I look for things. It’s what I do. If we go for a walk together, you’ll probably have to slow down or else leave me behind. I can walk faster — but I’m looking for stuff. I look down at the ground, I look up in the sky, I look behind me and to both sides. Yes, I’m pokey. But I find stuff that other people miss.
Most of it is just junk, although I’ve found cash a few times (singles, mostly, but once a $20 bill). People are really messy. We leave all kinds of crap scattered everywhere. I also find natural odds and ends. Some of it is really neat — to me, at least. This past fall I found three polyphemus moths (three separate occasions) lying dead among wind-blown leaves. Even in death they are beautiful, and the wings are easy to preserve.
A lot of what I see is the small stuff others overlook. During a Florida Master Naturalist class field trip last year, I noticed a dung beetle that has been skewered on a barbed wire fence by a shrike (aka butcherbird). My classmates seemed surprised that I had noticed such a small thing and asked how I had seen it. I didn’t really have a good answer. It’s just what I do. They were even more surprised when I later pointed out live dung beetles rolling balls of cow manure.
Being observational by nature and also having an interest in wild things has led me to a dubious distinction: As far as I can tell, I’ve been the first person to document three different non-native species in Charlotte County. The first was a red-banded butterfly lizard (Leiolepis rubritaeniata), which I found in a PVC pipe standing upright on Sun newspaper property in 2014. (Why was I looking in there? In addition to being pokey, I’m also nosy).
The second was an Asian swamp eel (Monopterus albus), which I saw caught and abandoned by a great egret in 2018. Coincidentally, this was also at the paper. The bird that caught the eel seemed to find it distasteful and spent a lot of time wiping its beak on the grass after dropping it.
Most recently, I was at WaterLine columnist Robert Lugiewicz’s house when I noticed a snail on his backyard pergola. For a second I thought it might be a native Florida tree snail, but quickly realized it was something else entirely. I took a couple photos, then took to the internet to see if I could find an ID.
About two minutes later, I had it: Bulimulus guadalupensis, a land snail apparently native to Dominica in the Lesser Antilles but now widely spread across the Caribbean, including South Florida. And now Charlotte County as well.
All of these finds (plus some others that had been previously documented here, like red-headed agamas, black-and-white tegus, northern curly-tailed lizards and New Guinea flatworms) were reported through an app called IveGot1.
The app serves as a portal to EDDMapS (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System), a web-based tool developed by the University of Georgia for tracking the spread of non-native plants and animals. Some reports come from wildlife management professionals — but most come from people like me, who keep their eyes open and share what they’ve seen.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up adding a few more new species to our local list. After all, Florida is a hotbed for non-native wildlife, and I just can’t help but keep my eyes peeled. Maybe you could help me look.
Contact Capt. Josh Olive at 941-276-9657 or Publisher@WaterLineWeekly.com.