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.

Monochrome Flashback: Eagle River Valley, Alaska; 07 February 2009

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Eagle River Valley, photographed in the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska; 07 February 2009. Click image to enlarge.

Note: Our next few posts will feature monochrome images from Alaska and the western United States. We’ll keep the text quite short and succinct this upcoming week. I will, however, post at least one image a day.

Eumetopias jubatus, the Steller Sea Lion, near Resurrection Bay, Alaska; 25 May 2008

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Eumetopias jubatus, the Steller sea lion, photographed in Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska (25 May 2008).

We’re launching into a far-out-west series of sorts on Dust Tracks. I’ve got a bit of wanderlust in my heart right now, but with the fall term fast approaching I won’t be doing much traveling anytime soon. So, we’ll simply play around with some images and memories from 2007 through 2011 — from when we lived in Alaska, as well as the epic trans-continental roadtrips that bookended our time in the Great White North of Alaska.

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Anisomorpha buprestoides, the Southern Two-striped Walking Stick, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 08 August 2014

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Anisomorpha buprestoides, the Southern two-striped walking stick, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (08 August 2014).

As I’ve noted before on Dust Tracks, we don’t have nearly the population density of arthropods in our Ormond Beach, Florida neighborhood as we did in Valdosta, Georgia from 2011-2013. In Ormond Beach, we’re closer to “town,” so we’re more in the thick of bug control and all that development jazz. In Valdosta, we were off on the edge, somewhat isolated; the bugs were everywhere. Not so much the case here in Ormond… at least not in our backyard. Sure, we still have more bugs than some might consider comfortable, but it’s not enough bio-diversity and -density for a cat like me.

One arthropod we don’t seem to lack, however, is the Southern two-striped walking stick, Anisomorpha buprestoides, featured on this post. I see these behemoth tanks of Order Phasmatodea fairly often, though not quite on a weekly basis.

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Neoscona crucifera, the Hentz’s Orbweaver Spider, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 02 August 2014

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Neoscona crucifera, the Hentz’s orbweaver spider, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (02 August 2014).

In this post, we’re flipping the two Neoscona species featured in our last post. Here we see larger images of Neoscona crucifera, Hentz’s orbweaver, with an inset of a Neoscona domiciliorum, the Redfemured spotted orbweaver. Both spiders were photographed in Bulow Creek State Park (Volusia county, Florida) in early August.

People have all kinds of reactions to spiders in the wild, not to mention spiders in and around the home. Those reactions often lean toward fear, which is unfortunate but unsurprising. Ever since I was a wee kid scampering about in central Florida and central Oklahoma, I’ve loved spiders, but that’s not to say I’ve always been impervious to the Fear Factor. I’ve had my share of freak outs with spiders, if I’m to be entirely honest with you…

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Neoscona domiciliorum, the Redfemured Spotted Orbweaver, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 01 August 2014

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Neoscona domiciliorum, the Redfemured spotted orbweaver, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (01 August 2014).

In this post, we have two similar species of Neoscona orb weavers commonly seen throughout central Florida (and elsewhere): Neoscona domiciliorum, the Redfemured spotted orbweaver, and Neocona crucifera, the Hentz’s orbweaver. Between the two, N. crucifera is a bit larger, and N. domiciliorum is typically more striking in its coloration and figure-ground contrast. Both are commonly seen, however — and can easily be confused with one another by casual observers. I’ve certainly seen no shortage of the two species in recent months. I come across them often by both day and night.

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Nephila clavipes, the Golden Silk Orbweaver, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 02 August 2014

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Nephila clavipes, the Golden silk orbweaver spider, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (02 August 2014).

Expect a series of quickfire posts in the next few days — specifically of the arachnid variety! I have a small series of spiders I really want to visit on Dust Tracksor, more accurately, revisit–, but I don’t want to spend an entire week in SpiderLand. Know what I mean? So, let’s get to it and spin some webs! We’ll start with one of the largest and most recognizable spiders found throughout the Floridian peninsula (and elsewhere): The Golden silk orbweaver, Nephila clavipes.

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Sunset Over Boardman Pond and the Ormond Loop; Seeking Balance

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Bulow Creek State Park, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (29 June 2014).

As I type this, August 2014 has already rolled into town. I’m not even sure what happened to July; it came and went so fast, I never even heard it say goodbye, much less hello. There was a time –when I was younger, trimmer, and had more hair– when summer days felt like they’d never end. Each day seemed like a universe of exploration and discovery, of boundless energy and activity. This summer’s been a different story for a number of reasons.

On top of work and family, I’ve been doing a little dance with my thyroid. I am hereby medically certified to have a lovely case of hypothyroidism. I almost feel like I should receive an officially-printed certificate or something. Other than a rather nasty vehicular accident shortly after my 21st birthday (and that time I drank a gallon of paint thinner when I was three and a half), this is the most significant biological “event” in my life. Overall, I have been a very lucky person health-wise, despite a few decades of moderately harsh abuse (smoking, drinking, Wayne’s World, the Macarena, and so on). Still, I can’t really call this a crisis because it simply isn’t. Of all the biological hiccups a lumbering hominid can suffer in the early 21st century, hypothyroidism is a fairly minor one. At least once you figure out what the hell is going on and start working on treatment.

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The Seabreeze Fighting Sandcrabs!

seabreezehighschool1296489674187Here’s a fun story –by Danny Klein of the Daytona Beach News Journal– exploring my high school’s epic “Fighting Sandcrab” mascot: Feel the Pinch? That Only Tells Half of the Seabreeze Sandcrabs’ Story.

Full disclosure: I was interviewed for and am quoted in the story. Klein came across a Dust Tracks post (“New Smyrna Beach part 10: The Atlantic Ghost Crab”) about the Atlantic ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata) published this past June, a part of the New Smyrna summer series. He contacted me to ask more about what the hell our mascot was in fact based on. We’re called the sandcrabs, but what the heck is a sandcrab? And what the heck is the mutant creature-crab featured in our logos? Heh.

Klein’s discoveries are quite fun, so check it out! And if you’re curious, here’s the Seabreeze High School home site!

Next on Dust Tracks: We resume on Monday with some central Florida goodness!

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.

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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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