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.
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 rhombifer. Though 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.
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.
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.
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.
Diadophis punctatus punctatus, the Southern ringneck snake, and Storeria victa, the Florida brown snake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (09 August 2014). Click on images to enlarge.
Summer 2014 certainly didn’t end up being one of my most productive summers on the snake front. Though I did manage to work quite a bit with our numerous local frog species, the snakes of central Florida were somewhat out of reach and seemingly out of time and space. The short explanation is this: I just didn’t manage to get out and hike all that much for snakes this summer (and this is extremely unusual for me). Regardless, with this being Florida and all, I still managed to stumble across a few snakes here and there. In the tangles of the Floridian peninsula, you need not travel far before a snake will likely cross your path. Further, as we’ll see by the end of this post, even the most common snakes can stimulate curiosities and questions.
This post presents two snakes for the price of one: Diadophis punctatus punctatus, the Southern ringneck snake, and Storeria victa, the Florida brown snake. I found both diminutive serpents hidden beneath adjacent concrete blocks in a corner of my parents’ backyard in Mount Dora, Florida (in Lake county). As a self-admitted lover of all-things-snake, I shouldn’t have to tell you how fun it is to one-handedly catch a second snake when you’re still holding the first in the other hand. heh.
So, let’s check out our two snakes from 09 August 2014. Both species are fairly well known on Dust Tracks by this point, especially from Mount Dora in Lake county.
Gastrophryne carolinensis, the Eastern narrow-mouthed toad, photographed in Lake county, Florida (28 June 2014).
Now, here’s a lovely little camper from last June. This is a rather plump and adorable Eastern narrow-mouthed toad, Gastrophryne carolinensis. The sole native member of Family Microhylidae in Florida, this species is not actually true toad (Family Bufonidae). It’s more akin to the frog. Because the species is predominantly terrestrial, however, they’ve picked up the “toad” moniker in every day parlance (despite having moist skin and other attributes more associated with frogs than toads). Check out this post for more details on the Eastern narrow-mouthed toad’s phylogenetic classification.