Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

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Berkeley Boone
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Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by Berkeley Boone » December 22nd, 2015, 7:17 am

It’s catch up time! I realized that I promised a review of a weekend trip to the Okefenokee swamp in my review of 2015’s second third (April to August). Well, here it is.

Some friends and I take an annual spring trip for some early season herping, and this year we went down to the Okefenokee area. It had been a few years since I was down there, and it was great to be back again. So Matt, his wife Anne, and I piled our gear into their car and we headed down south. The sun came and went, and we got a little rain here and there on the way down. Right about the time we were getting to our destination for the afternoon, we saw an odd helmet shape on the highway ahead. It was narrowly missed by the 18-wheeler barreling along in front of us, so we looked at it as we went by. It was definitely reptilian, but we just couldn’t tell what. Matt slammed on the brakes and we backed up, quickly exiting the car.

Turns out it was this beauty:
Image1cro hor atr by B Boone, on Flickr

She had hidden her head within her coils and was completely mounded up on the road. We hooked her up gently and moved her to the shoulder. Miraculously, she was uninjured, so we surmised that she must have been spooked by a vehicle in front of the truck, then defensively curled up and just by sheer luck managed to avoid being crushed by the big rig’s wheels.

She slowly uncurled and showed just how pretty she was
Image2cro hor atr by B Boone, on Flickr

Image3cro hor atr by B Boone, on Flickr

We moved her to a safe location and continued on to our destination. Wow! What a treat, and what a way to start our trip!

This time around, we were not going camping. Usually we do. We’ll find a nice spot along the river, or flat spot in the woods. We had elected to live the life of luxury and stay at the Suwannee River Eco Lodges in Fargo. We pulled in and waited for our friend Justin to arrive too.

Once we unloaded the cars and settled into our room, we sat out on the porch and enjoyed the clacking calls of several pinewoods and squirrel treefrogs. A thunderstorm was building and soon let loose. We parked ourselves in the rocking chairs with some cold drinks and listened to narrowmouth toads, southern toads, squirrel trees, pinewoods trees, green trees and little grass frogs playing their delightful symphony.

After the rain, we went out for some road cruising, but a cold front was passing through so we did not turn anything up. We stopped to explore some creeks and bridges on one of the roads we were on, and then we met up with Kerry, Noah and Daniel. The only thing of note that we found was the recently shed skin from a canebrake that I spotted from the bridge.
Image4cane shed by B Boone, on Flickr

The next morning, we went over to the Swamp park and wandered around. It was cool and gray, but the forecast was for a nice sunny day. Just before 10am the sun began to show itself, and we were already in position.

The various watersnake species began to show their heads
Redbelly
Image5ner ery head by B Boone, on Flickr

Image6ner ery by B Boone, on Flickr

We walked along a boardwalk out into some sweet looking swamp
Image7swamp by B Boone, on Flickr

This banded watersnake had stretched out on a fallen log
Image8ner fas full by B Boone, on Flickr

And a brown was woven among the tangle of these branches
Image9ner tax by B Boone, on Flickr

We reached the end of the boardwalk and were turning around when I spotted an odd looking banded watersnake, and thought I had found a green water. I was hoping to complete what we call the ‘Ner-Rodeo’, finding all of the Nerodia species in one trip. But upon closer inspection of our pics, we determined it was a fasciata.
Image10ner fas weird by B Boone, on Flickr

We walked back to our shoulderless friend that had been stretched out on the fallen tree. He was now completely in the sun warming his little bones. Smart fellow!
Image11ner fas sun by B Boone, on Flickr

We noticed a juvenile cottonmouth that had climbed up among some dried grasses and was basking as well
Image12agk pis by B Boone, on Flickr

A yellowbelly had hauled up and was taking advantage of the sunshine
Image13tra scr by B Boone, on Flickr

We took a different boardwalk into a different location which was covered in this wetland plant called Lizardtail.
Image14lizardtail by B Boone, on Flickr

Image15lizardtail by B Boone, on Flickr

While Justin and I were out photographing some birds, we heard voices coming down the boardwalk towards us. It turned out to be another friend named Cary and his son. They were on a camping trip and were now doing the same thing as we were- out looking for what was around.

Another banded watersnake cruised along the surface
Image16cruising by B Boone, on Flickr

While investigating the shrubs over the waterline for other critters, I found the caterpillar of an Okefenokee Zale Moth
Image17zale perculta by B Boone, on Flickr

A very large redbelly, which was also very shy and disappeared within a millisecond of me taking this photo.
Image18peekaboo by B Boone, on Flickr

A green treefrog doing its best to be invisible
Image19hyl cin by B Boone, on Flickr

This skink wanted to play a quick game of peek-a-boo
Image20eum fas by B Boone, on Flickr

I’ve been calling this a Florida cooter. I don’t really see the hairpins though. Thoughts? This is the best picture I got of it, unfortunately.
Image21Pseudemys by B Boone, on Flickr

Back in the main area of the park, we walked around the edge of the boat launch and found a mama alligator. She was around 7 feet long or so
Image22all mis by B Boone, on Flickr

Image23mama by B Boone, on Flickr

And her babies from last year were hiding amongst the cowslip lilies and pondweed
Image24baby gator by B Boone, on Flickr

People often ask how the bold black and yellow patterning on the baby gators is camouflage. I explain that they are probably seeing the juveniles against someone’s hand or a plain background, but if you drop them into the dark tannin-filled water with bits of dried and yellowing plants floating around, they are a lot harder to see.
Image25baby gators by B Boone, on Flickr

Image26camo by B Boone, on Flickr

We parted ways with Cary and his son, and went to look for some Rhadinea before we headed back to our lodge for lunch. Rhadinea is one of just a handful of snakes I have left to find in Georgia. But it was not to be today.

But, as a consolation prize (maybe?), I watched this pair of dung beetles rolling some scat across the parking lot. It always amazes me how fast and how far they can roll.
Image27pooper scoopers by B Boone, on Flickr

Image28rollin rollin rollin by B Boone, on Flickr

After we refueled, we wandered around in the wet flatwoods near where we were staying. There was all sorts of fun stuff to look at.
Orange milkwort, or Bog Cheetos
Image29polygala lutea1 by B Boone, on Flickr

Candyroot
Image30polygala nana1 by B Boone, on Flickr

The habitat we were walking around in
Image31flatwoods by B Boone, on Flickr

Rattlebox, an invasive shrub
Image32sesbania punicea by B Boone, on Flickr

It sure is a pretty flower though
Image33ses pun flower by B Boone, on Flickr

A pinewoods treefrog
Image34hyl fem by B Boone, on Flickr

Image35hyl fem1 by B Boone, on Flickr

We eventually turned up some scarlet snakes, which were a highlight. It had been a little while since I had seen some scarlets.
Image36cem coc road by B Boone, on Flickr

Image37cem coc by B Boone, on Flickr

Image38cem coc double by B Boone, on Flickr

It was approaching mid-afternoon so we decided to head out to some other locations to try our luck.
Image39road by B Boone, on Flickr

We stopped at a few bridges to see if there were any watersnakes, gators or turtles out basking. It became obvious to us that we were getting close to the University of Florida fan territory.
Image40bridge by B Boone, on Flickr

But then it just became awkward. The stereotypes are true, they do make their own jean shorts….
Image41some sad florida fan by B Boone, on Flickr

For what it is worth, I did flip that jeans leg to see if there was anything of interest underneath. (There was not….)

Then, to add injury to insult, deer flies and horse flies began to show up.
Image42B52 Fly from Hell by B Boone, on Flickr

We kept roadcruising, but mercifully didn’t really find much that we wanted to spend time photographing. There were a few racers, ribbons and the odd gator or two out on the roads, so we didn’t have to fight these biting flies much.

Sawfly caterpillar of some species, chowing down
Image43sawfly caterpillar by B Boone, on Flickr

We stopped at a couple of roadside swamps to look for critters.
Image44swamp by B Boone, on Flickr

Matt and Justin and I stepped out onto the logs and, while balancing, grabbed handfuls of the mats of floating vegetation to look through them. Anne waited on the bank. I laughed when she told me later that she was simultaneously impressed and disappointed that none of us fell in while we were doing that.

Surprisingly, there still was not much out on the roads, so we headed back to the lodges. We went back out into the woods there.
Image45wet flatwoods by B Boone, on Flickr

Image46wet flatwoods close by B Boone, on Flickr

Matt and Justin and I walked the road and driveway back and forth and came up with a smallish rat snake and a juvenile legless lizard.
Image47ela obs spi by B Boone, on Flickr

Image48ela obs spi by B Boone, on Flickr

Image49ela obs spi climb by B Boone, on Flickr

Image50sarracenia minor2 by B Boone, on Flickr

Image51sarracenia minor1 by B Boone, on Flickr

Image52oph ven gravel by B Boone, on Flickr

Image53oph ven head by B Boone, on Flickr

Image54Pics by B Boone, on Flickr

As it began to move into late afternoon, we ate an early dinner then jumped back into the cars for some more roadcruising. We split up to try and cover more area, hoping to increase our chances of finding something. I was really hoping for a coral, and this last night’s roadcruise may bring it.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find all that much. Justin and I found another legless lizard and another scarlet snake.
Image55oph ven by B Boone, on Flickr

Image56oph ven car by B Boone, on Flickr

Matt and Anne found a couple of DORs. But since it was such a nice night, we were able to ride along and listen to the choruses of frogs calling in the darkness.

It was a good trip, and ended too soon. I’m looking forward to our spring trip this next year. We don’t know where it will be yet, but it is always a good time to get out with great friends.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this brief trip!
--Berkeley

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JakeScott
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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by JakeScott » December 22nd, 2015, 7:43 am

Great post. Okefenokee has always been one of my favorite places since going there as a kid on a school trip (for us it was exotic being from Maryland).

Your mystery turtle looks to be a Pseudemys nelsoni.

Go Gators!

-Jake

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Berkeley Boone
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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by Berkeley Boone » December 22nd, 2015, 8:33 am

Thanks Jake. It is sure is a spectacular place. I wish I was able to get there more regularly. I can only imagine your excitement coming down from Maryland to a place like that!

I thought it may be a nelsoni, but now I can't think of why I changed my mind. I guess the colors didn't seem to be bold enough for a young turtle like that. Thanks for the clarification.

--Bekreley

p.s.- And I just had to mention the Gator stuff, as a Dawg! :)

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mtratcliffe
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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by mtratcliffe » December 23rd, 2015, 9:18 am

Very nice, Berkeley! You gave me flashbacks to my trip as I recognized a lot of the locales, such as the boardwalk and the landscape around the Eco Lodge (we stayed there as well). What month was this? We went in mid-September, so the frogs had stopped calling at that point. I would have loved to have sat outside in the screened-in porch on a warm night after a thunderstorm. There were dessicated Squirrel Treefrog carcasses all over the porches - they must be quite abundant there. I was able to turn up some live ones right outside of the conference center. Also, if you are ever back there, check the "fences" that run along the parking spots for Fence Lizards during the day.

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Berkeley Boone
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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by Berkeley Boone » December 24th, 2015, 6:44 am

Thanks Matt! Glad you were able to re-live some of your trip down there through this post. This was a trip we took in late April. I bet those little squirrella carcasses were everywhere- we found a couple, and some anoles too, on our porch.

Yeah, we were pretty pleased with our digs down there, so we will probably stay there again. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for the fence lizards next time. I was so excited to see so many legless lizards though!

--Berkeley

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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by Ecto Hunter » December 26th, 2015, 6:02 pm

Great images, Mr. Boone. What a cane!

-Robb Herrington

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Berkeley Boone
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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by Berkeley Boone » December 29th, 2015, 5:46 am

Many thanks, Robb! Much appreciated!

Yes, that cane was a knockout indeed!
--Berkeley

Tamara D. McConnell
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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » December 29th, 2015, 9:32 am

Beautiful post! I love the scarlet snakes.

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by Josh Holbrook » December 29th, 2015, 1:09 pm

Beautiful. I'd like to give Okeefenokee a shot at some point.

I like your Ner-rodeo idea. I had a similar goal in SFL that I never reached - all the SFL aquatics (Brown water, FL Green water, Florida Water, Clarkii, Mud, Striped Crayfish, Swamp Snake, Cottonmouth) in one night. I came close, but no cigar.

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Berkeley Boone
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Re: Okefenokee Trip 2015 (same as main forum too)

Post by Berkeley Boone » January 4th, 2016, 12:35 pm

Thanks Tamara! Yes, scarlets are so cool. I wish I found them more frequently.

You should head to Okefenokee some time, Josh. You'd love it. Yeah, that SFL version of the Ner-rodeo would be quite the challenge! Sounds awesome!

--Berkeley

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