Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Christopher » May 29th, 2014, 6:27 pm

Hello fellow herpers, it has been quite a while since I posted on the forum, somehow life became a little busy and facebook a little easier to post on, but you really lose the sense of community the forum gives you with viewpoints from like minded and similarly interested folks. Thankfully I've had the time to send a few articles to Scott for the HerpNation magazine, but have been neglecting the online forums I used to enjoy so much. I wont get all nostalgic on you, here are some of my highlights and favorite photos I have taken in Florida since my hiatus from FHF. I'll go a ways back to 2011 when I was last active, just to bring up some of my favorite photos, skipping 90% of my finds. So enjoy a haphazard photo journey over the last few years! Its also fun for me to put this together and see my photography skills evolve over time, not much narrative but a good photo dump!

Aside from my day job, I work academically in invasive species biology and have several publications in the field. I like to check up on known populations from time to time, and do my best to discover new ones. Here is a well established population of Agama agama
Image Image
Another invasive lizard in Miami, Cnemidophorus lemniscatus, can be locally abundant in it's limited range
Image
Closeup of the face
Image
And the body pattern
Image
Another individual
Image
Back to natives, anyone who has herped Everglades National Park(ENP) knows this road. Chelydra serpentina crossing
Image
Image
A nice red ratsnake flipped
Image
A handsome mudsnake, Farancia abacura
Image
Some scenic everglades
Image
Image
Gotta love coral snakes. Micrurus fulvius
Image
Image
A nice big healthy EDB out on Turkey Day. Crotalus adamanteus
Image
Image
Here is a nonnative you dont see every day cruising around freely in Florida, Ahaetulla nasuta. Some friends and I caught this snake while hunting the neighborhoods by the infamous Strictly Reptiles. Imagine the headlines if this had bitten a kid in the face and he required hospitalization??
Image
Image
Image
Some more nonnatives, veiled chameleons. Chamaeleo calyptratus
Image
Image
Image
Some feathered herps out in ENP, pretty neat to see wild flamingos in the US
Image
A pretty little redrat
Image
Scarlet snake, Cemophora coccinea
Image
And Oustalet chameleon, there is a good publication out there about their population in Fl you guys should check out ;) (Furcifer oustaleti)
Image
I cant resist showing another coral. Micrurus fulvius
Image
Image
Image
And coral food
Image
A little scarlet snake that just came into the world
Image
And an adult nearby, I love the variability in these
Image
Not a herp, but a neat little critter you occasionally see in southern Florida at large proportions
Image
Image
Image
A scarlet king from ENP. Lampropeltis elapsoides
Image
Some pretty corns
Image
Image
Image
Image
A light colored mudsnake
Image
A python creeping out of its shelter
Image
Image
A nice EDB down in the mangroves
Image
A pretty coachwhip, Masticophis flagellum, from up in Ocala
Image
I remember photographing the epic sunset that night as well
Image
It must have been a good omen! Coral snake, Micrurus fulvius
Image
An adorable little baby croc down in the mangroves, Crocodylus acutus
Image
Image
Image
A few kings from around Lake O. Lampropeltis getula floridana
Image
Image
Image
A cute little baby rough green, Opheodrys aestivus
Image
And an adult with some battle scars
Image
A gorgeous little pygmy, in situ, stuck out like a sore thumb in this bright green grass. Sistrurus miliarius barbouri
Image
Image
Another nice one from the same area
Image
A fresh baby mudsnake, I actually have this image up for sale at my work as a poster
Image
And an anery found by a friend
Image
A very dark little baby scarlet king
Image
Image
A more typical looking hatchling found in the same area
Image
And another coral, maybe I have an affinity for bright colored candy cane snakes?>
Image
Image
A big handsome girl
Image
My favorite animals are the crocodilians, and in some of the invasive work I participate in we go out and catch spectacled caiman, Caiman crocodilus. This central/south american species has a healthy population in southern Florida
Image
Image
An adult I caught solo one night
Image
Another invasive, this burmese python was out basking on a sunny day. Python molurus bivittatus
Image
Image
Another one crossing after dark. Yes, they are still out there. No, the cold didnt wipe them out, just put a hefty dent. Its amazing people will argue about this ad nauseum.
Image
These newts are seldom seen in Dade county, but are extremely abundant. You just have to take the time to look closely. Notophthalmus viridescens
Image
Image
Another pretty SK from ENP
Image
A gorgeous ratsnake, retaining some juvenile pattern into adutlhood
Image
Another herper out looking
Image
She brought her kid too
Image
While out in the swamp our flashlight spooked a bass into jumping, and it landed right into the mouth of a decent sized alligator! I wish I had an underwater housing on my camera for this one
Image
An outstanding little pygmy
Image
Image
An older scarlet snake
Image
Miami phase corn
Image
A very beautifully patterned veiled, not sure what this pattern indicates though, perhaps those versed in their captive care would know?
Image
Image
A brightly colored cuban treefrog, Osteopilus septentrionalis
Image
After some seriously heavy rain I found this diamondback out while it was still drizzling
Image
The use of my 10-22mm lens causes some distortion of the tail here, but I really love the image
Image
A beautiful everglades ratsnake
Image
Image
While assisting on a hatchling capture night at Turkey Point we caught dozens of baby crocs, I wish I had taken the time to photograph more. Crocodylus acutus
Image
Image
Here are a few of our little guys
Image
A DOR coral revealed it's last meal
Image
A cute little Heterodon
Image
Image
And a baby EDB to go with it
Image
A good looking adult from earlier this year
Image
I've also been fortunate enough to luck into some underwater photography gear, graciously loaned to me by Reef Photo & Video. I hit the swamps and tried to photograph as much as I could. It was training in action though as this was my first time shooting underwater and I ran into all sorts of issues as I had to figure out how to properly use the strobes, the housing interface, buoyancy issues and all sorts of things a first timer has to go through. I'll tell you, if you thought photography on land was difficult and expensive, you dont even want to know about the aquatic side!! All in the wild, Alligator mississippiensis
Check out this awesome photo of some underwater swamp vegetation...And something else
Image
A little bit better of a photo, about 7.5ft
Image
And after adjusting the strobes some, I really like the beam of light shooting down from the strobe
Image
A different individual on the surface, about 8ft, shooting for that over/under split level view. Not easy to do when shooting at night in the wild and trying not to spook or irritate the gator.
Image
There is actually not a gator in this one, but I thought it was a nice scenic shot of the everglades underwater at night
Image
Image
You would be amazed how easy it is to miss a giant predatory "dinosaur" while out in the swamp, but that is how these animals survive as ambush hunters. While snorkeling along in the inky darkness of black swampwater, you really have to try to keep your nerves calm and your mind focused. It is all too easy to let your mind wander, to spook yourself, or to second guess yourself. Another difficulty is straining your eyes to peer into the dark black water, you sometimes try to see things that aren't there, or have things blend into the surroundings when they are. I once had a gator swim away and create a cloud of silt around me. I sat still and waited for the silt to slowly settle, the silence underwater becoming absolutely deafening as all you can hear if your own heart beating and you become strangely aware a=of just how loud your heart is. The silt settled for the most part and vision had largely returned to be able to see at least a few feet around me, leaves slowly floating down into the mud as well, very bright in my lights against the inky black. Then I noticed one leaf wasnt floating down, it was about three feet from my face, and I strained my eyes looking at it, crept a little closer to see through the silt, then I began to be able to make out the teeth...my "leaf" was actually the white skin around the eye. That was a fun experience to say the least. I didnt have such a nice camera setup that time though, but had a similar experience with this setup. This shot gives you an idea of what you actually see while swimming, just some bits of white in the black...the inside of a cracked open mouth
Image
After focusing the gear and moving in a little closer, I was able to get this shot of this beast of a gator. This animal was over 11ft, a gorgeous dinosaur I was thrilled to be able to see and photograph. Such a magnificent animal! Oh, and of course, please do not try this at home!
Image
Some more underwater scenery
Image
A few brown watersnakes were out hunting. Nerodia taxispilota
Image
Image
I also came upon a few baby gators, no mother in sight. I hope the little guys make it. They seek safety in numbers and form a group known as a pod.
Image
Image
Image
Image
My last underwater shot from this session, a gorgeous little 7 footer
Image
Now for a very interesting story in nonnatives! One of my proudest moments in my invasive species work, I was very happy to be part of the team to capture the infamous nile, possibly west african nile, crocodile in ENP. This croc had been chased for the last two years through the canals of south Florida, and finally was captured through some great teamwork with UF, NPS, and FWC. It had been most recently spotted by the SwampApes organization and reported, Mike Rochford, Ed Metzger and I went out to investigate. We confirmed the animal with this photo
Image
We then returned with a team of about 11 people from the previously listed agencies, and with Mike's brilliant planning, we were able to isolate the croc into a small section of a box canal using nets, and after several hours of tightening down our search area I was able to get a rope on the croc, pull it up and jump it. I was so excited! That also makes the 5th species of crocodilian I have captured in the wild IN FLORIDA.
Here we are closing the netted area down, bit by bit, to isolate the croc in an ever decreasing amount of water. NPS on standby with rifles, they had orders to fire if a clean shot presented itself, so the animal would not be lost. I am also there ready with snorkel and mask; I tried getting in to swim for it but couldn't locate the animal in the stirred up water.
Image
Right after catching the croc, here Mike and I are taping it up.
Image
Once taped up I had to cross the canal back to the road to the rest of the crew, so here is my walking on water shot someone took before I went down with the croc and swam across with it.
Image
And the trophy shot! (By the way, Ed and Mike are standing down the side of the road shoulder on lower ground, they're really not that much smaller than me! Just a funny position/angle)
Image
And in this long photo string we are almost back up to present day now, with a recent trip I was down in the Fl Keys. The setting sun left for an interesting shot of an iguana going to sleep in the trees
Image
While on Big Pine, just after dark, I was walking through some pineland and came up a black racer sitting among the grass, which seemed odd to see after dark, but then I saw what had likely kept him up past his bedtime; he was in the process of consuming a key's ringneck! For those that dont know, the lower keys population of ringnecks is protected and pretty rare and referred to be the subspecies Diadophis punctatus acricus. A very interesting sight to see, I was excited to behold such an interesting natural phenomenon but sad to see a beautiful key's ringneck go. I still dont have decent photos of this subspecies!
Image
And right next to that interaction was this small gecko, what I am fairly certain is a reef gecko, Sphaerodactylus notatus
Image
Here is an alligator out in ENP in a shrinking waterhole earlier this month, waiting for rains to come
Image
And a pretty slider basking on a log, Peace River
Image
So that brings everyone up to speed on my Fl herping in that last few years, if anyone made it through so many photos!! I tried to keep narration to a minimum with so many photos, and hope everyone enjoyed! Now that I am up to speed on Florida, I need to do my outside the US herping for the past 2 yrs... I just need to post an Amazon trip, two Costa Rica trips, and a Mexico trip...
Happy herping out there,
Chris Gillette

User avatar
soulsurvivor
Posts: 531
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:09 am
Location: NE Florida
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by soulsurvivor » May 29th, 2014, 7:40 pm

Awesome post! You have some fantastic photos. And I enjoyed your narration. Thanks for coming back and sharing what you've been up to!

User avatar
Mike VanValen
Posts: 2073
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:41 pm
Location: Connecticut
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Mike VanValen » May 29th, 2014, 7:59 pm

That dark SK is very cool. Crazy stuff, as usual...love the swimming EDB.

User avatar
Mark Brown
Posts: 567
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 1:15 am
Location: Austin, TX

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Mark Brown » May 30th, 2014, 12:33 am

Gorgeous photography! I still can't believe you picked up that Scolopendra......how do you do that without getting tagged? Has one ever gotten those fangs into you?

As much as I hate to see them there, those are some really pretty and healthy-looking Burms. Obviously they're making the most of their "new" environment.

User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Christopher » May 30th, 2014, 2:56 pm

Mark I have only picked up a few scolopendra, pretty much like pinning a snake, and have not been tagged by one *knock on wood*. I dont make a habit out of either activity though lol.
Thanks Mike and Soulsurvivor!

User avatar
Josh Holbrook
Posts: 2195
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:11 am
Location: Western North Carolina
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Josh Holbrook » May 30th, 2014, 4:18 pm

Great post, welcome back Chris. They should give you a TV show or something.

Are the newts you get south of the lake usually adults? I get mostly neotenics up here - were they found terrestrially or underwater?

User avatar
Noah M
Posts: 2284
Joined: November 3rd, 2012, 6:00 pm
Location: Gainesville, FL
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Noah M » May 30th, 2014, 4:22 pm

Great stuff. Wild stuff. Thanks for sharing!

Asnyder
Posts: 91
Joined: February 26th, 2011, 10:48 am
Location: Oxford, Mississippi/ Owings Mills, MD
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Asnyder » May 30th, 2014, 4:34 pm

Dude awesome photos Chris! I really like your daytime flash use. And those underwater shots...killer! I still can't believe I haven't made it down to the Everglades yet to herp but I'm really hoping to be able to do it soon. I think I'm going to have to go through these shots a few more times to get everything out of them. Great collection!

User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Christopher » May 30th, 2014, 5:01 pm

Thanks Josh, yeah I find a lot of cool herps while on location for filming, but thats in real time so its not filmed lol. The newts were all underwater and pretty small, I think the same as you're saying.
Thanks captainjack0000
Thanks Asnyder, I love using fill flash in the day, I know a lot of people dont like it but I enjoy the look it gives. I am really happy with the underwater shots, thank you, it is a new facet of photography I am trying to get into more heavily, just very expensive and challenging! If you ever make it down to the glades let me know and we will definitely get out herping man

Y.Morgan
Posts: 131
Joined: January 28th, 2011, 10:51 pm
Location: SW New Mexico

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Y.Morgan » May 30th, 2014, 8:04 pm

What a place! What a post! Good to see you and South Florida back on the forum. That baby mud snake and also the eye of that first adult are really something. All of the underwater shots are interesting - your commentary too. It must be a rush to suddenly realize you're so close to a gator underwater. That dark scarlet king is crazy! I know you wanted to pull that ring neck outta the racer's mouth. It must've been difficult to pare down all of your finds to make a single, manageable post - but thanks for doing it.
York

dendrelaphis
Posts: 145
Joined: February 28th, 2014, 12:10 am

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by dendrelaphis » May 31st, 2014, 5:04 am

great finds and pictures!

Alex
Posts: 24
Joined: February 20th, 2011, 8:30 pm

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Alex » May 31st, 2014, 2:57 pm

Great series of pics I am really loving the underwater shots of the gators!!

User avatar
umop apisdn
Posts: 395
Joined: June 13th, 2010, 5:06 pm

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by umop apisdn » May 31st, 2014, 5:23 pm

Chris, we've had some fun hanging out and herping with you when we've been down. Kevin, Nate, and I were saddened by not being able to make the trip last year, but we'll definitely try again in the future.

And I think the vine snake you snagged that night (which, by the way, was one of the all-time coolest and least-expected finds down there for me) was A. prasina. Nose isn't quite right for A nasuta (I think).

User avatar
The Jake-Man
Posts: 224
Joined: June 25th, 2012, 3:08 pm
Location: Lebanon Pennsylvania

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by The Jake-Man » May 31st, 2014, 5:56 pm

This is one of the best posts I've seen here in a while. Great photos, and great commentary. I knew that South Florida was a melting pot of non-native herps, but I never realized the extant of the diversity of naturalized alien species.

I too have noticed that I post less and less on here, favoring Facebook instead. I have nothing against the FHF, it was just a gradual progression.

Lloyd Heilbrunn
Posts: 282
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 7:15 pm
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Fl

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » May 31st, 2014, 8:28 pm

Very nice, Chris, as always....

User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Christopher » May 31st, 2014, 8:42 pm

umop apisdn wrote:Chris, we've had some fun hanging out and herping with you when we've been down. Kevin, Nate, and I were saddened by not being able to make the trip last year, but we'll definitely try again in the future.

And I think the vine snake you snagged that night (which, by the way, was one of the all-time coolest and least-expected finds down there for me) was A. prasina. Nose isn't quite right for A nasuta (I think).
I missed you guys last yr! I hope you can make it down again soon! And I was wondering if it was nasuta or not, wasn't positive.
Y.Morgan-thanks! Yeah the gators are largely mellow and just swim away, but it can get pretty unnerving at times. Not something I recommend trying!! I did want to help that ringneck, but its nature!
Thanks Alex, dendrelaphis, and Lloyd. Lloyd we gotta get out herping again!
The Jake-Man-thank you, you'd be amazed what you can find in south Flroida, just about anything really!! Most things are not widespread and some of what I find are just random escaped individuals, but you never know what you might find that has escaped and survived in the warm climate.

Lloyd Heilbrunn
Posts: 282
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 7:15 pm
Location: Palm Beach Gardens, Fl

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » June 2nd, 2014, 8:06 pm

Chris, I know you usually work weekends when I can get out, but maybe with daylight savings we could meet after you get out of work one Saturday.

User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Christopher » June 2nd, 2014, 8:13 pm

Lloyd Heilbrunn wrote:Chris, I know you usually work weekends when I can get out, but maybe with daylight savings we could meet after you get out of work one Saturday.
Yeah Lloyd we should try to shoot for it!

User avatar
Dr. Dark
Posts: 380
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:39 pm
Location: Concord TWP, Ohio

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Dr. Dark » June 3rd, 2014, 3:43 am

Awesome post Chris!

User avatar
Jeroen Speybroeck
Posts: 818
Joined: June 29th, 2011, 12:56 am
Location: Belgium
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » June 3rd, 2014, 7:20 am

Woow, this wave of posts you're doing certainly makes for an impressive re-entry. What a splendid color collection! Feeds in to my desire to see the SE USA some day in the not too far away future.

User avatar
ZantiMissKnit
Posts: 1037
Joined: September 14th, 2012, 8:43 am
Location: Boston area, MA

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by ZantiMissKnit » June 3rd, 2014, 8:22 am

This is an amazing post. It also showed me the lifers I missed while in the ENP early this year. :)

dickbartlett
Posts: 72
Joined: June 25th, 2010, 10:32 am

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by dickbartlett » June 3rd, 2014, 8:55 am

You continue to amaze me, Chris. This post is nothing short of stupendous!

reyesreptiles06
Posts: 8
Joined: May 18th, 2014, 6:30 pm

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by reyesreptiles06 » June 3rd, 2014, 9:21 am

You have amazing shots. Love everything!

User avatar
withalligators
Posts: 329
Joined: June 29th, 2010, 5:50 am
Location: northern Westchester co., NY

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by withalligators » June 3rd, 2014, 9:58 am

Dude. Wowsers!

User avatar
SAGlines
Posts: 119
Joined: June 9th, 2010, 4:25 pm
Location: New England
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by SAGlines » June 3rd, 2014, 10:01 am

Awesome post! Great pics! I go down the ENP every February and you are making me want to go down right now!!

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

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by mtratcliffe » June 3rd, 2014, 1:46 pm

Awesome photos! I can't even comprehend how you even went about taking those underwater shots of the gators, let alone how you mustered the courage for that. Truly impressive - I'll have to make a point of spending a weekend down near Big Cypress and the Everglades once it gets cooler this year.

qaz
Posts: 88
Joined: December 27th, 2012, 9:09 am

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by qaz » June 3rd, 2014, 2:47 pm

Great stories and pictures Chris! I really like the one's of the baby crocs.
How do you light your nighttime photos?

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

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by JakeScott » June 4th, 2014, 5:38 pm

I've seen a couple of these images over the years, but they never get old my man. I'm glad you took the time (and I know it took some time) to post these here, I thoroughly enjoyed it! And yep, that be a Sphaerodactylus notatus. Hopefully I'll get down there and we can get out again.

-Jake

Zach_Lim
Posts: 1607
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 7:37 pm
Location: San Francisco, CA
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Zach_Lim » June 5th, 2014, 8:03 am

Fantastic narration and photographs.

The shots of the neo croc are amazing.

User avatar
chrish
Posts: 3298
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Location: San Antonio, TX
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by chrish » June 5th, 2014, 9:27 am

Great photos and narration. You really managed to creep me out with your description of snorkeling at night.

User avatar
TravisK
Posts: 772
Joined: July 8th, 2010, 10:14 am
Location: Eastern Washington

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by TravisK » June 5th, 2014, 3:51 pm

Damn, this makes me want to call my bank partners in FL and and see if they have any job openings down there. Nice freaking thread!

User avatar
Christopher
Posts: 140
Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 7:53 pm
Location: SFL
Contact:

Re: Florida herping, catching up after my FHF absence

Post by Christopher » June 7th, 2014, 8:31 am

mtratcliffe wrote:Awesome photos! I can't even comprehend how you even went about taking those underwater shots of the gators, let alone how you mustered the courage for that. Truly impressive - I'll have to make a point of spending a weekend down near Big Cypress and the Everglades once it gets cooler this year.
Thanks, and not going to lie, I get nervous everytime! Always worried about the one you dont see!
chrish wrote:Great photos and narration. You really managed to creep me out with your description of snorkeling at night.
I aim to please ;)
qaz wrote:Great stories and pictures Chris! I really like the one's of the baby crocs.
How do you light your nighttime photos?
I usually use two external flashes and occasionally a big diffuser when i'm not being lazy

Thank you very much to everyone else for the kind words!

Post Reply