Hello folks who wonder if politicians should just offer free pizza to get elected instead of empty campaign promises,

California
and Florida at the surface might seem pretty similar in comparison.
  • Both have beautiful coastlines and stunning beaches.
  • Both have residents who complain the weather is too cold when it dips below 65°F
  • Both states will give you an edge if you can also speak in Spanish.
  • Both boast of rich biodiversity influenced by their unique environments.
One of the things I indulge in California is turn every possible log and dip my hands in any accessible water body. So I couldn't understand the shock on the faces of people around me when I repeated the same behavior in Florida.

This post covers the things I came across during my trip to Central Florida.

One of the birds that is pretty distinct and really hard to mess up in IDing (I am looking at you sparrows) is the Northern Cardinal. The males of this species sport a bright red plumage and get aggressive during spring to defend their territories from other males. This will be easily evident by them obsessing over their reflection on the car windshield.


At first you might think they are just being little narcissists but they soon kick it up a notch and start attacking their reflection thinking these intimidation tactics will drive the intruder away. No surprise here, I knew these birds were not the brightest bulb in the room the day I found out that they had never even heard of the secret menu at In-N-Out burger. Or maybe it was just trying to take a selfie.


Another thing that stands out when you go hiking around Florida is the ease with which you can see snakes. In California in order to see snakes in the wild you either need to be an expert, super observant, extremely lucky or just really afraid of snakes to see one. In Florida, just stop watching TikTok videos for the next 10 minutes on a trail and you might spot one.

This Southern Watersnake was spotted in a lake swimming while foraging for its next meal. Even though these snakes look like they frequently get into bar brawls at the start of every weekend, these snakes are non-venomous and prefer to be left alone.


Despite Florida residents wanting their state to not tax them at all and California residents wanting their state to tax them the max it can, they do share some common ground. Case in point is the presence and love for this tiny, inconspicuous non-venomous snake called the Ring-necked Snake. They get their name by the orange ring across the neck and you will get to spot one only if you are on Santa's nice list.


Do you like Moles? *crickets.
Do you like crickets? *crickets.
Well, fret not! Introducing the Southern Mole cricket. Looks like a cricket, acts like a Mole.
Below is one making an escape by digging itself a hole.


To appreciate how they got their name, one has to take a closer look at their front legs which are modified shovels reminiscent of mole's paddle-like forefeet helping them to dig and burrow through soil. Which is why they are a nuisance in golf courses and athletic fields.


How would you describe this tiny frog in my hand?
Cute!
What else?
Innocent!
Alright, any other adjective?
Fragile
Any other?
Cuddly
And one more.
Adorable


And thus, you let it go. So fast forward 5 years and now that frog has eaten at least 5 different species of native frogs, lizards and small snakes. So now you confront it and it squirts a noxious slime that burns your eyes if you make the mistake of rubbing it after touching this frog. Wow, what a way to return your kindness.

Ladies and Gentlemen, take a look at this Cuban Tree Frog that is one of the most invasive frog species in Florida that has wrecked its native wildlife after Floridians. In Florida, it is actually recommended to put this frog in a plastic bag and tossed into a freezer to keep their numbers in check.

Observe the distinct large toe pads on this specimen.


And below is the native Green Treefrog whose numbers have been decimated by the introduction of the Cuban tree frogs. Observe the toe pads on this one and compare it to the Cuban tree frog, that way you don't accidentally toss this species in the freezer and expedite the species demise.


Well, I have more to share but this post is running too long, so I will have another post next week to describe some other stuff I ended up seeing during my Florida trip. Hint: It has spiders and Gators.

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