A Snakey Kind of Evening by Richard Bartlett on 2019-05-13 00:29:00
Formerly Seminatrix. Now Lithodytes. Somebody needed a paper! North Florida black swamp snake.
The sun was already low in the sky when Patti and I decided to scoot on over to Sweetwater Wetlands Park for a short walk We figured we had an hour or so before the rangers would shepherd us out for the evening’s closing. A barred owl was already calling in the distance, but our target was actually a fulvous whistling duck that had flown in a couple of hours earlier. We met and chatted with another couple of strollers and rather than birds their comments were almost entirely about the number of snakes that they had “just seen” on the trails. Well, what the heck. We could do a duck AND check out a few snakes as well. Good thing we decided that, because the duck ducked us, but the snakes were active on all of the berms and trails.
There were no rarities, but there was a lot of color variation. The snakes were all natricines—water snakes, ribbon snakes, and red-bellied swamp snakes. The hand’s down winner as far as numbers were the 25 or so Florida banded water snakes, Nerodia fasciata pictiventris
. They were present in all sizes from 3 foot long adults to last year’s neonates that had hardly grown an inch during the long winter dormancy. Next in number were the Florida green water snakes, Nerodia floridana
. They, too, were seen in many sizes, from 3 ½ foot long adult females (the days of the 6 footers are long gone!) to 1 foot long youngsters. The ribbons numbered 2, both adults of the Peninsula persuasion, Thamnophis sauritus sackenii, the only subspecies found here. And last, but definitely not of the least interest was the single adult female North Florida black swamp snake, Liodytes
) pygaea pygaea. Although only a foot long she was heavily gravid and nearing her parturition date. So the score was ducks zero, natricines about 35. No question about the winner there.
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