All posts by Janson Jones

A comp/rhet soul with a solid and abundant appreciation for ecology and evolution, I'm a native Floridian living in and (still) exploring my hometown of Ormond Beach, Florida.

Bulow Creek State Park in Volusia county, Florida; 04 January 2015

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During a lovely respite from the Floridian winter chill, on 04 January 2015 I headed east a few miles to the Colonel Thomas H. Dummett Sugar and Rum Processing Factory Ruins on the southern end of Bulow Creek State Park (and just north of Tomoka State Park in Volusia county). The ruins are located on the edge of the Old Dixie Highway — a part of the “Ormond Loop” (as locals refer to it). This is one my favorite local spots to hike and explore from. I often use the Dummett Ruins as a sort of homebase and work my way out and about from there.

2015-01-04 at 12-57-53The landscape in this area is just terrific. It’s classic Volusia county territory. Lots of pines, plenty of palmettos, and texture damn near everywhere. Some areas are tangled messes of confusion while others are wide open and easy to navigate through. Occasionally, you’ll come across a small creek cutting through the foliage. In other spots, you’ll find a mild depression still saturated with the last storm’s rainfall. In some places, you can see residual controlled-fire signs. Regardless, damn near everything is alive and active in one fashion or another. In other words: This is paradise. This is what I think of when I recall the central Florida of my youth.

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My first find for the day was a familiar little critter: Schistocerca damnifica, the Mischievous bird grasshopper. Not knowing what I’d ultimately find during the entirety of the hike, I wasn’t going to pass by this lovely little grasshopper without framing a few shots. I love love the sleek elegance of a delicate-yet-hardy grasshopper (click images to enlarge).

As I moved deeper into the thick, farther and farther from the road, I again started to appreciate the intricate details of the foliage and vegetation. In ecosystems like this, anything and everything serves some kind of purpose, and almost anything can become a habitat for something else. When a tree falls over and raises a stretch of soil with it, a shaded crevasse of sorts becomes a new hot spot for critters. Or, long after a tree falls and withers away, a remaining hollow left over from an eroded trunk becomes a kind of natural pot from which other plants emerge. Nothing is wasted; everything can and usually does serve a purpose.

Continuing deeper into the marshy, wet thick of Bulow Creek, I came across another familiar sight: Eleutherodactylus planirostris, the Greenhouse frog. A small species not native to Florida, I see far more Greenhouse frogs than I do our local cricket frogs nowadays. Of note, I often see Greenhouse frogs quite far from human buildings and development. This is not a species on the edge of being established. For better or worse, the Greenhouse frog is firmly established in this part of Florida. They. Are. Everywhere.

Januaries in central Florida can be unpredictable and wild in terms of air temperature. We can suffer some fairly rough cold fronts (by southern standards, at least), but we can also climb up to and through the mid-70s. Such was the case this week in early January 2015. For a few days, we had strong sunshine and temperatures in the upper-60s to mid-70s. The biological randomity of Bulow Creek was particularly gorgeous to me in the context of it being January.

Fungi and mollusks are all well and good, of course, but I was really hoping to find a snake out during the outing. Sure enough, I eventually did fine one: An Eastern garter snake, Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis.

2015-01-04 at 13-46-37I found the young Garter basking atop an old, hollowed log. Were it not for the chance encounter with the lumbering Nikon-carrying hominid, the Garter snake really did have a perfectly calm and peaceful perch. Of course, and with all due apologies, I interrupted the snake’s calm for a round of photographs. As with other garters I’ve photographed in Volusia, Flagler, and Brevard counties, this was a lovely blue-toned garter. Truly spectacular.

I must admit that it felt really, really good to find this garter snake. I’m not sure I can articulate exactly why, but I always feel a bolt of energy –a soul infusion, if you will– whenever I encounter a snake or spend some close time studying a lizard. Because the feeling isn’t quite mutual, however, I soon enough returned the garter to its hollowed-kingdom and went on my way, leaving the snake to acclimate back to surviving into the future sans-Nikon macro action. It was finally time to start heading back to the Jeep.

I’ll certainly be spending quite a bit of time at Bulow Creek this spring and summer. Once you move somewhat off the beaten path, it’s a wild and pristine stretch of tangled land and water, a mixture of so many things I love about Volusia county, Florida.

Among my questions-list in this area are Glass lizards and Watersnakes. I’m quite curious which species of Glass lizards inhabit this area, and I’m wondering how well the watersnakes fair along these, dark, mucky, waterways so close to the salt marshes. I’ve spotted both in this area, though I missed catching (and thus identifying) the glass lizard. Heh. I’ll find more.

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~ janson

Winding down 2014; Gearing up for 2015

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Diadophis punctatus punctatus, the Southern ringneck snake, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (28 December 2014).

And so –at long last– 2014 is finally starting to wind down. Honestly, thank heavens… Thank heavens this year is coming to a close. In all honesty, it simply was not a terrific year. It started off well enough, I suppose, but by the time October rolled around, I was exhausted. I won’t bore you with the details, but it should be pretty clear that I wasn’t all too active on Dust Tracks during the latter quarter of the year. I just didn’t get out and hike much, and I didn’t have much desire to write, photograph, or do much of anything creative or productive… No energy, no motivation. Just exhaustion.

Taking stock of the whimper that was 2014, I find myself more motivated to make 2015 more of a bang — despite any medical difficulties or otherwise. With the passing of Christmas (which was mercifully lovely in our home) and the approach of New Year’s, I’m finally getting jazzed again. Accompanying my growing ambition and motivation for the New Year, a few neighborhood yard snakes popped up this week, too — perhaps a pair of omens for the productive year to come…?

Continue reading Winding down 2014; Gearing up for 2015

Views from South Carolina

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So, I’ve been somewhat off the grid since October. Much ado in the Real World has kept me somewhat from my camera and from Dust Tracks. Truly, I’ve been more of a consumer than a producer as of late — the exception being my life at work. I’m certainly hoping for a more personally productive 2015, though that may manifest online through social media avenues. Regardless, this past year has truly been a sluggish bear on many levels.

Continue reading Views from South Carolina

Megalopyge opercularis, the Southern Flannel Moth, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 15 October 2014

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Megalopyge opercularis, the Southern flannel moth, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (15 October 2014).

We’re starting to bag some lovely cold fronts here in central Florida. Of course, in Florida “cold front” doesn’t quite mean the same thing as it means to our brethren to the north. Still, with near-Arctic temperatures reaching all the way down to the upper-50s, it’s time to pull out the socks, blue jeans, and flannel shirts. It’s also time for the flannel moths to show up in our yards (if they haven’t already).

Featured here is a Southern flannel moth, Megalopyge opercularis. A member of Family Megalopygidae, the Flannel moths, this species can be found year-round in Florida, but is most active during the deep summer months through October. Males are more bodily patterned than females; the individual featured here is, I believe, a male.

Continue reading Megalopyge opercularis, the Southern Flannel Moth, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 15 October 2014

Tibicen resonans, the Southern Resonant Cicada, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 10 October 2014

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Tibicen resonans, the Southern resonant cicada, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (10 October 2014).

2014 has certainly proven to be a thin year on the cicada front; we simply haven’t had much activity in our yard this year. That being said, we had a fantastic visitor on 10 October 2014. This is a Southern resonant cicada, Tibicen resonans, photographed on our back patio screen door a bit after 9:00pm.

Continue reading Tibicen resonans, the Southern Resonant Cicada, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 10 October 2014

An Antlion at Bulow Creek State Park in Ormond Beach, Florida

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Glenurus gratus, the Antlion, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (01 August 2014).

Image courtesy panoramio.com/photo/73545341.
Image from panoramio.com/photo/73545341.

When I was a kid growing up in Florida, I loved messing with antlion sandtraps. You might know what I’m talking about… I’m talking about those tiny little conical traps you find outdoors in loose sand. About an inch or so wide, a tiny little antlion lies in wait like the Sarlaac, hidden just beneath the bottom of the cone, for an ant to stumble into its trap. Once the soon-to-be-victimized ant stumbles into the trap, it tries to climb back out, dragging sand back down into the trap. Then the antlion starts kicking sand up, further dragging the ant to the base of the trap. And then? Then, this captures and consumes the ant:

Continue reading An Antlion at Bulow Creek State Park in Ormond Beach, Florida

At Last, an Eastern Spadefoot Toad!

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Scaphiopus holbrookii, the Eastern spadefoot toad, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (27 September 2014).

This past weekend, I came across a tiny amphibian that’s been on my WANT-list for quite some time. Hidden under a small towel I’d left on my little outdoor “cove,” I was delighted to find this Eastern spadefoot toad, Scaphiopus holbrookii. Though not uncommon, I haven’t seen one of these little fellas in years.

Continue reading At Last, an Eastern Spadefoot Toad!