Herping Weekend, late April 2010....
Myself, Chris Ivins, and his son Garrett spent April 23 Ė 25 participating in the fieldherping weekend organized by the Southeast Chapter of the North American Field Herping Association (NAFHA). The destination was the Apalachicola National Forest (ANF) in the Florida Panhandle between Tallahassee and Panama City Beach. At least 20 people came, and there may have been half again as many more who I didnít meet. Most of us simply wandered in and out of camp at various times to road-cruise or hike. Some brought their finds back to show and photograph. Between everyone, the species list was impressive. This travelogue mostly chronicles our own finds, but I slipped in a few herps found by others too.
The meeting site was Camel Lake campground in the northwestern portion of the ANF. The actual lake....
....and Chris and Garrett
at our camp site, one of only about 10 camping spots there in the turkey oak and pine
woods. The dry woodland 'comfort' portrayed in this shot is
deceiving. It thunderstormed all night Saturday to let some of us enjoy a
little taste of aquatic environment inside our tents by morning.
The dry woodland 'comfort' portrayed in this shot is deceiving. It thunderstormed all night Saturday to let some of us enjoy a little taste of aquatic environment inside our tents by morning.
Many of the 100s of miles of well-maintained forest roads were scraped clean sand from edge to edge, but others are just "two-tracks" like this.
We spent the majority of
our time in hell, uh, Tate's Hell, that is.
There was no sign of poor ol' Tate....
Typical roadside ditch
down in hell....
....and the banded water snake, Nerodia fasciata fasciata lurking in the lily pads at the bottom of the shot above.
This gentleman already had a sack full of catfish and bluegills when we stopped to see what was biting....
River frogs Rana hecksheri were common in that habitat, especially on the roads at night. BTW, Conant & Collins' 1998 version of the Peterson Field Guide for Reptiles & Amphibians of the Eastern / Central United States definitely has a faux pas on its range map for this species; they don't occur throughout the peninsula of Florida as it shows.
Those same ditches were home to a healthy population of water moccasins Agkistrodon p. piscivorus too, which were more evident at night....
That 2nd one (directly above) is a brown water snake Nerodia taxispilota, of course. You didn't assume it was another moccasin like many folks would have, did you? This one was basking along a ditch at the very nice Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk in the southern part of Tate's Hell.
So was this sub-adult alligator. That day (April 24th) was an ideal weather day for photography - bright, hazy light filtering through light cloud cover that allowed for nicer natural light photos than is possible on extremely sunny days.
This Pig frog Rana grylio was also there hanging out. I added a little fill flash on this one....
Cruising the forest roads was a relaxing experience, except for those sneaky pine trees that purposely try to fool you by dropping their cones on the road to resemble box turtles. We caught this one in the act....
It messes with your mind sometimes when you crawl up to one only to find it's this....
...instead of this....
If anyone knows how to make one of those cool transitioning .gif images that fades from the pine cone to the box turtle over 3 - 5 seconds, I'd sure appreciate it if you'd tackle it on these two pics. That was the whole reason I took these two shots in the same position, forgetting that I didn't actually know how to do that (yet).
Garrett, though, wasn't fooled for one second by that handsome, virtually solid black, adult male Gulf Coast box turtle Terrapene carolina major.
It was released later where it demonstrated its fondness for a partially aquatic lifestyle.
Here's another more prominently-marked female box turtle from near the campground, with a small swarm of mosquitoes on board for the ride.
On the way back to camp on Saturday afternoon, we came upon this odd sight. The photo is in-situ --- exactly as we found it. Chris posed to fill in the imagined scene as it might have looked an hour before we got there. In reality, the redneck that did this probably used a shovel, not a pocket knife. We found the severed front half of the juvenile eastern diamondback Crotalus adamanteus on a fire ant mound about 30 feet away closer to the woods. Hmmmmm??? We figured maybe it was laid over there to let the ants clean it out for a skull souvenir of the great conquest. The caption is more based on my own past experiences with good 'ol boys and rattlesnakes in the field in general.
One of the gang did find a healthy EDB Crotalus adamanteus, but this is the only pic I managed of it.
Down near Carrabelle near the Gulf of Mexico, salt marsh creeks invade the pine flatwoods. I suspect this is rainbow snake country, but none were seen live or dead.
Around dusk, we came around a bend and saw a group of obvious herpers kneeling in the roadside grass. It didn't take a rocket scientist to guess what was up, only what the find was. That's dydmd capturing its pixels below.
Then I took my turn at it.... a dusky pigmy rattler Sistrurus miliarius barbouri.
Back at camp, we cracked out the field guides to I.D. some salamanders; they were all three-lineds Eurycea longicauda guttolineata.
Our camp neighbors, drdanr (below in orange shirt) and his family, found a few things (corn, mud snake) that their kids had a blast carrying around as we snapped some pics....
This particular sub-adult corn snake Elaphe guttata guttata was an especially pretty one that DiamondbackDave found.
I also tested its vertical tree-climbing ability on a pine trunk. . . . It got an A+ !
DiamondbackDave showed us how to determine the sexes of a couple river frogs we picked up to photograph.
The female is above, the male (with the wider tympanum) is below.
Happy campers - diurnal version.
Happy campers - nocturnal version. * This is a logo-free copy for anyone to grab if they wish.
Feel free to fill in the numbers in any replies if you can I.D. them. HINT: Well-fed #9 is me.
One last shot: A cute little fuzzball found under a rock. Dydmd got my interest up in spiders, so this one's for him. OK, Daniel - what is it?
Thanks, everyone, for helping make it a totally enjoyable weekend !