Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

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Josh Holbrook
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Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Josh Holbrook » October 28th, 2014, 7:36 am

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Well, here it is folks – the last part in the series I started 8 or 9 months ago (until the prequels, or the Disney funded sequels). It’s been a whirlwind spring and summer: I’ve finished up classes, defended my thesis, graduated and am now getting ready to depart from my decade-long home (Florida) to be a missionary in Western N.C. (weird, huh?) But, I’ve got a few weeks left of herping before I do, and I had about 25 gigs of pictures as well, so that means it’s time for a post. We’ll go back to January; we were chipping away at getting the sample sizes we needed for our work with Mangrove Saltmarsh Snakes (Nerodia clarkii compressicauda), so that brought us to the far ends of southern Florida quite a few times.

Some of our lab space in the Keys:

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Dr. Chesnes, my colleague in clarkii research; and Hannah, our undergraduate assistant.
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Doing caudal measurements:
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Venter:

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Although she was a great help on the project, Hannah wasn’t a snake lover when she started, so she was a little bit leery handling them.
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In habitat in the upper Keys:

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We also got to do some surveying for clarkii in some of the southeastern FL state parks; including Bill Bags – No clarkii sighted there, but this turtle. Any ID ideas?

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And other clarkii from other areas. While going to look for these we had some car trouble – You see, I’m not the most mechanically inclined person ever, but like to learn new things, so I started changing my own oil. Evidently hand-tightening the oil pan bolt isn’t the correct way to do it; and I found this out about halfway across the state when I heard a terrible crash and saw black smoke pouring out the back of my car. A few hours later and a tow truck driver that was nice enough to bring us the part, and we were back on the road. We were luckily redeemed later that night in some coastal marshes:


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The clarkii catch kept on coming at our Herpetological Society’s annual Burm Bash; we were based out of ENP, but made some trips outside the park.

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This girl had some lovely copper blotches:


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The herpers:


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Caleb, the youngest of the group was the star of the evening, finding more clarkii than any of us:
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Ready for hours of morphometric measurements:
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Interestingly, many of the clarkii were arboreal this particular evening. Amazingly, they were often in poses that would take me hours of posing to get them in. Sometime in situ pictures are better:

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Some Florida Watersnake/Mangrove Watersnake hybrids:

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And from the Park proper:
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Soon thereafter in May, I went to join up for the Spring SE NAFHA trip in Apalachicola NF. On the way up, I stayed at a state park and saw some Southern Toads breeding on the edges of a river – it was really interesting to see them in a big, deepwater habitat (although in a shallow microhabitat within the larger habitat.)

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The highlight of the trip for me (in terms of finds) were some undescribed Necturus; which I unfortunately neglected to get a good picture of.
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Of course, we saw clarkii:
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In addition to the Necturus, another lifer from the weekend was this Brownchin Racer:

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Jake and Dan photo’ing it:
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It was good seeing everyone there – the highlight for many was seeing this Kingsnake that some of the Kentucky regiment turned up:
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I also got to spend some time at home in CT over Memorial Day weekend. I didn’t do much herping, but a little bit:

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My wife, Beka, and I on the hunt:

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It hailed while we were there, and it was the biggest, most violent hail storm I’ve ever seen. My tent:

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These were water lilies before the hail tore them up:

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I also got a chance to TA a class in Freshwater Ecology over the summer – right up my alley considering my graduate thesis work, etc. I spent a lot of time photographing the aquatic fauna from the class and it got me into doing fish-tank shots on other occasions

Some of the class sifting through a bar seine:
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Seining:
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A Leopard frog showing the mustache and soul patch:
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Spooked barkers:

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Barker getting ready to chorus:

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Gambusia holbrooki
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Peninsular Newt:
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A great fishless wetland for Hylids -
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Narrowmouth Tadpoles:
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Pinewoods Treefrog:
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(I think) Squirrel Treefrog:

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A long-awaited lifer for me: the Narrow-striped Dwarf Siren:
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Anax junius
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Barking Treefrog:
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Green Frog tadpoles
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I’ve also done a lot of road driving in the dry prairies of the middle of the state this year – sometimes boring, sometimes beautiful.

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A ten-pointer in velvet:

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Venison and poultry:

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I saw a couple of Chicken Turtles while driving:



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Habitat where it crossed:

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Second one:
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At one point nearby, we were cruising after a long day of nothing, and saw a huge slide on the road. A few minutes and a flying leap through the air later, we had the largest Coachwhip I’ve ever seen at 8 ft, 4 inches.

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My regular herping buds Dermot and Lloyd with the beast
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I also decided to get out and search for sea turtles given this is my last foreseeable summer in Florida. When I was out I ran into another tour group that had found one:

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The group’s lights weren’t nearly as bright as they appear – long exposure.

And off into the abyss after a successful deposit.

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I also made my way north of Lake Okeechoee (well north – Gainesville area) for some herping with some friends (including a brief reassemblage of Team Aquatica). Didn’t find much the first trip, but had some good friends with us:

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The following weekend’s fortunes were kinder to me.
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And more clarkii – we’ve been trying to get 10-20 specimens from every SF county for our morphometric study, so there’s been lots of finds. They’re such a diverse species. Check out issue #18 of Herp Nation (when it comes out) for some more info/pictures of them.
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Dr. Chesnes and Bill Gibson (From Motorized Kayak in St. Lucie, check them out if you’re in the Treasure Coast area and looking for an outing)
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We also had a really interesting night one evening, you can read the extended (read: hilarious) story here: http://fieldventures.wordpress.com/2014 ... o-florida/
But some of the finds from that eve:


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And some etc.

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And I’ll leave you with a picture of my faithful dog, Corbett, begging to be taken herping:

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Thanks for viewing all, I look forward to more adventures.


-Josh

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Sam Sweet
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Sam Sweet » October 28th, 2014, 8:50 am

This is why I didn't want it deleted. Nice post!

Carl D. May
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Carl D. May » October 28th, 2014, 10:53 am

Oh man, some really, REALLY cool stuff here Josh! Great post.

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mtratcliffe
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by mtratcliffe » October 28th, 2014, 2:12 pm

Awesome stuff, Josh. I am wowed by your photography and the quality/quantity of your finds! Keep up all the great research!

Sorry to hijack your thread, but I do have a question. I was at a park in St. Petersburg this spring and I saw a watersnake that did not appear to be fully Nerodia fasciata pictiventris. I've been wondering for a while if it isn't a hybrid, and after seeing your pics of some hybrids, I think the possibility is there. Below is a shot of the snake - I appreciate any input you might have. Once again, thanks for sharing!


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soulsurvivor
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by soulsurvivor » October 28th, 2014, 2:53 pm

Josh Holbrook wrote:
Barker getting ready to chorus:

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Very nice post! I think this is my favorite photograph of the bunch though. :)

~Bree

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JakeScott
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by JakeScott » October 28th, 2014, 3:56 pm

Team Aquatica gets the best results. I'll say, this was a very good post. I especially like the photobombage by a young Jim Carrey.

20,000 leagues and beyond!

-Jake

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Noah M
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Noah M » October 28th, 2014, 4:25 pm

It sure looks like you had fun. I think the giant coachwhip is my favorite. I think I would need a change of underwear if I caught an 8 footer :shock: :lol:

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Brian Eagar » October 28th, 2014, 8:39 pm

Very nice post and photography. Amazing Clarkii. I hope to see them in the wlid someday.
That giant coachwhip would have been very cool to see also.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Noah M » October 29th, 2014, 6:21 am

Anybody else think the first turtle is a really old Yellow-bellied Slider? It kinda looks like the ones in our pond.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by AsydaBass » October 29th, 2014, 6:38 am

Super cool post, indeed! Makes me want to go find clarkii right now.
Did you notice that Sasquatch photo bombing you in the kingsnake photo? Also, killer kingsnake, one of the prettiest I've seen. Has this Team Aquatica you speak of thought about a career in group modeling? They're a good looking bunch of herpers. Maybe a herpers herping calendar....

-Don
www.RainforestDon.com

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Josh Holbrook » October 29th, 2014, 4:11 pm

Thanks for the comments all,

Carl - Thanks; your regular turtle posts keep me thinking of new methods to use for herping.

mtratcliffe - Thanks. Looks like a somewhat normal fasciata, but there's always the possibility if could have some clarkii in there if it was near a saltwater area. Any pictures of the venter?


Bree - Thanks. Barkers are my favorite frog down here.

Jake - Team Aquatica works great as a time, but not when one of their members is left to die in an ephemeral pond with no newts to show for it. Oh well, next time :beer:

Cap'n - Yeah, I actually dove for it and grabbed it's tail. It was staring me down from above while I tried to get my fieldmates to pass me a hook. Got out of it with no wounds. I'd probably go with slider for the turtle, too. Maybe Carl can chime in.

Brian - Come on down, they're not hard to find (most nights).

Don - We'll do group modeling if you're the photographer. And Dan goes shirtless.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by mtratcliffe » October 29th, 2014, 5:47 pm

Josh Holbrook wrote: mtratcliffe - Thanks. Looks like a somewhat normal fasciata, but there's always the possibility if could have some clarkii in there if it was near a saltwater area. Any pictures of the venter?
Unfortunately, no. I was on an elevated boardwalk and couldn't reach the snake. The park encompasses a freshwater lake, but there are canals that drain from the lake out to the bays. One of the canals leads to an area that has relatively expansive stretches of mangroves - probably three or so miles downstream.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Mike VanValen » October 30th, 2014, 7:19 am

Yes, the dark turtle is a melanistic slider (T. scripta).

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Josh Holbrook » October 30th, 2014, 9:26 am

mtratcliffe wrote:
Josh Holbrook wrote: mtratcliffe - Thanks. Looks like a somewhat normal fasciata, but there's always the possibility if could have some clarkii in there if it was near a saltwater area. Any pictures of the venter?
Unfortunately, no. I was on an elevated boardwalk and couldn't reach the snake. The park encompasses a freshwater lake, but there are canals that drain from the lake out to the bays. One of the canals leads to an area that has relatively expansive stretches of mangroves - probably three or so miles downstream.
It's hard to be certain without a closer inspection, but I'd put my money on a normal fasciata - it's an extremely variable species. Here's an example of two that I found that were pure fasciata: Image


Thanks, Mike

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Noah M » October 30th, 2014, 1:54 pm

Mike VanValen wrote:Yes, the dark turtle is a melanistic slider (T. scripta).
An escaped pet, or does S. Florida now have a breeding population of sliders?

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Josh Holbrook » October 30th, 2014, 4:02 pm

captainjack0000 wrote:
Mike VanValen wrote:Yes, the dark turtle is a melanistic slider (T. scripta).
An escaped pet, or does S. Florida now have a breeding population of sliders?

I don't know about yellow-bellies, but Redears are in almost every public park with a lake.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Y.Morgan » October 30th, 2014, 8:53 pm

What a fantastic post! The animal that blows me away the most is that monster coachwhip...not just it's 8' but also the girth on that thing. Suhweet! I also liked the EDB track across the road, the teenager with fists full of clarkii, the neonate pigmy, and of course - the amazing array of clarkii. Thanks for your post!
York

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by BillMcGighan » October 31st, 2014, 9:37 am

Looks like a rewarding year, Josh. :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

Congrats on closing one chapter, maybe only temporarily, and opening a new one.
Let me know when you make the move and the dust settles.
Regards, Bill
PS
Found a new population of Red Agama today here in Martin County.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by mtratcliffe » October 31st, 2014, 1:37 pm

Josh Holbrook wrote:
It's hard to be certain without a closer inspection, but I'd put my money on a normal fasciata - it's an extremely variable species. Here's an example of two that I found that were pure fasciata: Image
Oh well - thanks for clarifying though! I didn't want that nagging at me for years on end.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » November 1st, 2014, 12:17 pm

Omigosh, Josh. Incredible, amazing post. I did not know clarkii were so variable and so very beautiful until I read your post. I'm in awe of your snake photography.
Also, the shot of the barker getting ready to call blew me away.
Best wishes on your new endeavor. Looking forward to a post from N.C.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Josh Holbrook » November 2nd, 2014, 4:01 pm

Y. Morgan - Thanks! The Coachwhip was actually scarey (especially when I dove for it and it was laying on the ground and looking up into his eyes).

Bill - Definitely. I want to get proper photos of one of those Y. sallies.

Tamara - Thanks; yeah, I think clarkii might just be the most variable snake in North America. N.C. posts may be lame for the first couple of years: I've gotta baby on the way!

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by BillMcGighan » November 3rd, 2014, 5:33 am

I've gotta baby on the way!
Whoa.... That trumps all posts, discussions, degrees, and herps so far!
Biggest congrats.
Of all the facets of nature study, the world that opens with your own kids is by far the most rewarding.

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Re: Episode VI: Return of the Clarkii

Post by Josh Holbrook » November 4th, 2014, 5:38 am

Oh yeah - the Adventure Begins.

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