake" in their crusade to rid the land of the evil serpents, and other people simply miss an opportunity to recognize and appreciate a beautiful and unique lizard.

Here are a couple glass lizards, followed by some neat snakes I've recently found:

Subadult Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis)
In this photo, one can see the external ear opening just behind the jaw, which is one of the visible characteristics that distinguish a lizard from a snake.

Adult Eastern Glass Lizard

A new form of this species for me - "Yellow" Eastern Rat Snake (Scotophis alleghaniensis)

North Florida Black Swamp Snake (Seminatrix pygaea pygaea) almost ready to shed (notice the cloudy eyes)

Black Swamp Snake - with brightly-colored belly showing

A new species for me - Florida Green Water Snake (Nerodia floridana)


Of things with slimy skin

Love is in the air for summer breeding amphibians.

Amplexed pair of Pine Woods Treefrogs (Hyla femoralis)

Amplexed pair of Barking Treefrogs (Hyla gratiosa)

Amplexed pair of Squirrel Treefrogs (Hyla squirella)

Amplexed pair of Eastern Narrowmouth Toads (Gastrophryne carolinensis)

Not to be confused with a love struck pair, this photo is for anyone who in hopes of seeing an Oak Toad (Anaxyrus quercicus) tried to make a juvenile Southern Toad (Anaxyrus terrestris) into an Oak Toad. Though potentially confusing, the Oak Toad (left) will always have a well defined mid-dorsal light stripe, whereas the juvenile Southern Toad (right) will have a low contrast, poorly defined mid-dorsal stripe, often with dark "warts" breaking the stripe. There are other helpful characteristics, but this alone will do the trick.

Calling male Oak Toad

Recent metamorph Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii)

Adult Eastern Spadefoot Toad

A new one for me and North America's smallest frog (they're tiny!)
Little Grass Frog (Pseudacris ocularis)

A new subspecies for me
Florida Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus sphenocephalus)

Also new for me - larval Striped Newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus)

Calling male Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)

My favorite - young Pine Barrens Treefrog (Hyla andersonii) staying on the outskirts of where the big males were calling

Adult male Pine Barrens Treefrog

This video is pretty funny, with the male's calls shaking his whole perch.

Turtles, old and young

Old adult Gulf Coast Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina major)
I think this is the oldest looking one I've ever seen.

Juvenile Florida Cooter (Pseudemys floridana)
Their markings never look better than when they're young like this.

Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macroclemys temminckii)

Me holding the same turtle for scale. They get much larger than this, but to me this is still a large turtle.

Yellowbelly Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta)


Some of Florida's aquatic salamanders

I've recently spent some effort searching for sirens (only have two front legs, which are large enough to be functional, and have obvious external gills) and amphiumas (have all four legs, but legs are tiny vestigial structures which are essentially non-functional, and have gill slits instead of obvious external gills), both of which are eel-like salamanders that spend most of their time in water and mud. Because of their habitat preferences, they aren't something I would likely see without going out of my way. They're also not the easiest to get natural looking photos of, unless you have an underwater camera, or a clear-sided container to photograph through. Not sure these are all that enjoyable to look at, but they sure were neat to find and see.

Greater Siren (Siren lacertina)
These babies can grow to over three feet in length, and get pretty bulky as well. They can filter small invertebrates from soft substrates, and they will opportunistically grab any larger organisms that will fit in their mouths.


baby and adult


Two-toed Amphiuma (Amphiuma means)
These toothy predators can reach a length of nearly four feet! They will sometimes sit with only their heads sticking out of the mud, waiting for prey to come close enough to grab, and other times will actively wander around in search of prey. They will eat any animal that they can hold on to and swallow, which includes a lot of things. They have all four legs, but they are tiny, and of course include two toes per foot.

Narrow-striped Dwarf Siren (Pseudobranchus axanthus axanthus)
Last and least, these sirens are tiny in comparison to the previous two species mentioned. These sirens eat tiny aquatic invertebrates.


Special Birds

Here are some memorable birds I've seen lately.

We found this unfortunate Common Loon (Gavia immer) lying on the beach. Some of the loons that winter down here end up dying for various reasons. Some of them, like this one, seem to get weak and don't feed as well, and end up washing up on the beach where they die. This one probably hadn't been doing well for quite some time, as it should've molted into breeding plumage over a month ago. We gave it to a rehab center. Sometimes they make it. Sometimes they don't.

While our friends Ben and Joy were visiting, we got to see some Burrowing Owls, which have an isolated population on Eglin Air Force Base on the bombing ranges.

Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) have chewed through the fuel lines on two of our work trucks to sharpen their teeth. This Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) made sure that this individual wouldn't be doing that again. I actually like watching the squirrels, but also don't mind nature taking it's course like this.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go see this Greater Sand-plover (Charadrius leschenaultii) that showed up near Jacksonville, FL at Huguenot Memorial Park for 12 days (he's the one alone next to the water in the middle). Below, you can get an idea of how people were "flocking" to see the bird. This is only the second time this species has been recorded in the Western Hemisphere. It was neat to see him catching fiddler crabs (probably Uca pugnax) and eating them.