Panhandular Herping- Florida 2006

good morning, mister toad

snake on the road...

Peninsula Ribbon Snake

Dolomedes sp.

Trumpet Pitcher Plant



The third week in March found my wife, my youngest daughter and I heading south for a family vacation.  We would be staying in Tallahassee for a week with some friends, and I was going to get in a few days of herping while down there.  Good timing on our part, as a cold front brought a spring snowfall back home in Illinois.

Early on the morning of my first herping day I headed west to the Apalachicola National Forest.  Temperatures were in the low fifties when I arrived, but the sun was out and it looked to get warmer.  I drove along the sand roads bordering the ANF., looking for junk piles to flip.  Several appliances and chunks of carpet yielded no more than a single chilled and befuddled toad.

When the junk ran out, I turned my attention to standing dead pine trees, in hopes finding a Scarlet King or a juvenile Corn Snake.  I spent several hours peering under the bark of standing and fallen pines, but coming up empty-handed.  I was either unlucky or simply spoiled, since on my last visit I found a Scarlet King under the bark of the first tree I checked.  I came across a number of trees and stumps where the bark had been completely stripped away, probably by collectors.  There's no need to pull the bark off and ruin the hiding spot when all you need to do is pull the bark back a little and look behind it.


My morning was rescued by a small serpent on the sand road.  It turned out to be a Peninsula Ribbon Snake, Thamnophis sauritus sackenii, a new species for me. The snake seemed to be a bit sluggish - the road surface was still a cool 53F.  As I took a few photos I noted the white coloration on each preocular scale, apparently a signature of this subspecies. I left the snake to continue on its way, noting that there wasn't a visible water source anywhere within sight.  Trust the serpent to know where it is going.

The herps weren't exactly knocking me over, but there's always plenty to see down here, and I enjoyed the sundews and trumpet pitchers and little swamp pinks, which are tiny orchids growing in the wet spots along the road.  I turned up a fishing spider, a new species I was not familiar with, while pursuing a cricket frog.  A Pileated Woodpecker passed by, and I watched a few little Yellowrump Warblers flipping around in the lower branches...

Loose bark and artificial cover were letting me down today.  As noon came and went, I decided to head south, towards where the Apalachicola River emptied into the Gulf, and try my luck down there.  On the way, I spotted a couple racers on the roadside, but when they're warmed up they're ready to race, so by the time I had stopped the car they had long boiled off into the brush.


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