All text copyright  Eitan Grunwald.  All photographs copyright  Eitan or Ron Grunwald  except photographs by others are copyright per photo credits.  All rights reserved.  Terms
SOUTHEAST
March 2006
 3 of 4
SOUTHEAST
March 2006
 3 of 4
Give us this day our daily Racer.   We are hiking a hammock as an incoming front brings showers.  Pierson and I make it back to the car just ahead of the rain, but my brother gets caught in the sudden downpour.  We’re waiting for him, wondering what’s taking so long, when a drenched Ron emerges from the woods, snake in hand.  Seems that as he was dashing to get out of the rain, he ran right by this Racer basking in the sun shower.   Without missing a beat, he reached down and scooped up his catch-of-the-day. Make our way to a beautiful mixed habitat of cabbage palms and cypress ponds.      Pierson advises us to look for Blue-Striped Garters and Ribbons under fallen palm fronds at the base of trees. Ron dutifully removes one brown frond that’s resting on another several feet off the ground, and is totally surprised when it reveals this arboreal Gray Rat Snake. This is my favorite kind of herping.  Of course, finding snakes any time is great, and I’m perfectly happy to flip trash or go road cruising.  But nothing compares to encountering herps in their natural setting, getting a glimpse of how they live in their own world.  Hiking through habitat with a heightened awareness, then a flash of discovery   that rush!  No other form of herping invokes such wonder and satisfaction.            I’m walking ahead on a trail when I realize the others are far behind.  I stop to look for them, and as I turn, my eye catches an image at the base of a tree, an ornate pin cushion, a perfectly coiled Pygmy.  It’s one of those moments.   The others catch up, and while we’re admiring one snake, Pierson turns around and notices another sitting perfectly still on a palm frond, one we must have walked past several times. Like its relative, the Blue-Striped Garter, these Ribbon Snakes are found only in this region of Florida, from the Big Bend down to Gulf Hammock.  Compare it to another Ribbon Snake, a subspecies common throughout the entire state, that we found earlier in the day.   Ron and Pierson stop to take photos of a Green Tree Frog resting on this palm frond in the middle of the trail.  Disturbed by the attention, the frog retreats into the folds of the bent-over leaf.  They pull back the flap, expecting to see the lone recluse, but discover instead a trove of little Squirrel Tree Frogs hunkered down in the pleated hideaway.         Not all Scarlet Kings are found in pine trees.  These two are discovered in or around cabbage palms. The day ends by coastal wetlands, a blazing horizon to the west, and a pastel moonrise to the east.       
Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake Sistrurus miliarius barbouri  
Peninsular Ribbon Snake Thamnophis sauritus sackenii
Blue-Striped Ribbon Snake Thamnophis sauritus nitae
Green Tree Frog and Squirrel Tree Frogs Hyla cinerea and Hyla squirrela