The Geneva Convention (of Critters): Geneva Wilderness Area

Wow, do I have a lot of cool photos to share with you guys today! That’s because there is just so much diversity packed into the 180 acres of the Geneva Wilderness Area. It also adjoins the much larger Little Big Econ State Forest, which means you can make this as long or as short of a hike as you want.

We’ve all heard that “curiosity killed the cat” but do you know what creature I’ve found to be just as nosy, if not more so, than our feline friends?

“How much ya pay for that camera, if ya don’t mind my askin’?”

Yep, the dragonfly. They’re always buzzing me on the trails, trying to see what I’m up to, or hanging around when I stop for a snack. Once I even had one hitch a ride on my shirt for several paces. I really don’t mind, though. They’re a delight to watch and photograph. See those eyes? They have nearly 24,000 ommatidia each. That’s a lot of contact lenses. Maybe they receive a bulk discount.

Next pic is a six-lined racerunner.

He had a seventh line, but it was cut in post-production.

These lizards are fairly common on the trails. Here’s another one I saw a little bit later:

I think he needs a pedicure.

As you can see, these lizards like to hang out in the leaf litter–all the better to hunt bugs, I’m sure. These aren’t to be confused with the five-lined skink, the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, or the fourteen-lined Shakespearean sonnet (the latter of which is quite endangered, with only 154 remaining in the world!)

Moving from one reptile to another, here is a Florida icon.

Yes, that’s right, IT’S MICKEY MOU–oh, er…wait

The gopher tortoise. When they’re not busy defeating hares in ritual combat feats of speed, they dig burrows that can eventually serve as shelter for at least 360 other animal species! Rumor has it their HOA fees are ridiculously low.

The gopher tortoise is considered as “threatened” in Florida, mainly due to habitat loss. They prefer to be high and dry–which is also where developers like to build. Our state has a long (and not so proud) record of commerce vs. conservation when it comes to this species. Learn more about it here.

“Needs croutons.”

I found this grasshopper munching on some leaves. You can clearly see the classic insect design here consisting of three parts: the antennae blob, the spiky bits, and the wingy things. Grasshoppers are considered good luck in much of the world, with the exception of Bolivia, where for some reason they’re considered “only of marginal luck, and a bit stand-offish if we’re honest.”

Oh whatever, Bolivia.

Now here’s a funny character:

Eyeliner is on point!

A softshell turtle. Here’s another view:

Drone cam shot. (It’s me…I’m the drone).

I wonder how she got those notches at the lower left? Probably fell out of a tree, or lost some bits of her shell due to an iron deficiency. It was most definitely NOT because of a close call with a hungry alligator. We’re actually very gentle creatures, you know.

You may be thinking to yourself That shell doesn’t look particularly soft. Well, it’s actually a hard cartilage covered with leathery skin (like Madonna.) They spend most of their time in the water, but I’m pretty sure this was a female digging a spot to lay her eggs (like Madonna.)

Perfectly camouflaged. (The wood, not the lizard).

Look at the texture on this fence lizard. I was tempted to rub its back, but I have a strict “don’t bother them” rule. Fun fact: this was not a fence, but a bench. I didn’t have the heart to tell the little fellow; he likely would have been rather embarrassed.

Living life on the edge.

I think this is an oak toad, but I’m not 100% for sure. If I need corrected, please feel free to comment below, as I am by no means an expert. What I do know for sure is that it’s pretty darn cute. Oak toads are found all throughout Florida with the exception of the lower Keys. I’ve also heard on good authority that they are not wasting away again in Margaritaville.

Well, that’s it from the trail this time. I hope you enjoyed the Geneva Wilderness as much as I did. We’ll be visiting it again later.

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