Good Good Friday Herping the Muck
A group of us had Good Friday off, an excuse to herp the muckfields (= canefields) to the southwest of Lake Okeechobee, Florida. Several of the six had never been herping there before, so the day trip was a three vets and three 'invitees' kind of hunt. Here's a typical view of a canal bordering a farm road in the canefields. The brushy banks are like travel corridors for kings, yellow / Glades rats, garters, water snakes, etc.
Still in tin flipping mode from a couple weeks ago, we hit a delapidated structure first. It yielded an early prize.
.... and some of the things it probably eats.
Aha - a gravid female! The lizard, not Jenn. 'Her' two eggs are visible through the belly skin. Wait a sec - they're all gravid females, eventually. Indo-Pacific geckos are hermaphroditic in their reproduction; no guys needed.
We checked inside and outside this old worker camp where Lisa took to trash flipping like a pro. The AC there looked fantastic, but the yield was mostly small saurians.
Large male brown anole and southeastern five-lined skink. Both species were abundant on and under human debris.
There may have been a yellow rat hiding in this next piece of 'AC' evidenced by the telltale shed, but not even the guys with gloves were willing to dig around looking for it.
SJ and Mudsnake6 had to work for these racers, mainly because they were hoping for a king, yellow rat or anerythristic corn under the roofing they had to dig out to get these.
Gloves are especially nice for handling AC, fending off bites (which can accumulate on a good day herping), and this.....
We worked our way south hitting our known good spots to impress our new herping pals and gals. One of them saw this and remarked that it looked worth checking (after seeing the other assorted junk we were seeking). We explained why we'd pass on it, possibly coining a new acronym for the forum --- it was "TMGT" (= Too Much of a Good Thing).
Matt (from Alberta, Canada), new to herping Lake O, wanted to find a Florida king snake most of all after one was displayed at the Calusa Herp. Society meeting in Ft. Myers the evening before. We invited him to tag along with us for an introduction to the region, which he's very glad he did. He earned this chunky male by digging out a hole that looked promising.
SJ and Jenn photographed the catch since Matt forgot his camera. That's "Old 27" south of "Florida's Sweetest Town" in the background - I don't think that's giving away much in the way of a 'secret' herp hotspot locality anymore.
SJ plucked a stinkpot musk from the canal's shallow edge. This is a relative rarity compared to striped and FL mud turtles.
Lisa shows where juvenile yellow / Glades rats like to hang out. Too bad there seems to be an assault on the row of Australian pines (Casuarina sp.) that used to line most of that roadway. A goodly bit of it has succumbed to the chainsaw lately, the reason not being obvious because scattered stretches were left alone.
The 2nd Florida king of the day was a 2-footer, and it owes its life to us. It was hopelessly snagged in the black nylon netting that once held discarded rubber carpet padding together. It had apparently tried to eat a ribbon snake that was also stuck, partially swallowing the ribbon and some netting in the process. The ribbon was dead already, as this thoroughly entangled fellow would have been too. SJ and Jenn spent 15 minutes carefully freeing it.
An adult peninsula cooter from the adjacent canal sported several leeches. Water levels are extremely low in the canefields right now.
The last find of the afternoon was perhaps the most startling..... Someone must be running around in the cane without their ultra-cool, faux reticulated python skin pants.