PM Critters

17 05 2009

I have so many posts to catch up on. It’s Sunday night again, and almost bedtime; so I may not get to everything tonight.

I’ll start with my nocturnal trek on Thursday night. Although the days have gotten very hot, the evenings have been beautifully cool and breezy. It’s still bone dry, but the yard is lush because we hand water the plants. It rained last week. Although only a trace, it was enough to moisten everything just a bit.

This seemed like a good time to bring out the black light and see what type of insects might be lurking in the shadows. I will get into this more on a future post dedicated to blacklighting.  On this evening I had few visitors; the most interesting being this longhorn beetle, family Cerambycidae.

Longhorn

I put on my LED headlight and took a nocturnal tour of the yard. Around the back of the RV my light caught the reflection of two large eyes on the bumper. I was startled because I didn’t expect to find such a huge Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) sitting there. These guys are not shy, but this one was especially bold, and/or blinded by my light. I raced inside and popped the macro lens onto my camera. I returned with the LED set on red (so as not to disturb him) and started snapping shots with the flash (which should have disturbed him).

Cuban-Tree-Frog-CU

The frog sat there unfazed, like a stoic, bumpy gargoyle. It didn’t even budge when I put my hand next to it for perspective.

BA-Frog

Eventually the little giant grew tired of my harassment and sprang away…or should I say “towards”? With a slimy “Splat” it bounced off of my camera, leaving a sticky smear all over the lens. Feeling bad for the creature, I picked it up and placed it back on the bumper, unharmed. Although this may seem like an act of kindness, it was actually somewhat irresponsible. Cuban Tree frogs are invasive, warty, bottomless pits which eat up every creature they can fit in their big mouths. Native frogs, toads, lizards, insects and spiders are all on their menu; and are all declining as the Cubans take over. It is recommended to humanely euthanize these adorable little monsters by placing them in the freezer until dead. I’m sure you can see why I was unable to do it.

The UF Florida Wildlife Extension has a great page about these little buggers, including identification tips, a recording of their call (which I liken to wet balloons being rubbed together) and how to put them down painlessly with Benzocaine and freezing.

Encouraged by my find, I continued around the yard inspecting the foliage for more critters. As the Cuban Tree Frogs come out at night, the Cuban Brown Anoles (Anolis sagreis) go to sleep. These feisty little lizards spend their days zipping around, fighting for territory, eating insects and having promiscuous lizard sex. At night they seem to congregate and doze together. I think this escaped tropical houseplant reminds them of a homeland bed and breakfast. There are five in this photograph.

Anole-Camp

As the name alludes, these too are an invasive exotic species, which have taken over urban landscapes and displaced precious natives. One of the reasons I haven’t killed the Cuban Tree Frogs is that I have seen them eating these guys. I try to convince myself that they are helping to keep the population in check. As outlined in this article by The Institute for Biological Invasions, the Cuban Brown Anole is responsible for the drastic decline in the population of native Caroline Anoles (Anolis Carolinensis) due to predation on their food supply, their young and eggs. Euthanasia is also recommended for these invaders. Perhaps one day, when I’m in an especially dark mood, I will go on a rampage and try to make the yard “Invader Free”.  I do see the occasional Caroline (or Green) Anole and would love to give these lovely, gentle reptiles the chance for a comeback. Perhaps I will dig a mass grave and place the headstone “Invasive Species Rest in Peace”. For now they just rest peacefully.

Next I found this little guy on one of the banana trees. Not positive about the ID, but I’m pretty sure this is a juvenile Cuban Tree frog.

Tree-Frog

Finally, I wandered around to the far side of the yard and over to the Jasmine on our neighbor’s trellis. There, like a scaly exclamation point, I saw the appropriate finale to this story: The skin of our local Southern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) which had been outgrown and shed in the tangles of the flowering vine. This lovely and sleek native makes its frequent rounds through the yard, chasing and eating those conspicuous Cuban Anoles amongst a variety of other critters. Stay tuned for an update on our resident snake and a recent feeding encounter.

Snakeskin

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