March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

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FLjeep74
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March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by FLjeep74 » April 27th, 2011, 12:14 pm

The past few months have afforded me the opportunity to once again spend time out doing what I really enjoy, traveling and exploring new places. Seems the weather has become a bit more stable, with mornings offering viable road cruising/hiking conditions and nights staying warm enough to get some decent road cruising in. The long hikes are giving way to the long drives, the long pants are giving way to the shorts and the warm long sleeves are giving way to the long sleeves of the bug shirts. It's the weather we wait all "winter" for, and in turn, becomes the weather we can't wait to get rid of come September. Found some great new areas to explore further, which of course lends way to hours and hours on Google Earth. Found some great animals that I haven't encountered often, and an amazing (to me of course) lifer as well.

Took a few quick trips a few counties to the north east, biking and poking around.

While poking around a large open area which had somewhat recently been bulldozed, we came across this Dusky Pygmy using some of the many pieces of natural cover available. It's amazing how little space is needed for these guys to escape detection.
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While out biking we came across a few of the usual critters this trail has to offer. This little guy was found just after dusk. I suppose it's easier to spot these guys on bikes than in cars, but it's still quite a challenge.
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His hide-n-seek technique might work with the other snakes....
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These guys were all over the place and were mostly blending in with their surroundings, this one just happened to be standing out against his background quite well.
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This Pig Frog didn't move the entire time we were messing with him.
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We headed northwards along the coast. We decided to stop along the Suwannee River and try to catch a glimpse of the Sturgeon jumping. While waiting around, we started slogging along the shore. We were feeling dejected until we startled a huge Brown Water Snake from his basking branch and into the river. Upon closer inspection of every branch and weathered stump, we started finding these guys one after another. To think that we were actually "looking" for snakes and walked right by some of these guys.... makes me seriously question my vision. The water was quite cold and we felt bad every time one of these guys took a nosedive.
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..and closer. This is about the only one we were able to walk right up to without it sliding into the water.
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Probably the biggest one we saw.
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And some quite pretty ones.
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We had noticed a few of these guys laying at the waters edge and swimming around. As we were trekking through the water I noticed this guy coming at me. I held my arm in the water and he swam RIGHT UP MY ARM.. doesn't get much easier than that! ( :
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No matter what type of snake it's from, it's always fun finding a shed skin.
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Further north it got a bit warm and we didn't expect to cruise many critters. We were happy just being out in the sticks and away from everything and everybody. To our surprise, the critters kept showing up for us... and we weren't complaining!

We stopped to flip some palmetto fronds. To our surprise we counted at least 8 Ringnecks and quite a few Skinks.

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Further down the road we cruised a few turtles. One out on the crawl, the other two out looking for any bit of sun they could muster up.

I'm still quite the novice on turtle ID's, so if anybody would like to chime in on these 3, I would appreciate it.
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As we pulled up there were two....
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..and then... there weren't two.
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We pulled up on this Gray Rat around 3pm... quite surprised to see him laying out.
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Later we cruised another one on a highway. This one was periscoping in the oncoming lane, I got to him just before a big van would have smashed the poor guy.
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We attempted to pose this Racerunner for a quick photo... as usual, "quick" is always the key word with these guys.
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The Green Anoles were quite prevalent laying along the way.
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That evening we hiked around a bit, came across this little guy at the edge of the road.
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A few weeks ago we went to an old dirt road I'd cruised a few times years ago. We'd found a few rat snakes and corn snakes, but not any numbers that would justify driving that far very often. I did remember though that we saw lots and lots of snake tracks.. on our return trip this was still the case. We casually took a few pictures of some of the tracks and spent the rest of the time focusing on the road while in 'road cruising position'. I posted some of these in another post, but I'll add them here as well.
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While cruising around I had remembered that there had been a post about snake tracks and slides and possibly ID'ing them by sight. After some searching, I found the post and the author, Greg Theos. His post got me thinking and excited to try to attempt to get more definitive information on what could be crossing this road and when. Here is a link to his post: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=771 (Greg hope you don't mind me reposting the link to your post)

We headed out early on a Saturday morning with GPS, notebook and broom in hand. We got there and cruised it for the first time around 7:30ish...we stayed and cruised till 1:30pm. We found a few tracks from the day/night before. We marked those and then broomed the road clean. The road is about 4 miles long (not the mile or two that I had previously thought/stated in the other post.. my internal GPS must have been broken that day) and traverses through open farmland, swamps, orange groves and dry open fields. We didn't find our first new track till 9:55. We found 30 new crossings and could ID one Rough Green Snake and a hand full of Racers.
Sunday we went back and again found the first track at just about the same time, 9:48am. That day we found 17 total tracks. We plan on getting out there again soon and being much more thorough in our findings.

Here are a few from that weekend.

This is the only snake we managed to get while still in it's 'tracks'
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about the only racer we got a shot of...
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and one of the few positively ID'd Racer tracks.
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This little guy couldn't have looked more like a strand of long grass.
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We drove up on this little Mud Turtle as he had decided to stop right in the middle of the road.
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Couldn't quite figure out why this guys face was SO dirty...
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.. that is until it was explained to me that his positioning in the road could not have been accomplished without a faceplant into the road... the visual play by play explanation was greatly appreciated.
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This Softshell was busy laying her eggs right along the edge of the road.
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As the day got warmer, these guys started showing themselves. Six-Lined Racerunner.
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The find of the weekend, and quite possibly my life was this very large Florida Pine Snake. She was found at about 1:30pm, laying motionless in the road. There isn't much traffic on this road, yet as I was running up to her there was a car zipping by me. Had we not stopped our car in front of her I'm sure that yahoo would have smeared her. My heart still races a bit when I think back to the feeling I had when I ran up and realized what she was. Being that there was barbwire fencing on both sides, I didn't want to risk her getting off the road while I was getting my camera ready... we took a few pictures there then brought her home to attempt a few better pictures.
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This past weekend we headed up to the ANF for a long weekend. Minus the miscalculation of an already broken gas gauge, it was a great time.

We took a detour through an area we'd skirted before, this time we took a road and headed in. This was of course where that little gas gauge incident came into play. We called AAA and began the wait. There were maybe 4 or 5 vehicles that passed us during this time and every single one stopped and offered water or to drive us to the gas station. Something to be said about some down home good country folks! We had our car loaded with all our gear, cameras included, so we declined the offers and just made the best of it. Before we came to the 2 hour halt, we stopped at an abandoned home/shed to poke around. It's always fun to think you found a new tin spot, only to walk around the back and have sheet after sheet of tin laid neatly around the shed by the previous herpers LOL.
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And on the opposing house, this guy remained motionless.
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We got the the ANF around 5pm Saturday evening we weren't 5 minutes into cruising before we found a few Cottonmouths laying up on the edges of the road.
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Right before dusk, we passed this sight on one of the roads. Not sure if it's a Florida or Gulf Coast Boxie.
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We remained hopeful for the night cruising, which produced only a pygmy. It was however the most beautiful pygmy I'd ever seen. Anerythristic maybe? No clue, just know it was amazing...and about as well camouflaged as can be! (in a terrible spot of course)
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The next morning we started early with some road cruising. Not sure of what to expect, within 2 minutes of the same road as the day before, we came up on this beautiful little Corn. A truck had just passed us and this guy was laying right in the middle of the road. We were thinking positively and decided that the guy purposely straddled and missed him! I mean, don't we usually find DOR's right after a vehicle has passed us??
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We took him to the side of the road to release him and he immediately started burrowing and quickly vanished.
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This Mocassin was quite aware of us from the start yet he never left. Also like that this shows it's tracks across the road.
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A bit further on we found this cute little Garter Snake.
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This little Ground Skink tried to elude us.. but we were just too fast!
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This little Cricket Frog looked a bit out of place on the white dirt road.
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Our last find for the daytime cruise was this big female Corn. It's amazing how much orange they have up in this area and how much variation there is from the northern to central to southern parts or the state.
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The beautiful orange belly is pretty neat.
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...she didn't stick around to thank us for not running over her.. farewell our big, beautiful friend.
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The night cruising was going quite slowly till we zipped by this beautiful Coral Snake along one of the paved roads. I believe this is the 3rd one I've ever come across... and, by far the most placid.
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We drove another few miles then decided to stop and stretch and get some drinks..one can only be crammed in a little 3 door hatchback for so long. While stopped, one of the few cars we saw that night zipped on by us. Sure enough, within 1/2 mile down the road we came across a freshly hit Scarlet Snake. We were mad at ourselves for stopping when we did and "if we would just have stopped a minute down the road"..... We were pretty bummed out that we'd missed saving that one, but it wasn't long before we came upon a live one.
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A few miles down the road we came across our second live Scarlet Snake.
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We saw a few more Garters and Ribbon Snakes, but that was it for the night.

The next morning was met with great excitement and promise for the morning cruise. This day however, yielded very little. We had stopped to check out some snake tracks and found some turtle tracks a few feet away.. and sure enough, off in the grass was this large boxie with mosquitoes ALL over her. We pulled her out for a few photos, then released her in the direction she was heading.
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We decided to head back to the motel for some sleep and gear up for the evenings/nights road cruise. This night ended just as it had started, very slowly. One of our finds was this beautiful Eastern Glass Lizard. I'd never seen one with such contrast from the dark upper body to the bright, emerald blue spots. Really quite amazing looking, my pictures don't do it justice at all.
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We also came across this adult Pygmy just before dark.
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About 50 yards from that pygmy we came across an extremely emaciated hatchling baby gator. It was about 100 yards or so away from a water pool that seems to stay relatively full. Anybody have any ideas or experience with whether baby gators can get 'lost' and not find water even though it may be somewhat near?

Last thing we came across was this Box Turtle, out at about 10:30pm in the middle of a paved highway.
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About 30 minutes later we came across an injured Chuck-Will's-Widow flapping around in the middle of the road, which ended our herping for the night. The next morning we took her to an animal rescue which turned out to be a greatly rewarding experience. From knowing we did what we could to help her to getting up close and personal with owls, hawks, goats and birds... it's opened a new door for us in our future outdoor endeavors.

Here are a few misc photos from these last few trips.

Very strange moth.
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Osprey.
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Brown Recluse. (I believe)
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Bees who didn't get the memo that the bee colony was being moved. You snooze you lose I suppose.
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Pretty cool seeing a 'bear' sign along the beach!
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..but not as cool as knowing they make 'bear and cub' signs ( :
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Dung Beetles... doing what they do best.
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One of the many roads that look identical inside the ANF.
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It's been another great few months and it's hopefully been for the rest of you guys (and gals). It's good to see spring is here for your northern folks too, it's nice to start seeing some of the great wildlife you guys post.

Thanks for looking,

Mike

Mitch Mimier
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Mitch Mimier » April 27th, 2011, 12:43 pm

Awesome post! Makes me wanna get back to the ANF for some cruising. Congrats on the pine snake, too. That thing is gorgeous.

troy hibbitts
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by troy hibbitts » April 27th, 2011, 12:52 pm

FLjeep74 wrote:I'm still quite the novice on turtle ID's, so if anybody would like to chime in on these 3, I would appreciate it.
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As we pulled up there were two....
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..and then... there weren't two.
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The angle on the first one makes it hard for me to tell with certainty (FL Redbelly? Yellow-bellied Slider?), but the other 2 are Chicken Turtles . . . and all the box turtles in the ANF are Gulf Coast Box Turtles.

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Melissa Coakley
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Melissa Coakley » April 27th, 2011, 1:46 pm

Nice shots - some really good finds too!!

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Josh Holbrook » April 27th, 2011, 4:49 pm

rocking stuff - especially the pine!

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MHollanders
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by MHollanders » April 27th, 2011, 5:22 pm

Dude... two chicken turtles on one log... that's unreal! Definitely the best part of this post, by FAR!

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Mike VanValen
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Mike VanValen » April 27th, 2011, 5:23 pm

Awesome, awesome post. The pinesnake is the cherry on top but I just love Florida herps of any flavor.

I second Troy's ID of the Chicken Turtles, and the first turtle looks like a Florida Redbelly. I can't explain why I think that. It's just a gut feeling.

Green Snake Man
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Green Snake Man » April 27th, 2011, 5:43 pm

.

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Tim Borski
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Tim Borski » April 28th, 2011, 4:33 am

Negative on the Recluse.
Your strange moth is a Rosy Maple.

Love the Pine, Gray Rat and snake tracks...you've been busy. :thumb: :thumb:

Tim

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SnakeStick
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by SnakeStick » April 28th, 2011, 4:52 am

That pygmy is practically invisible on the road. How big was the pituophis? Great post.

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Nir
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Nir » April 28th, 2011, 5:15 am

Great stuff! I have a soft spot for the florida posts!

I am especially jealous of that southern pine! What a beautiful and bulky specimen! Must have been quite the rush seeing this on the road...

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KingCam
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by KingCam » April 28th, 2011, 6:10 am

What a great post! I can officially say I'm green with envy! The pygs are amazing, and the pine snake is absolutely breath taking. What a gorgeous snake! Lucky lucky lucky

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Curtis Hart
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Curtis Hart » April 28th, 2011, 6:13 am

Great post. Those two Chicken Turtles were my favorite part. I'm pretty sure the turtle that proceeded them was a Yellow-bellied Slider, Trachemys scripta scripta. I can't say why exactly, but I've handled a lot of FL Redbellies, and it just doesn't look like one to me.



Curtis Hart

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ksuglennj
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by ksuglennj » April 28th, 2011, 7:00 am

At first when I saw your title, I thought it was going to be a BBNP/Florida post, LOL. Was I disapointed? Not the least. The pine and chicken turtles are awesome.


Glenn

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Mulebrother
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Mulebrother » April 28th, 2011, 7:36 am

Ding Ding, we have a winner.
awesome post!

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DaneConley
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by DaneConley » April 28th, 2011, 10:22 am

Great post, I REALLY need to make a trip to florida

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socalherper
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by socalherper » April 28th, 2011, 1:55 pm

Wow ! That was a kick butt post.

Very nice narative and pictures!

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JakeScott
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by JakeScott » April 28th, 2011, 4:40 pm

Man, that pine is very, very nice!
The first turtle is a yellow belly, no question.
Love that area of Florida! Thanks for the post.

-Jake

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Greg Theos
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Greg Theos » April 28th, 2011, 4:55 pm

I think I actually recognize a couple of those views from Hwy 98. Good job on the Pine snake. That region seems to have a respectable population, and they are really going to be moving during the next month or two...so get outta here and find some more and report back to us!

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chris drake
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by chris drake » April 28th, 2011, 5:29 pm

Great post. The pine and the anery pygmy are awesome. Looks like you have had a great year so far.

Chris

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FLjeep74
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by FLjeep74 » April 28th, 2011, 8:37 pm

Thanks for the comments everybody, glad you enjoyed.

Troy- Thanks for the ID's on the 2 on the log. I kinad thought the smaller turtle that slid off the log was a Chicken Turtle, but the other 2 I had no idea.

SnakeStick- She was probably about 4 1/2 feet and quite heavy. Definitely a beautiful animal.

Glenn- forgive my ignorance (it's something you have to get used to) but what does "BBNP" stand for/mean?? I searched some acronyms but nothing came up lol

Jake- Thanks for the definitive ID on the Yellow Belly. I suppose ID'ing snakes spoils us when it comes to the other reptiles.

Greg- that was the first time I'd been up that way, we see bear signs quite a bit on 98 during out travels, but never ON a beach and never a bear/cub sign. I definitely enjoyed it up there and we'll be spending a lot more time up that way I'm sure.

Thanks again for the insight and replies.

Mike

Celinder72
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Re: March/April, West Central FL through the Big Bend.

Post by Celinder72 » May 2nd, 2011, 4:39 pm

Good post! If i could find a pine similar to the one you found i could retire from herping a happy man! The bees must be quite content there they have been there for a few years now.

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