Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
Steve Barten
Posts: 162
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:13 pm
Location: NE Illinois

Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Steve Barten » June 21st, 2015, 9:43 am

Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

I’ve been lucky to be invited to teach a course on Grand Cayman each of the last several years. It allows me the opportunity to enjoy the wildlife of the Cayman Islands.

Of course the main draw is the Cayman Blue Iguana, Cyclura lewisi. This year I finally captured an open-mouth display this big male made at a passing female.
Image

Sharp teeth and incredible blue color
Image

Master of his domain
Image

Robust female
Image

Subadult
Image

Image

Love those red eyes.
Image

I’m not sure if the iguana evolved to match his background or if the table was painted to match the iguanas.
Image

The Blue Iguana breeding facility
Image

Image

Cayman Island Dwarf Boa, Tropidophis caymanensis. This one turned up in someone’s back yard in a fairly urban setting while I was there.
Image

Image

They retain yellow tail tips and use caudal luring as adults.
Image

The endemic Cayman Parrot
Image

A flock of flamingoes blew in on a storm and stayed around for several months, but they have since left the island.
Image

Cayman Racers, Cubophis (Alsophis) cantherigerus caymanus
Image

Image

Image

Invasive Green Iguanas
Image

Image

Hickatee or Cayman Slider, Trachemys decussata angusta
Image

Image

The very different and invasive Red-eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans
Image

Blue-throated Anole, Anolis conspersus
Image

Image

Saw-scaled Curlytail, Leiocephalus carinatus varius
Image

Brown Booby and chick
Image

Meanwhile, over on Cayman Brac, the critically endangered Sisters Island Iguanas, Cyclura nubila caymanensis, are often hit by cars even though the traffic is sparse.
Image

While there, we volunteered and joined an ongoing project to study the Cycluras on Cayman Brac, assisting with restraint and blood draws. First you have to catch them.
The study was headed by Jess Harvey, Guy’s daughter, of the Cayman Department of the Environment, who had all the necessary permits.
Image

A new, unbeaded juvenile
Image

Attracted by orange flowers, he’s watching the noose come in.
Image

Data collected
Image

Marked with cervical crest beads and released.
Image

A tick on the tail of an adult
Image

Fly and be free! This Cyclura took off so fast when released she was almost bipedal.
Image

Everglades
I was able to do a quick photo safari to the Everglades in April, and although I was only there for a few days, I saw a lot.

It was the dry season and many temporary bodies of water had dried up. At one site away from the shore and mangroves, we found a good-sized pond with about 40 alligators in it. In the distance, one was basking with its mouth open and looked different from the other gators.
Image
Yep, it was a crocodile. Note the gator in the foreground. It's unusual to see them together.

At Flamingo we found the resident crocodiles.
Image

Image

We also saw a 10-foot floating log and wondered why no turtles were basking on it.
Image

Leaving Flamingo, this Barn Owl was perched on the side of the road at dusk.
Image

Momma gator and babies
Image

Image

Juvenile
Image

This Barred Owl joined us at dusk one night.
Image

This one came was out in the afternoon
Image

Bold owl plus long lens
Image

Purple Gallinule
Image

This Green Anole was from a population in which the males had yellow dewlaps. While I saw some display at a distance, I missed capturing the image.
Image

Normal Green Anole with pink dewlap
Image

Brown Anole
Image

Red-bellied Slider. Right after I took this image, the turtle entered a small, drying-up puddle and had a close encounter of the 6-foot-gator kind.
Image

The gator entered the pond after the red-belly and soon emerged with a full mouth.
Image

Image

The gator chomped hard but nothing happened.
Image

The turtle escaped unharmed.
Image

The gator gave up, knowing it was futile to try further. The turtle made no attempt to flee, as if she knew she was safe.
Image

A Red-shouldered Hawk landed above the pond to watch the drama.
Image

This Florida Shoftshell was as big as a VW Beetle and faster than one.
Image

Egret
Image

Brown Pelican
Image

Perigrine
Image

Osprey
Image

Cottonmouths
Image

Image

Snapper saved from the double yellows of the Tamiami Trail
Image

Tree Snails
Image

Image

Image

Florida Green Watersnake
Image

Brown Watersnake
Image

Banded Watersnake
Image

Cooters
Image

Image

Red-shouldered Hawk nails a Pig Frog
Image

Thanks for looking.

User avatar
mtratcliffe
Posts: 533
Joined: January 19th, 2014, 4:34 pm
Location: Springfield, VA

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by mtratcliffe » June 21st, 2015, 11:49 am

Great photos, and thanks for showing us some herps from an under-shared area. The Blue-Throated Anole is very interesting.

Was the Northern Green Anole you saw found within the Everglades? I've always been curious if any of them made it down that far.

User avatar
Noah M
Posts: 2289
Joined: November 3rd, 2012, 6:00 pm
Location: Gainesville, FL
Contact:

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Noah M » June 21st, 2015, 3:37 pm

Loved it! Fantastic photography too.

User avatar
Steve Barten
Posts: 162
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:13 pm
Location: NE Illinois

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Steve Barten » June 22nd, 2015, 1:52 pm

Thanks to you both. Yes, both Green Anoles were from different areas within ENP.

VICtort
Posts: 688
Joined: July 2nd, 2010, 5:48 pm
Location: AZ.

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by VICtort » June 22nd, 2015, 3:13 pm

As typical of you, the photography is stellar. Tell us how you shot the peregrine and the red shouldered, both are real nice. Also, what is your theory on the floater python? Why has it not been eaten by alligators?

The alligator mauling the slider is a remarkable thing to see, I have often wondered why some turtles seem unconcerned about alligators, but complacency may get them into trouble.

Vic

User avatar
Steve Barten
Posts: 162
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:13 pm
Location: NE Illinois

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Steve Barten » June 22nd, 2015, 3:55 pm

Thanks, VICtort. The peregrine and red shouldered were shot with a zoom at the max 400 mm, hand held (too fast to track w/ a tripod, and for the peregrine I was on a boat!). ISO bumped up enough to allow a fast shutter speed (1/1600 sec, f 8, ISO 400 and 1/2500 sec, f 8 , ISO 1000 respectively), manual exposure metered on the available light. Also, continuous focus mode to allow tracking of the flying birds.

Cause of death in the python could have been anything. The head wasn't visible under the surface so unknown if there was trauma. It was in the river by the marina at Flamingo, so the water was brackish and crocodiles were about but no alligators. Also it was in the middle of the river so it may have drifted in only recently before we saw it.

I wondered if the turtle held still hoping not to be noticed again, or truly knew she was safe. The gator was only 6 feet long or so, no doubt a bigger one would have been successful.

User avatar
Fieldnotes
Posts: 1471
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:12 pm
Location: Orange County, CA
Contact:

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Fieldnotes » June 22nd, 2015, 5:01 pm

AmAzing!! :beer:

User avatar
mothman
Posts: 62
Joined: June 25th, 2014, 10:34 am
Location: Huntington, West Virginia

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by mothman » June 24th, 2015, 11:14 am

Fantastic bird photography! The gator/slider sequence was incredible.

Were the Cyclura lewisi in a breeding program or were they photographed in the wild?

User avatar
Steve Barten
Posts: 162
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:13 pm
Location: NE Illinois

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Steve Barten » June 24th, 2015, 1:18 pm

Thanks!

Some of the Cyclura lewisi were in the breeding facility. They have a number of large, open, cement-walled enclosures planted with native vegetation and with suitable retreats (rock piles and drainage pipes, for instance) to house breeding adults. But there are a lot of wild individuals wandering the grounds of the botanic park. They are acclimated to the presence of people on the paths and tend to allow fairly close approach if you are quiet and move slowly. If you go, you are just about guaranteed to see a number of them.

User avatar
Berkeley Boone
Posts: 878
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:02 am

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Berkeley Boone » June 30th, 2015, 3:26 am

Great post, Steve! The lewisi was a real treat. Great photos of some really cool lizards. That's one I wouldn't mind seeing one day.

Nice variety of critters you have shown there- I liked it all!
--Berkeley

User avatar
JakeScott
Posts: 689
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:26 pm
Location: Gainesville, FL
Contact:

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by JakeScott » June 30th, 2015, 6:27 pm

This is great! I've been to Grand Cayman and tried so hard for Tropidophis while there and turned up only several Cubophis (which were still awesome).

-Jake

User avatar
Bill Love
Posts: 169
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:33 pm
Location: Apache Junction (near Phoenix), Arizona

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Bill Love » July 26th, 2015, 11:56 am

Gorgeous post and, of course, PHOTOS ! You have a great critical eye for recording images that show off herps (and other critters) -- basically getting the pose right. I can see that most if not all were shot in situ, so what I'm specifically referring to is your taking the time to find out a good angle, and / or waiting for the perfect moment to press the camera button. It shows very clearly in your shots and makes a huge difference compared to the ubiquitous quickie snapshots that dominate the web. It's soooo enjoyable to view pics like yours where the extra effort makes for such a much more pleasing image-viewing experience.

User avatar
John Delgado
Posts: 168
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 10:10 am
Location: Ukiah, CA

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by John Delgado » July 26th, 2015, 9:03 pm

Steve Barten - Sir...,

If I had words to convey my appreciation for your photography, certainly I would tell you ... but I have know words.

Your talent leaves me speechless :shock:

I am a wet behind the ears greenhorn and seeing your word is very inspiring.

Thank for posting ... BETTER than National Geographic...!

User avatar
justinm
Posts: 3430
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:26 am
Location: Illinois
Contact:

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by justinm » July 27th, 2015, 9:45 am

Stunning photographs. This was a visual feast and what a neat story that you get to see the Blue Iguanas so frequently. Thanks for sharing the adventures.

Justin Michels

User avatar
Steve Barten
Posts: 162
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:13 pm
Location: NE Illinois

Re: Caymans and Everglades, Spring 2015

Post by Steve Barten » July 28th, 2015, 3:21 pm

Thanks for the compliments, John, Justin and Bill. Bill Love is one of the best photographers out there and his praise means the world to me.

If you follow the C. lewisi on Grand Cayman, my contact there tells me that two of them were found dead recently and large numbers of spirochete bacteria were found in their blood. The appropriate authorities have examined the situation and taken a lot of samples, worrying that the invasive green iguanas may be carriers of something, but the jury is still out. Additionally dog attacks are increasing in the Queen Elizabeth Botanic Park where most of the blues live, and I'm told many blues have been rounded up to be housed temporarily for safe keeping until a fence can be built. Apparently there aren't many blues wandering around the botanic park for the time being.

It's sad, but good to know that caring people are trying to deal with the problems the C. lewisi are facing.

Post Reply