The Islands of Bimini

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JakeScott
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The Islands of Bimini

Post by JakeScott » May 15th, 2013, 7:38 pm

After several years of trying to figure out how I was going to get to this fauna-happy island of the Bahamas, I finally worked out the details with Dick Bartlett. We bought our tickets on a newly running ferry a month ahead of time and booked our hotel. It's not cheap, but it was something that both of us were truly excited about. Dick hadn't been in 40 years so it was like new again, and he really wanted to update some of his photos that had been on old slides.
We left Gainesville, Florida for Miami the night prior to our morning ferry departure on Friday. The trip was roughly 3 hours from port to port and once we got to Bimini and thru the hoards of drunken kids and customs (which was just a little courtyard called the "Straw Market"), we checked into our hotel. We dropped our bags off in the room and off we went to make the most of our three days. We stayed on North Bimini, but the majority of the animals were on the minimally inhabited South Bimini, which you must take a small ferry to get to. But before we made our way to the ferry platform we searched some of the areas around North Bimini to knock some of the more common critters out first.
The very first animal was saw was the Bimini Curly-tailed Lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus coryi), which looks like the ones you find running around South Florida, but with a light stripe running laterally from the tympanic membrane to the tail.
Image
Leiocephalus carinatus coryi by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

We found a nice open area with a few Australian pines that looked promising. We weren't disappointed.
The Bimini Brown Anole (Anolis sagrei ordinatus) were running around everywhere. This subspecies is slightly more spotted along the dorsum and the dewlap is more orange than red.
Image
Anolis sagrei ordinatus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Image
Anolis sagrei ordinatus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Image
Anolis sagrei ordinatus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

Shortly after, in the same vicinity, we found a couple of the local green anoles that were in the more thick shrubs along the edges.
Bimini Green Anole (Anolis smaragdinus lerneri). Once classified as an Anolis carolinensis subspecies, they are slightly different in appearance; having more yellow coloration on the venter and around the eye (which seems a bit smaller as well). They would seem quite commonly on both North and South Bimini.
Image
Anolis smaragdinus lerneri by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Image
Anolis smaragdinus lerneri by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

We also saw several non-native Tropical House Geckos (Hemidactylus mabouia), but I only took one photo due to how common they are in Florida and that photo was not so good.

After getting directions from a local, or three, we managed to get to the ferry pier. We didn't know it at the time, but these ferries run at random, but we never have to wait long. Everything there is on Bahamas time, which is another word for "eventually or not". All the locals were happy people. Waiving when they pass by and smiles for days.
Here is a picture of one of the ferry boats as it makes the crossing from North to South Bimini. It's only a couple of minutes from one side to the other.
Image
Bimini Ferry by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

The cost is 2 U.S. dollars (or 2 Bahamian dollars, I guess their equal?) or 5 dollars if you wanted to take the taxi van from the drop off to the airport (a small plane airport). The first day we took the $5 option so we could get to the south end of South Bimini. We figured we would just take the taxi down to the airport and walk back to the pier. After getting out of the van we started looking in and around the forest for anything and everything.
By this time it was about midday and the heat was overwhelming. Which was perfect for the next animal we came across.
Bimini Ameiva (Ameiva auberi richmondi) were common at the forest edges on South Bimini. Since they were fast to retreat, I had a very difficult time getting a decent photograph.
Image
Ameiva auberi richmondi by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
There was a small bar and grill near the airport where we got a cold soda and found our next animal on one of the gumbo limbo trees out front.
Bimini Bark Anole (Anolis distichus biminiensis). This subspecies posses a much more orange, with some red accents, dewlap than Anolis distichus distichus.
Image
Anolis distichus biminiensis by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

We were already very hot and tired and we hadn't even started our roughly 2 mile walk back. We decided to go anyway. The walk was brutal and we didn't see any more animals up until our rest at the Fountain of Youth. This is a small park with a walking trail and an old fashioned well. We sat and rested under the shade of the poisonwood tree for a long period of time and drank some water. Eventually we got up and began to explore a bit. We flipped some limestone rocks and managed to turn up a couple things, but not what we had expected.
First was the Bimini Racer (Alsophis vudii picticeps) that was digesting an anole.
Image
Alsophis vudii picticeps by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Image
Alsophis vudii picticeps by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
And the second was a Bimini Tarantula (Cyrtopholis bonhotei), of which we would find more later in the trip.
Image
Cyrtopholis bonhotei by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

We managed (with a little help from a nice woman with a golf cart) to get back to the ferry pier. We were tired and it was time to go relax and rehydrate.
Not a bad view to look at while you wait for the next ferry.
Image
Bimini, Bahamas by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

The next day headed to the southern end of South Bimini again. We walked a rural road that runs parallel to the airport and we turned up several of this next animal under old palm fronds.
Bimini Reef Gecko (Sphaerodactylus notatus amaurus). We ended up finding a lot these on our trip.
Image
Sphaerodactylus notatus amaurus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
South Bimini is also home to another endemic subspecies of anolis. One that I was truly hoping to see but my hopes were low since they were very stealthy localized.
But after hours of walking and looking we managed to find one male high up in a tree. I ended up climbing the tree and out on to the outer portions of the limb the anole was on. I realized I'm far too heavy for that limb so Dick handed me a stick and the anole did what anoles do, it climbed on to the stick I was holding. I tried to hand the stick down to Dick, but it slipped a bit and the anole jumped and was gone. I was upset at myself but on the way down the tree I scared up a baby of the same species.
Bimini Twig Anole (Anolis angusticeps oligaspis). This slender anole has a slightly elongate and pointed snout as well as a banded tail. The dewlap is diminutive and yellow. It is similar ecomorphologically to that of the green anole but is more chameleon-like in it's movements.
Image
Anolis angusticeps oligaspis by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
We did finally turn up an adult male.
Image
Anolis angusticeps oligaspis by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Image
Anolis angusticeps oligaspis by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

This day we smartened up, if only a bit, and took the taxi back from the airport to the pier. Heading back to the hotel and resting was a must still. A lot of walking in the sun drenched islands is not to bright. We found out that the ferry runs late on the weekends to accommodate the workers at the Bimini Sands condos who work at the bar that closes late. Since most of those employees live on North Bimini, they needed this service. So that night we decided to walk again, but in the dark this time.
We found a manmade limestone rock wall that looked great for....just about anything. It only took a short amount of time before Dick saw a small gecko jump from the ground into one of the cracks in the wall. We couldn't get a photo of that one, so we kept looking. But it didn't take long for us to find several more. This next animal was another of my favorites on the island.
Black-spotted Dwarf Gecko (Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus flavicaudus). They are restricted to South Bimini and we were lucky enough to find a strong population.
Female
Image
Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus flavicaudus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Sub-adult male who will eventually have a solid yellow tail and head and will have dark spots along the dorsum.
Image
Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus flavicaudus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

This Cuban Treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) was resting the small roof over the well at the Fountain of Youth. Inside the water at the bottom of the well was tadpoles..hmm, I guess Ponce de León wasn't all wrong.
Image
IMG_2260 by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Another nonnative we found out and about was the small Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris planirostris).
Image
Eleutherodactylus planirostris planirostris by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

Most of the forest consists of the highly toxic Poisonwood Tree, which I happen to be sensitive to and will break out in itchy welts by just breathing near one. So, we were relieved to find a nice stand of Gumbo Limbos with an open understory. HOWEVER, under closer inspection we noticed something very puzzling. Most of the trees were not just gumbo limbos, but a combination with the poisonwood. I've never seen something like this. This next photo illustrates what I'm talking about. The trees appear to be meshed together, gumbo limbo on the left and poisonwood on the right.
Image
Gumbo Limbo and Poisonwood by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

A nice Bimini Curly-tailed Lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus coryi) along a stone wall with the sea and beach grasses in the background.
Image
Leiocephalus carinatus coryi by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

A different view of the same habitat. Can't complain about herping here.
Image
South Bimini by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

Oh and did I mention we were able to see one the coolest animals on the island, (with a little help from our friends Katie and Grant)? We were elated and excited!
Bimini Boa (Epicrates striatus fosteri).
Image
Epicrates striatus fosteri by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

There were a few migratory birds on the island that were neither afraid nor uncommon, but beautiful.
American Redstarts were everywhere.
Male:
Image
Setophaga ruticilla by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
This female would be at the sound island pier everyday, chasing bugs in the same only feet from us.
Image
Setophaga ruticilla by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Bobolinks were also very common and were seen in open grassy areas foraging.
Image
Dolichonyx oryzivorus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr
Every once in awhile you'd hear loud thumping in the treetops or shrubs, and then you'd see a Yellow-billed Cuckoo appear.
Image
Coccyzus americanus by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

We didn't get to see a few things, such as the Bimini Dwarf Boa (Tropidophis canus curtus) and the blind snakes Typhlops biminiensis and T. lumbricalis. But it wasn't for a lack of trying. We flipped what felt like a thousand items of various types of debris. But I think we did very well for only two nights and a total of about 2 days. I'll be back in short time and try for the last three.

Bimini is truly a great place. This small group of islands holds as many species of herps as any of the surrounding and larger Bahamian islands.

To sum it up, here is a picture Dick and what we looked at most of the trip...the endless road.

Image
IMG_2626 by Jake M. Scott, on Flickr

-Jake Scott

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Antonsrkn
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Antonsrkn » May 15th, 2013, 7:50 pm

Amazing, I hadn't heard of the majority of the species and subspecies you posted before, really a pleasure to look through! Thanks for posting!

WW**
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by WW** » May 15th, 2013, 9:31 pm

Great post - I remember reading about those islands in one of Dick's books many moons ago. It's good to see that things are still there!

Carl D. May
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Carl D. May » May 16th, 2013, 2:54 am

Yikes! Poison gumbo trees! I've seen them growing together in the keys but never like that. Weird. And disturbing.
Very glad you and Dick managed the trip but I bet Dick was profoundly disappointed not to get the dwarf boas.
The twig anole is great!

Nice Jake, thanks for sharing.

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Josh Holbrook » May 16th, 2013, 5:13 am

Add me to the list of folks who read the stories about Bimini in Dick's In Search of Reptiles and Amphibians. Great post Jake.

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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by mikemike » May 16th, 2013, 7:31 am

Great post, man. Looks like you guys had a hell of a trip.

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Nshepard
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Nshepard » May 16th, 2013, 1:37 pm

Nicely done!

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Fieldnotes
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Fieldnotes » May 16th, 2013, 2:04 pm

Too Cool :thumb: :thumb:

John Williams
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by John Williams » May 16th, 2013, 6:56 pm

Amazing post. Great photos!

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CCarille
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by CCarille » May 16th, 2013, 7:00 pm

I'm super happy to have checked through this post! Some great shots and that's amazing that you found a Bimini!!! Love them!

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Kelly Mc
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Kelly Mc » May 16th, 2013, 8:09 pm

Fantastic! And a special thank you for the curly tail lizard :thumb: I love those guys!

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Tim Borski
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Tim Borski » May 17th, 2013, 6:01 am

Jake, I know you don't put up posts all that often, but when you do...Whoa, definitely worth the wait!!!


:thumb: :thumb:

I was Tarpon fishing one day during your Bimini time frame and had a flock of Bobolinks land on my skiff! They rested for a bit, paced around a little and then took of for Grassy Key...they came from your direction.



Tim

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Cole Grover
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Cole Grover » May 17th, 2013, 6:46 am

Awesome post. Damn awesome. The Anolis, Sphaerodactylus, Epicrates, Eleuthrodactylus, habitat shots, Amieva, Alsophis and everything else made this a pleasurable read/view. It pretty much epitomizes the Caribbean for me. Thanks for putting it up, Jake!

-Cole

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justinm
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by justinm » May 17th, 2013, 8:19 am

WW** wrote:Great post - I remember reading about those islands in one of Dick's books many moons ago. It's good to see that things are still there!

Agreed, what a joy of a post!

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Mike Pingleton
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Mike Pingleton » May 17th, 2013, 10:03 am

Fantastic Jake! When I reach the end and think "I wanna go!" it's an awesome post.

Any chance of renting or bringing bicycles on South Bimini?

Love that leading Curlytail shot.

-Mike

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JakeScott
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by JakeScott » May 17th, 2013, 11:19 am

Thanks everyone for you comments, it was something that I know I will do again soon.

Mike, we actually had thought about that. Dick doesn't ride bikes so well though, but several people had bikes. There didn't seem to be any way to rent (or get a hold of) any motorized vehicles on the south island. There were a few private cars and golf carts; I'm sure if you paid someone enough, you could get them to drive you around a bit.

-Jake

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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by BillMcGighan » May 18th, 2013, 9:30 am

Thanks for the peek into Bimini, Jake.
Looks like a great trip.

Would you recommend it for others?
Were accomodations reasonable?
How was food?
Did you bonefish? SCUBA?

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JakeScott
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by JakeScott » May 18th, 2013, 10:07 am

Hey Bill, I would recommend it for someone who knows that it's not going to be cheap experience. The hotels are fairly expensive and the ferry trip is a couple hundred dollars as well (if you fly it is significantly more). BUT, if it's something you save up for (like me) and know this ahead of time, it was a very fun time. The animals on Bimini are not conspicuous and take a lot of effort to find. If you have a bike or know someone who can drive you, it would be even better because the south island is quite a hike (bring plenty of bottled water!). The food was really good at the Big Game Club Restaurant, which is a part of the hotel itself, and it is also consistently open; unlike many other places. You can't really rely on other, smaller, restaurants to be open when you need them. They are on a "when we feel like it" kind of schedule. We brought some of our own food/snacks as well since we were aware that the south island has very little accommodations and the what they do have is few and far between. The price of food at Big Game were reasonable actually. Much like a semi-nice restaurant here in the US.
We didn't do any Scuba or fishing, but by far the vast majority of tourists are there for that. We were the minority, no doubt, but most of the people knew who we were by the end of our time there...."did yah find any snakes today?".
I did take a swim in the ocean, and MAN didn't if feel good. I really did wish I had brought my goggles or mask, but just swimming was relaxing, and the beach had no one on it.

All and all, I would recommend it, no doubt. But maybe if you want to see a high number of animal stay for a week.

-Jake

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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by Shane_TX » May 18th, 2013, 7:05 pm

Awesome post and thanks for sharing! I foresee a good handful of South Bimini posts coming in the near future.

Cheers,

Shane

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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by MNHERPER » May 18th, 2013, 9:37 pm

Fantastic post Jake! Thanks for sharing!

dickbartlett
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by dickbartlett » May 22nd, 2013, 6:55 am

Great post, Jake. Thanx for taking the time.
My reunion with the south island, after a haitus of 40+ years, was bittersweet.
It was great to learn that populations of the various endemics was more or less still intact. But it was distressing to learn that I could barely walk half the length of the island when I used to be able to walk from end to end. I didn't realise that islands could grow---but South Bimin sure has. There are still a few herps waiting to be refound--among them both of the blind snakes and the dwarf boa. It's good to have goals. Are you sure you really don't want to buy that little cay?<LOL>. Captain Hyram was great.

reako45
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by reako45 » May 25th, 2013, 2:39 am

Now I wanna go! :thumb:

reako45

dickbartlett
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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by dickbartlett » May 25th, 2013, 10:42 am

Now that Jake and I have things more or less sorted out, I think we'll both be returning also. It is a VERY nice area and home to the world's friendliest people. And lots of VERY blue salt water.

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Re: The Islands of Bimini

Post by ahockenberry » May 25th, 2013, 7:19 pm

A+ Very well done !

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