Thursday, 22 August 2019

Everybody's goin' herping, herping USA part 1

Danger Noodle
This is the first of my blogs on my holiday from Florida. One of my main aims was to see some of the interesting herpetofauna of Southern Florida during the second half of the trip and a reasonable amount of research on species, locations and techniques (I am a very green field herper) put me in reasonable confidence that I would be able to catch up with some stuff and as you can see I did ok. A few thank yous need to be given at this stage, to my mates Paul and Neil Rowntree who gave me loads of stellar advice including books, locations and answered all the stupid questions I had. Be sure to check out Neil's blog - linked above for their epic trips. Also unknowingly helping me was Noah from NFKHerping who through watching his videos gave me loads of info on field skills in nearby Georgia and how to go about actual herping. You should watch his videos and subscribe to his channel if you like snakes. I purchased a couple of books, the Peterson Guide to Herpetiles of the Eastern States and Bartlett's Snakes of Florida. Both proved invaluable although the taxonomy in the latter is a little outdated and they both undersell the extent of non-natives in Florida.

Tropical House Gecko Hemidactylus mabouia
We spent seven nights at Disneyworld, Florida staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Here there were a plethora of non-native Brown Anoles Anolis sagrei which were in all habitats during daylight hours. Large numbers were seen particularly in Animal Kingdom and Epcot. On our second full day we found a Florida Softshell Turtle Apalone ferox swimming merrily round the ornamental ponds of Epcot. This wasnt our last softshell sighting. The only other confirmed reptile sighting from Disney (despite many 'gator' sightings from the bus by my kids) was a dead Southern Ring-necked Snake Diadophis punctatus punctatus which had seemingly been freshly stamped on at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was of course extremely disappointed by this.

Brown Anole (juvenile)
Southern Ring-necked Snake (dead)

Southern Ring-necked Snake (dead)
 A 300 mile trip south to Key Largo from Disney opened up new herping opportunities but still omnipresent were the Brown Anoles and now they were joined by Northern Curly-tailed Lizards Leiocephalus carinatus and Green Iguanas Iguana iguana. All three species occurred in the Hotel Grounds. At this point I had seen four species of lizard and all were non-native. Part 2 will follow shortly and it is juicy!

Green Iguana
Northern Curly-tailed Lizard

How brains and birds become mutually exclusive