A Few of My Favorite Snakes: The Mangrove Salt Marsh Snake, Nerodia clarkii compressicauda

2011-07-09 at 13-36-52

Nerodia clarkii compressicauda, the Mangrove salt marsh snake, photographed in Monroe county, Florida (09 July 2011).

Continuing our glorious snake run, let’s turn back to the Floridian peninsula and check out this old favorite: a Nerodia clarkii compressicauda, the Mangrove salt marsh snake. A bit smaller than the inland watersnakes, the non-venomous Mangrove salt marsh snake scratches out its living just where the name implies — within and throughout coastal mangrove salt marshes.

I photographed this individual at No Name Key in the Florida Keys. As you can see from the blue-tinted eye, the snake was near ecdysis — the molting of its scales. If you look really closely, you can see me in the reflection of the eye, one arm outstretched with the snake, the other holding my camera. In the last decade, there have probably been more photographs of me reflected through snake eyes than straight-on shots. Heh.

~ janson

A Few of My Favorite Snakes: The Redbelly Watersnake, Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster

2012-03-28 at 13-51-23

Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster, the Redbelly watersnake, photographed in Lowndes county, Georgia (28 March 2012).

Originally, I planned to write up a big “Life Over The Hill” introspective post in celebration of my birthday, but, well, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. And the lifespan of Dust Tracks is smack-dab in the middle of a watersnake marathon right now. Who am I to stand in the way of Nerodia progress? So, with that in mind, let’s check out this lovely Redbelly watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster erythrogaster) photographed on the Valdosta State University campus in Lowndes county, Georgia.

My home turf is in Volusia county, Florida, on the north-central Atlantic coast of Florida. That’s where I (mostly) grew up and where I currently live. We have a good number of non-venomous Nerodia watersnakes in our area, but the Redbelly isn’t one of them. Truly, having access to Redbellies was one of my favorite parts of living in Valdosta, Georgia from 2011 through 2013. It’s one of the southeastern Nerodia species I simply didn’t have much experience with, and they weren’t really rare in Lowndes county.

Most of the Redbellies I’ve seen along the Gulf-side of Florida and in southern Georgia have been significantly smaller than the typical Browns, Florida greens, and Florida bandeds I’ve come across over the years in Florida. They apparently can average upwards from three to four feet in length, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any above three and a half, if even that.

This individual was caught and photographed in a small creek on the Valdosta State campus. The creek was one of my favorite haunts on campus; it served as home to a number of Redbelly and Banded watersnakes, as well as the random Southern black racer and Gray rat snake. More than once, I had to mentally check myself to not go diving after a snake into the creek just before class… Heh.

Note: This image has been touched up a bit more than usual. Colors were somewhat enhanced, and I also played a bit with blurring the borders. I had fun with this one!

~ janson

A Few of My Favorite Snakes: The Diamondback Watersnake, Nerodia rhombifer

2007-07-07 at 11-56-17

Nerodia rhombifer, the Diamondback watersnake, photographed in Cleveland county, Oklahoma (07 July 2007).

Since we seem to have drifted into Nerodia-mode at the beginning of our little flashback snake series, let’s check out a fourth species of North American watersnake — The Diamondback watersnake, Nerodia rhombiferThough entirely non-venomous, the Diamondback watersnake is –in my opinion– a towering can of kick ass. Robust, large, powerful, and heavily scaled, the Diamondback watersnake dominates its watery habitats throughout the central stretches of the United States.

As a kid in Oklahoma (5-7 grade), I adored this species beyond reason. They didn’t quite adore me back, however. Indeed, they can be rather feisty when captured, cornered, or harassed. I suffered more than a few “taps” from these snakes as a kid. No worries, though. It was always worth it. For Lil’ Janson, there was nothing better than hanging out with a feisty four-foot Nerodia rhombifer along the shores of the Canadian River basin and Cherry Creek in Norman, Oklahoma.

In 2007, I found, photographed, and recorded this individual when I briefly returned to my childhood stomping grounds in Norman while en route to Alaska. I do miss the Diamondback watersnakes of Oklahoma. I’d love to get back there and find some more. Truly a beautiful species.

More images of this individual can be seen here.

~ janson

A Few of My Favorite Snakes: The Brown Watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota

2011-12-05 at 15-00-10

Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake, photographed in Columbia county, Florida (05 December 2011).

Our third entry in the “A Few of My Favorite Snakes” series presents us with yet another –a third– species of watersnake: Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake. With adult Browns averaging around three to four feet in length (if not a wee bit more), this species is fairly large and robust compared to their regional serpent brethren.

Entirely non-venomous, Brown watersnakes range throughout parts of the American southeast. Throughout the Floridian peninsula, they are commonly seen around calmer bodies of water such as cypress habitats. Interestingly, the Brown is considered to be the “most arboreal” of the North American watersnakes; they are often found basking well above the waterline, perched delicately on branches overhanging the water or near the shoreline.

I found this magnificent adult basking on a cypress knee at O’Leno State Park in North Florida. Of note, this was in early December of 2011. It was a bit chilly outside, but the sun was bearing down strongly. Floridian watersnakes, like most of Florida’s reptile species, don’t really bunker down and hide throughout the whole of the winter. Even in North Florida, all it takes is a decent run of mild, sunny days to draw the snakes out from their winter retreats. Florida snakes, much like Florida’s teenagers, rarely let a mild, sunny day go to waste.

~ janson

A Few of My Favorite Snakes: The Florida Banded Watersnake, Nerodia fasciata pictiventris

7/1/05 15:12:14

Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, the Florida banded watersnake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (01 July 2005). Nikon E5700.

Snake #2 in our little flashback serpent series is another species of non-venomous watersnake: Nerodia fasciata pictiventris, the Florida banded watersnake. Averaging around three feet or so as adults, this species is highly variable in its colors and patterns. It is also perhaps the most commonly encountered of Florida non-venomous watersnake species and is often misidentified and confused as being a venomous Florida cottonmouth.

This individual was photographed at Palm Island Park in Mount Dora, Florida — way back in July of 2005. Palm Island was one of my favorite little spots in the mid-2000s; the small park was nestled on the edges of Lake Dora and historic downtown Mount Dora and supported fairly stable populations of Florida banded watersnakes, Florida green watersnakes, and Brown watersnakes.

I can’t even begin to fathom how many Florida banded watersnakes I’ve studied at Palm Island Park over the years. The species is far and away my favorite of the snakes; I’ve never grown tired of working with them up close and personal.

~ janson

A Few of My Favorite Snakes: The Florida Green Watersnake, Nerodia floridana

1/11/05 15:04:56

Nerodia floridana, the Florida green watersnake, photographed in Orange county, Florida (11 January 2005).

And so we begin our week-long (or so) series of some of my favorite snakes over the years. These will be fairly short posts featuring single shots of some of the most memorable snakes I’ve had the privilege to photograph and study up close. We begin with the representative armored-tank-division of Florida watersnakes, the Florida green watersnake, Nerodia floridana.

A non-venomous species, Nerodia floridana is often the largest and most robust of native Florida watersnakes I work with. Though not aggressive, I do sometimes describe this species as being aggressively-defensive — meaning they can put up one hell of a fight if you decide to grab and pick one up. Reaching lengths upwards to about four and a half feet or so, a large adult can bite pretty hard (and repeatedly) if manhandled, so you’re better off just leaving the snake alone and letting it do its thing. Biting you is about the last thing this snake wants to do, and it only bites if it can’t escape. Unfortunately, Florida green watersnakes are often confused with the venomous (and also non-aggressive) Florida cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti. I’ve seen many a’folk harassing and attacking Florida greens under the false pretense that they’re cottonmouths (never mind the fact that people shouldn’t be harassing or attacking cottonmouths either…)

Anyhow, I used to find tons of these Florida greens at Trimble Park on the Orange and Lake county line near Mount Dora, Florida. They would often bask en masse along a grassy clearing near a little “cove” on the edge of the lake. In recent years, since moving back south from Alaska, I haven’t seen nearly as many at Trimble, though they are still there. The individual featured here was one of the large, adult Florida greens I worked with at Trimble Park in 2005. It was a magnificent individual, about four feet in length and extraordinarily robust. Big, heavy, and powerful, the Florida green watersnake is a deeply impressive resident of Florida’s grassy shorelines.

~ janson

Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern Black Racer, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 30 August 2014

2014-08-30 at 15-16-05

Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern black racer, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (30 August 2014). Click images to enlarge.

It’s September, folks, and September is the month of my birth! As a pseudo birthday treat to myself, we’re going to dig into a bunch of snake photographs –both recent and old– on Dust Tracks. I’m in a snake sort of mood, you see, and sometimes that just cannot be helped. Resistance is futile.

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words and images by Janson Jones