|Banded Water Snake|
Apologies for the glut of swearing early on. It was an extremely visceral and exciting experience finding a snake that big! In an effort for chronology I will start at the beginning.
Prior to heading to the Everglades the only native reptiles I had seen were a couple of Florida Softshell turtles. I had been in the Keys for a day before I sought to explore. I headed straight for the Anhinga Trail within the park, a couple of miles west from the gate. Immediately on arrival there were Brown Anoles everywhere along with giant Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers. Out on the pool were two American Alligators. I was the first person on the trail and was alone with these two giants. A third gator bellowed out in the sawgrass beyond the pool unseen. The smaller animal hauled out by the path providing a nervous obstacle to navigate. I breathed in and moved past it on the other side of the path.
|The first gator hauled out.|
|Green Anole flashing a bit of dewlap.|
I returned to the park road in the evening determined to try and add some snakes. A number of Southern Toads and dreaded Cane Toads were seen on the road in plus two freshly killed Yellow Rat Snakes. I cruised at 20mph to prevent myself from squashing the targets (and it was the lowest speed the cruise control dropped to).
I turned back towards the Anhinga trail and about half a mile along there was a speed bump on my lane. No, it was moving. It was an enormous snake. My first live snake of the trip and it was a monster, the invasive Burmese Python. It ran from the centre of the road to the margin, 2.5-3 metres in length. Not the fattest of specimens and not enormous but to me outrageous. Mixed feelings about the status of these reptiles contested and lost to the awesome animal I watched slowly making its way into the verge. My sweary bit of video isnt good but it shows the moment for posterity. I had been told not to mess with these guys if they are over 2.5m due to the risk of being overpowered (and the nasty bite they possess).
After this I cruised towards Pinelands and was greeted by a beautiful juvenile Florida Cottonmouth on the road. A real diddly job this guy was loving the warmth from the blacktop. I managed some terrible photo before a fake strike had me retreating. A Great Horned Owl at the turn was awesome in the headlights before sallying off into the mosquito filled darkness. The return failed to unearth more snakes but I did find a Southern Leopard Frog amongst numerous Cane and Southern Toads.
|Florida Cottonmouth juvenile. Ive managed to cut the yellow tail off.|
|Southern Leopard Frog|
|Hatchling Florida Softshell|
|Florida Banded Watersnake|
We called it a night as both of us tired and I kept confusing pine needles for herps. An excellent way to round off a great introduction to herping in North America and I definitely have a sidekick for future missions.