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 Florida Trip!!

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Will Bird
Hatchling
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Number of posts : 9
Registration date : 2007-12-31

PostSubject: Florida Trip!!   Mon Dec 31, 2007 10:09 pm

Liz and I went down to Naples, Florida the day after Christmas for a vacation. The flights down were horrible as Liz vomited all over the place on both airplanes and in our taxi from Fort Meyers over to Naples. Believe it or not I actually went to the beach with her the following day!
I even convinced her to go road cruising with me on another day. That was a bad idea as the bumpy sand roads induced more vomit. It was a rough time...for Liz. Just kidding folks as it was rough for me too because I had to drive so slow and avoid potholes! Rolling Eyes

Well, after a good puke we resumed cruising and turned up the first snake of the trip and one of my targets. The common and lively Florida Cottonmouth.



This has to be a VERY common find in Florida but the cottonmouth is always a great find for me no matter where I am. This one was no exception as it coiled and gaped at me. It also tried to bite me several times. I like that too. I had no snake hook so I had to use a broken mangrove branch around ten inches long to manipulate the snake for photography. Seeing me work the snake in this manner induced Liz to vomit some more. You can envision the scene as I am trying to get pictures, keep from being bitten, and watching Liz puke out of the corner of my eye all at the same time! It was pretty nuts. In the end I settled for the less than perfect picture so that I could get back to Liz and calm her down.

The hunt continued from there and we soon found ourselves at this location:



What an interesting looking place. The last time I was here this was a vast canal streching as far as the eyes could see, but this area of Florida is going through a severe drought. Some of the local snake guys told me that of the hundreds of snakes they had seen this year only 6 or 7 had been cottonmouth and that this number was usually much higher. The low cottons this year were attributed to the drought. This particular place seemed to have been modified by humans as well though and I was surprised by its new look.
One nice thing about drought is that it concentrates some of the more aquatic wildlife. As I approached the spot above a giant Penninsula Cooter jumped into the water. I was unable to get a photo of it but did get a shot of this handsome creature. Once again, a very common animal in Florida but also one that I never tire of seeing!



This little Alligator was one of four that Liz and I observed that day. The largest was a seven footer that Liz and I got very close to. I had camera in hand and we quietly stalked the animal so I could get a good photo. Once I was about two feet away it jumped up and thrashed into the water. This violent explosion of energy elicited another puke session from Liz and she demanded that we leave for home right away! Getting home took several hours and was really horrible. The only other things I saw were these stupid birds(LOL). Honestly I do like to learn about Florida wildlife and would like to hear from some of you bird watchers as to what in the heck I have photographed! Looks like a pair, no?



All of this puking made me realize that I needed to leave the wife at the beach and hook up with some fellow snake hunters! I gave a shout out to my friend The MudSnake and we made arrangments to meet up. The MudSnake is a good judge of character and he thought it a good idea to invite this savage-looking snake hunter along!

Behold, The Ant Man!



I hit it off with this guy right away! Anyone with a mohawk and a t-shirt with a photograph of Adolf Hitler on it with a slogan like that one is an immediate hit with me. This is the type of look I had back in my teenage years before I learned about bib overalls! While there were introductions made they were not needed and we hit things off like long lost friends right off the bat. It was GREAT!! We were soon cruising around searching for Indigo snakes and telling all the great kind of stories that all us snake hunters get to tell when we are able to meet up and hunt together. I had seen some posts from The Ant Man before where he was finding all of these Burmese Pythons. I soon found out that this guy was much more than a python guy. He and The MudSnake gave me a much needed and enjoyed lesson on Florida snakes, their habits, their habitats, and much, much more.
As I mentioned before, our main target for the day were Indigo snakes. Sadly we failed to turn one up, but that is just the way it goes. After searching for cave region pine snakes with Phil Peak for over four years and only seeing one, I tend to have an understanding of what goes along with searching for "big game" species. The hunt itself was one of my favorites of all times and I knew we were in the game the whole time. The habitat was simply awesome and the guys continued to point out the places where they had seen Indigos in the past. At one point we even saw a burrow with a big thick Indigo trail going into it! It was awesome!
We did see plenty of these...around 8 if memory serves.



We also found this Yellow Rat Snake.



I know this is another common species but is another one that I really enjoy observing in the field. I really like noting variation among rat snakes and seeing this one where it was really perked my interest and The MudSnake's as well. I guess it is not an Indigo Snake, but being able to learn more about rat snake variation is fun stuff for me.

I can't stress enough how great it was to share the company of these two guys. Inbetween all the great Florida snake and habitat lessons were ample stories of another description. I found myself laughing and relating to these two like they were my long lost brothers. So many of our teenage life experiences were so similar and, well, colorful. I don't know if there is some weird natural sorting process going on or what, but I sure do feel comfortable when in the presence of other guys who share the same interest in the outdoors as I do and who also invariably have a life story similar to my own.

I will also be forever grateful to these guys for turning me on to this lifer!
A Coral Snake!



Unfortunately for me, the one that was found when I arrived was a DOR. Oddly, that snake was found early in the morning and had clearly just been hit. I always thought Coral Snakes were more nocturnal but perhaps when December rolls around conditions are such that they are able to sometimes move during the early hours of morning. I was lucky that The MudSnake had turned one up prior to my arrival and so I had the chance to photograph a live one. I was disturbed at how difficult it was to get this snake to co-operate for photography. I resorted to tailing the animal and using a stick to try and pose it. This did not work very well. I then grabbed a medium sized lid and tried to cup the snake and get it to coil. This is how I got the photo above, which I was not happy with. As I continued to struggle I found myself wanting to just grab the darn thing like a dang nigra and pose it into position with my hands!! It was at this moment that I decided to give it up and walk away. We gave it another try later and I found myself in the same position so I quit. I hope to one day find another Coral snake as the next time I will try to pose it on an even hard surface with a special tool I have in mind that I think will work for me.

Finally I will close this post up with three final photos and some final thoughts.
Basically, I felt honored to meet up with these two guys. They were kind enough to show me some parts of Florida I would never have seen without their help. I could tell that they had the same kind of love and appreciation for thier home State as I do for mine, and that was very nice indeed as it is not often encountered in my experience which I will admit is limited. Seeing as we share this type of passion it should be clear that we all have an interest in the things that are the most rare in our necks of the woods. Florida is a place I do study up on a little bit and I was familiar with some of the more rare lizards there. It was an honor to not only have the chance to break loose on a couple of these, but to also learn a new method for locating such creatures. The Ant Man and The MudSnake sure taught me a thing or two when they showed me how to locate this lizard!



Above is a BlueTail Mole Skink! This lizard is known from only two counties in Florida. As their name seems to imply, they generally have a blue tail but older specimens are known to also have a more salmon-colored tail like this one:



We found over ten of these lizards with little effort using the methods these guys showed me. I soon learned that these lizards are very hard to photograph. They not only never stop moving, but they also throw their tails at the slightest disturbance. In addition to this they also burrow constantly so you have to find a suitable place to work with them so that they will not get away, will not drop their tail, will not burrow, and will hold still for a second...WHEW!!! I consider my photos to be less than average but I could never have done so well without help from the experience of my two guides. I soon found that there was a lizard even tougher to find and photograph!!

Below is Neoseps reynoldsi, the Sand Skink!



This lizard is confined to a monotypic Genus with a range that is limited to a few Florida counties. I could not believe how difficult it was to get one in hand. These guys are just like small versions of the African Sandfish and are very hard for a novice like me to photograph. I was very happy with what I got considering the difficulty. In a perfect world I would have brought the front leg out and the head up, but it got dark and my body got worn out from the odd positions I had to put it in to photograph this lizard!

Finally I want to add this. It was an honor and a priveledge to meet up with these two guys and spend the day with them. They treated me like a King and I left knowing that I had two great friends, one of which I had met for the first time that very day. I left my mapbook in a car we did not hunt in. While I know the general area where we were I could not tell you were I was exactly and would not even dream of going back there unless I was with these guys. I am forever grateful for the chance to see some of Florida's rare creatures and saw just how imperiled some of these animals are along the way. I made a few common finds on my own but the great ones came only because I was with two of Florida's finest. Frankly the best part of the whole hunt was spending time with The MudSnake and The AntMan and these will be memories I will take all the way to my grave! Will
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BigJ69
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PostSubject: Re: Florida Trip!!   Mon Dec 31, 2007 10:13 pm

very cool will I think that you will have to help me out on taking pic.
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Will Bird
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PostSubject: Cool!   Tue Jan 01, 2008 8:28 pm

You got it Jason! What do you want me to take pictures of? Will
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pittbull
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PostSubject: Re: Florida Trip!!   Fri Jan 04, 2008 2:19 pm

very impressive will, great photos, crap i go to florida each year near tampa and i never think about the local reptiles i only go on fish hunts, but you have inspired me to check out the local reptiles now, which is usually lizards that i see, what are your thoughts on some locations in tampa were we stay at is near the manatee refuge with a family member close to desota beach..
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PeterVE
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PostSubject: Re: Florida Trip!!   Fri Jan 04, 2008 11:13 pm

Man,

I miss the days of long road trips. That one we took to florida years ago was awesome! I just remember that pigmy rattler that joel found. Those were the days!

Peter VE

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clifford
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Registration date : 2008-01-10

PostSubject: Re: Florida Trip!!   Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:13 am

nice pics will
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Will Bird
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PostSubject: Re: Florida Trip!!   Sat Jan 19, 2008 10:10 am

Hey pitbull,
There is a State Forest just off of I-75 north of Tampa that would probably be good for road cruising. It is Withlacooche or something in Lake county.If you are able to travel farther I would go to Ocala in the north of Lake Oheechobee in the south.
I remember that pigmie rattler very well Pete, but the time we could all go no further and had to stop at the truck stop was pretty funny, especially when Kamel got hit on by all those truckers! I tried to tell him about having a pierced tongue!!
Will
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pittbull
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PostSubject: Re: Florida Trip!!   Sat Jan 19, 2008 11:58 pm

thanks will, yeah i know were ocala is and i so want to go on a fish hunt in lake okeechobee that would be sweet, but i think we are skipping florida this year and doing the tennessee thing, gatlinburg and some aquarium trips, but we are gearing up for a big florida trip next year, later.. Cool
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