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.

Squirrel Treefrogs and Their Nightsong in Ormond Beach, Florida

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Hyla squirella, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (03 July 2014).

One of my favorite features of the southern summer –especially here in Volusia county, Florida– is the cacophony of nightsong performed by a variety and abundance of frogs and toads, not to mention the incalculable array of arthropods that live throughout the region. In fact, when we were living in Alaska from 2007 through 2011, the quietness of the near-Arctic north was damn near jarring. I deeply missed the static, fuzz, and noise of the American south’s nightsong… All that delicious noise pouring through and around the live oaks and spanish moss, sound thick like molasses, almost as thick as the humidity even, especially after the departure of an early evening thunderstorm.

29 June 2014.
29 June 2014.

Another beloved benefit of life in Volusia county –for me– is what we call the “Ormond Loop” — a series of roads that wrap through Tomoka, Bulow Creek, and North Peninsula State Parks around both the mainland and coastal sides of the Halifax River / Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a heavily-canopied stretch of road surrounded in parts by thick wetlands, brackish marshes, and oak/palm forest. The area is lush and seething with life. And at night? Oh my, forget about it… At night there simply isn’t anything better than the nightsong serenading all your senses from all sides as you cruise the Ormond Loop.

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03 July 2014.

Featured on this post is one of the Ormond Loop’s most noticeable and recognized nighttime performers: the Squirrel treefrog, Hyla squirella, a small species of treefrog often confused with the larger, locally less common American green treefrog (Hyla cinerea). Primarily active at night, Squirrel treefrogs spend much of their time carefully hidden atop palm fronds and in other types of foliage. At night, however, it’s a different story. A more active story. A louder story. A slightly more musical story.

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03 July 2014.

I spent some time along the Ormond Loop in late June and early July 2014, trolling about the nocturnal-side of Bulow Creek State Park, searching for its amphibian brethren. More than anything else, it was the Squirrel treefrog that greeted me in both sight and in sound. Seriously, these little frogs can dominate a nightsong, as we’ll soon hear.

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03 July 2014.

Featured below is a soundcloud audio file recorded shortly after midnight on 04 July 2014. the clip is composed of three separate recordings, each subsequent recording made as I approached closer and closer to a rather rowdy and rambunctious little pond absolutely bubbling with nightsong. Here, then, is the sound I’m talking about. This is the sound of Ormond Beach’s nightsong:

The third part is, of course, the most dynamic and loudest. By the third recording, I was standing on the edge of the hidden pond, my feet sunk in about a foot of muck, holding my iPhone out into the thick foliage. Soon after, I started visually tracking down the Squirrel treefrogs (which don’t just call from atop the water, but also from surrounding trees and bushes).

04 July 2014.
04 July 2014.

I walked around for a bit, my sandals sloshing with muck, my head soaking in the humid nightsong, entirely alone, and utterly entrenched by the weight of this thriving community of active organisms.

An interesting thing about Squirrel treefrogs in particular: When you first start to look for them, they can be somewhat difficult to find. Pretty soon, however, your eyes will coordinate better with your ears, and you’ll know what to look for. Soon enough, all you will see (and hear) are these Squirrel treefrogs leading the sonic march through the midnight hours. As if by magic, they will suddenly seem to be everywhere

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04 July 2014.

Not quite finished, I found another nearby pond along the Ormond Loop. It was a larger, slightly more stable pond that had a much, much larger Squirrel treefrog population. Again, I conducted a couple of field recordings (represented below). I can’t quite describe how loud these frogs were in real time. They were nearly deafening, as hinted at in the second half of this recording:

It was amazing. So many Squirrel treefrogs singing together with such intensity, it was all I could do to focus enough to photograph them. It was sheer spectacle of the audio kind.

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04 July 2014.

In Florida, sometimes there’s as much to hear as there is to see, especially at night.

Next on Dust Tracks: Some more Ormond Beach action from Bulow Creek State Park, only of the sunset variety!

Perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated Inkcap, in Flagler county, Florida; 09 July 2014

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Perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated inkcap, photographed in Flagler county, Florida (09 July 2014).

The Word For The Day: PLICATE |ˈplīkāt, -kit | adjective Biology & Geology | folded, crumpled, or corrugated.

And that pretty much sums up the delicate, folded, crumpled, and tiny mushrooms featured here. If my identification is correct, this is perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated inkcap. I’m the first to admit I can’t really identify this fungi with total certainly. Apparently it’s rather hard to do so without collecting and studying spore samples, and that’s somewhat beyond my pay grade. Unlike most vertebrates and a decent number of other animals, fungi species can be wicked difficult to  distinguish from one another and often require spore sample evaluations. Whereas their biodiversity is immensely expansive, their morphological traits are far too often incredibly similar to one another.

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Tubifera ferruginosa, Red Rasberry Slime Mold, in Flagler county, Florida; 09 July 2014

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Tubifera ferruginosa, the Red raspberry slime mold, photographed in Flagler county, Florida (09 July 2014).

One of my favorite things about stumbling through this mortal coil we call “life” is that I’m constantly bumping into stuff I know very little about. Take for instance the red stuff you see featured here. I found these bright red growths atop a fallen, decaying tree trunk in the woods near the Daytona State College Flagler / Palm Coast campus in Flagler county, Florida:

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The Snake Did Not Kick My Ass; The Frog Did.

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Pantherophis alleghaniensis, the Yellow rat snake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (13 July 2014).

THE PROLOGUE: This should be a fun post to write, and I hope it’ll be a fun one to read — despite its length. I’m happy to finally be getting to it. I’ve taken this past week off from writing for a number of reasons. The short version, and somewhat to the point, is this: I’ve been sick and tired. Not sick and tired of the blog, mind you. I’ve just been sick and really, really tired. I haven’t had much energy or inclination to dance my fingers about on the keyboard during this past week, but I believe I’m starting to pull out of my funk. I think. We’ll wax on about health and human biology later, but right now I’ve got to tell you this story. It’s the story of a 40 year old man getting his ass handed to him during his five year old daughter’s early birthday party in Mount Dora, Florida. The story involves a rather tough snake, a fairly robust frog, and, of course, a 40 year old dude. You might think it was the snake who kicked the 40 year old dude’s ass, but it wasn’t. It was the frog. A frog kicked the 40 year old’s ass. My ass. Mine. Kicked solidly by a frog.

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On the Gopher Tortoise in July of 2014: Inhumanity and Violence

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Gopherus polyphemus, the Gopher tortoise, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (23 May 2014).

Originally, this post was slotted to feature a rather rowdy and rambunctious encounter with a Yellow rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) and a Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) in Mount Dora, Florida. As Wednesday 16 July trudged ever-onward, however, an incredibly horrific and offensive story emerged from Orange Park, Florida and spread its tendrils across social media and the internet. This is a long post, and I apologize for that, but it’s weighing very heavily on my heart.

Truly, the story took like brushfire in certain channels of social media, evoking harsh and dramatic calls of violence against two young students at Ridgeview High School who had –for reasons utterly beyond my comprehension– decided it would be awesome to record themselves torturing and killing a young Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) and to then post those videos on Facebook. I saw those videos. Both of them. And they were truly horrific for many reasons.

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Storeria victa, the Florida Brown Snake, in Mount Dora, Florida; 13 July 2014

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Storeria victa, the Florida brown snake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (13 July 2014).

On Sunday 13 July, we headed inland to Mount Dora, Florida for an early birthday party with Kid A and her grandparents, my mother and father. Though cake, gifts, and burgers on the grill were the top orders of the day, I –of course– had to duck out to the parents’ backyard to look for snakes when we first arrived. Their property has a long history of being somewhat snake friendly; this day was no exception. Within a few minutes of searching the backyard, I found this lovely Florida brown snake (Storeria victa) bunkered beneath a small concrete plate on the side of the house:

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Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern Black Racer, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 11 July 2014

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Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern black racer, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (11 July 2014).

It was a fun week on the snake front beginning with this Southern black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus, caught in my backyard on the 11th of July. It wasn’t too long ago, about three months actually, that I got my ass served by an elusive and overly clever racer in the very same backyard. That missed-racer served as a humiliating defeat in my long legacy of interacting with the fast and agile species. Fortunately, I was able to make up for some of that defeat with this individual and its respective catch. I like to think this was exact same snake who foiled me in April, heh. Anyhow, here’s the story…

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Volusia County Katydids

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Likely Belocephalus subapterus, the Half-winged Conehead katydid, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (03 July 2014).

We’re wrapping up our tiny, little katydid run on Dust Tracks with a plethora of katydid shots and a big, fat taxonomic list of katydids likely found in Volusia county. Let’s start with the katydid featured on this post.

This is likely a Half-winged conehead katydid (Belocephalus subapterus). The identification is backed up a bit by the folks, though there’s a chance it could be another similar species of the same genus: the Palmetto conehead katydid, Belocephalus sabalis. At the moment, I lean more toward B. subapterus; the lower hook beneath the head, not to mention body posture, seems more subapterus than sabalis to me. Still, the identification should be considered tentative at the species level.

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Orchelimum pulchellum, the Handsome Meadow Katydid, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 29 June 2014

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Orchelimum pulchellum, the Handsome meadow katydid, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (29 June 2014).

The Handsome meadow katydid, Orchelimum pulchellum, is a striking species with its mix of emerald green and blood red tones. With a delicate and light call, this species can be heard throughout the Eastern seaboard of the United States, particularly along the edges of marshes and wetlands. I photographed this little individual near Boardman Pond on the Ormond Loop in Volusia county, Florida…

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Bucrates malivolans, the Cattail conehead katydid, in Bulow Creek State Park, Florida (29 June 2014

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Bucrates malivolans, the Cattail conehead katydid (female nymph), photographed in Volusia county, Florida (29 June 2014).

Today, we’re briefly checking out a new species to Dust Tracks: The Cattail conehead katydid, Bucrates malivolans. On the evening of 29 June 2014, while patrolling the edges of the marshes along the Ormond Loop and Bulow Creek State Park, I found dozens of these skittish little ‘hoppers stationed sporadically throughout the tall grasses. Looking at the picture below, I can’t help but also hear all those tiny katydids singing their respective songs, drawing me closer, luring me in…

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Atlanticus gibbosus, the Robust Shieldback, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 26 June 2014

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Atlanticus gibbosus, the Robust shieldback, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (26 June 2014).

Here we have, I believe, a Robust shieldback, Atlanticus gibbosus. You might think this lovely little arbiter of figure-ground contrast is a cricket at first glance, but it’s not. Though related to the crickets within Order Orthoptera (along with all those lanky grasshoppers), the many species of Shieldbacks belong to Family Tettigoniidea. Shieldbacks are a subgroup within the katydid taxon.

In the universe of All-Things-Katydid (and that’s a bigger universe of diversity than you might imagine), the Shieldbacks are grouped together as a subfamily formally called Tettigoniinae. As I’ve learned more in recent years about arthropods, I’ve found the katydids in all their forms and varieties to be the most intriguing within Order Orthoptera, though in the grand scheme of things there is much I still do not know. Anyhow, this striking individual is a certainly a lovely example of their beauty.

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Heteropoda venatoria, the Brown Huntsman Spider, in Lake county, Florida; 27 June 2014

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Heteropoda venatoria, the Brown huntsman spider, photographed in Lake county, Florida (27 June 2014).

One of my favorite spiders in central Florida is the Brown huntsman spider, Heteropoda venatoria, a rather large and rambunctious species sometimes referred to as the Crab spider. Locally, some folks also refer to this species as the Banana spider, as they also do the Golden silk orbweaver, Nephila clavipes. Whatever one may call it, the Brown huntsman can be a formidable sight in the late night hours — when these large spiders come out to play, so to speak. I mean, hey, check out this mug:

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Neoscona crucifera, Hentz’s orbweaver spider, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 26 June 2014

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Neoscona crucifera, Hentz’s orbweaver spider, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (26 June 2014).

When one thinks of summer in Florida, images of the sun-baked beach may spring to mind. Or maybe the silhouette of our giant MouseLord and his magical, sunny kingdom near Orlando? Or perhaps one of our many cool, clear, springwater runs shimmering beneath a clear blue sky? Truly, the words “Florida” and “Summer” taken together may evoke any number of images, and I’d be willing to bet that for most people, the sun is somewhere above and around most of those images. Florida and Summer just seem to be ubiquitously intertwined with sunshine and its accompanying heat.

Still, despite the inflated postcard quality of any given “Sunshine State” summer afternoon, the nighttime is often when the truly wild things come out to play. If you’re looking for wildlife in the thick of the Floridian summer, the night can be more far more productive and fruitful than the day.

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Spinning Fire in Volusia County Part II: Ormond Beach, Florida; 02 July 2014

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Flow Arts in Ormond Beach, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (02 July 2014).

Last week, Josh Cruz sent word that there was going to be a Flow Arts jam at the Granada approach in Ormond Beach, Florida on Wednesday night. The 386 Flow Arts Community would be out there, Cruz said, along with others who shared similar interests in spinning fire and LED lights. Of course I was game, so I headed down to the beach, a few short miles from where I live, to check out the scene. And what a scene it was…

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Spinning Fire in Volusia County Part I: Daytona Beach, Florida; 30 May 2014

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Joshua Cruz, a fine example of Homo sapiens sapiens, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (30 May 2014). Full, expandable gallery at the bottom of this post.

And now for something completely different… On Dust Tracks, we typically focus on wildlife and ecology. You’re far more likely to find snakes and lizards on these pages than you are people and matters of culture. Well, we’re probably going to dip a little bit more into the vast and wiggly worlds of American & Floridian culture/s in the next few months or so. After all, I’m back in my home turf of Volusia county, Florida — and this region features a dazzling array of subcultures and perspectives. Why not showcase some of them? For the record, these posts will be tagged Homo sapiens.

Starting us off, in this post and in the next, we’re going to check out people who identify themselves as Flow Artists. More specifically, we’re looking at fire spinners — people who spin fire for recreation and for what could be considered a kind of meditation. On one hand, it’s not unlike fire juggling. On the other, it’s more of a zen-like ritual, often community-driven and collaboratively shared. Some folks go it alone while others band together in tight-knit groups and communities. Here in Volusia county, you’ll often spot the fire spinners hanging out at the beach after dark, spinning fire against the backdrop of the darkened Atlantic Ocean.

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Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake, in Lake county, Florida; 28 June 2014

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Nerodia taxispilota, the Brown watersnake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (28 June 2014).

In the wonderfully wiggly world of All Things Reptilia, there are two genera that truly rock my world: Genus Anolis, the anole lizards, and Genus Nerodia, the New World watersnakes. In Florida, we (arguably) only have one native species of anole, the Carolina anole (Anolis carolinensis), though it is now accompanied by a number of non-native anole species throughout the peninsula. In the world of watersnakes, on the other hand, we have a good number of differing species belonging to Genus Nerodia, and several of those species are further broken into distinctive subspecies.

I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising that a single genus of watersnakes has done so well and diversified so much in the American southeast, particularly in Florida. This is a region dominated not only by water, but by many different hydric systems of water. We have the ocean, of course, along with its accompanying salt marshes and mangrove swamps. Then there are the rivers — some being clearwater spring-fed runs and others being dark, slow-moving tannic streams. We have a number of different types of lakes and ponds, as well. There are seasonal wet prairies, hyrdric wetlands, flood plains, cypress swamps, and irrigation canals, just to name a few. Each of these water-fuelled ecosystems has its own ecological matrix, so it really shouldn’t be a surprise that different watersnake species have adapted to these different habitats and ecosystems.

In this post, we’re going to check out the Brown watersnake, Nerodia taxispilota, a large, non-venomous species common throughout much of the American southeast.

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The 4th of July Fireworks Celebration in Ormond Beach, Florida

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Ormond Beach 4th of July Fireworks Celebration photographed in Volusia county, Florida (04 July 2014). Full gallery below the jump.

In the United States, today was Independence Day — the 4th of July. Our national holiday formally celebrates the completion and signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, a document crafted primarily by Thomas Jefferson along with the other members of the Second Continental Congress’s Committee of Five: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston.

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Eleutherodactylus planirostris in Volusia county, Florida!

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Eleutherodactylus planirostris, the Greenhouse frog, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (02 July 2014).

Since we sort of fell into an frog-run here on Dust Tracks, it only seems fitting to duly take note of another of our non-native amphibian brethren, the Greenhouse frog, Eleutherodactylus planirostris.

Native to Cuba and its surrounding islands, the Greenhouse frog has become well established throughout the Floridian peninsula and elsewhere, taking great advantage of manicured lawns and shrubs. In Valdosta, we saw more than a few of them from 2011-2013.  Back in Ormond, I’ve seen a few around the house, but not what I would’ve otherwise expected. I thought there’d be more on our property. Not so much. We actually had more of them in our south Georgia neighborhood than we currently do in central Florida.

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The Southern Leopard Frog at Bulow Creek State Park, Florida; 26 June 2014

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Lithobates sphenocephalus, the Southern leopard frog, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (26 June 2014).

Our next frog, since we seem to be in the midst of a spontaneous frog-marathon on Dust Tracks, is none other than the Southern Leopard frog, Lithobates sphenocephalus. It’s shaping up to be a fun season with the Leopard frogs…

Just over a week ago, we checked out a Southern leopard frog that jumped on my foot in the backyard. Though the frog featured on this post didn’t jump directly on me, it did jump right next to me while I was trying to photograph the sunset over Boardman Pond at Bulow Creek State Park (along the Ormond Loop, 26 June 2014):

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