SC Reptile and Amphibians
Y2K has brought us our first real winter weather in many years. We had some relative warm days during the first half of the month. As you will see later in the notes, Joey and Win made good amphibian finds. But winter came in the second half and the local herps took shelter. We had a winter storm dump snow and ice on us on January 22 and 24. In Laurens County we had accumulations of from 3 to 12 inches. It remainder cold all week; a thin layer of ice formed over the entire pond surface. Ice was still on the ground on January 29th when a second storm hit. This one was more ice than snow. Even as I write this report, my electric lights are flickering.
I believe this cold weather is a good thing for the local ecology. The seasonal clock can be reset accurately and the moisture is penetrating more than the first couple inches of soil. For us humans, it has caused some problems. Many people, including the Piedmont Wilderness Institute where Joey and Win work, was without electricity for several days.
I did not get to do any field herping during the month. My free time was mostly consumed with getting the web site running on the new hosting service. The hosting service had their system crash at the end of the year. It took them over 3 weeks of this month to work the bugs out so the new site would run properly. Since you are reading this report, you have found your way here. Do not forget to bookmark the new url!
I did make one interesting find, a DOR coyote on the highway near Calhoun Falls. I have seen coyotes in the midlands, but this was my first siting in the Piedmont.
In the year 2000, Joey says he hopes to finally get his hands on a Timber Rattlesnake (not Canebrake), an Eastern Milksnake, Southern Hognose, Rainbow Snake, and Glossy Crayfish Snake. These are his goal snakes (not collecting, just want to catch and release). He also says he hopes to do some herping in Kentucky (along I-75), Virginia (by way of I-77), or Alabama (via I-20 or even I-85); all of which are within 3-4 hours of home. He's never caught snakes in any of those states. In the lab, he has some breeding projects planned and hopes this year to keep some Fence Lizards. He has kept Anoles, several species of local Skinks, and in 1999 he kept Racerunners. He's never had Fence Lizards and thinks it's about time.
The snakes he hopes to use in his breeding project this year are: 2 Okeetee Corns, 2 Hybrid Corns (results of a Great Plains Ratsnake female bred with Okeetee male back in 98; 2 females from that clutch are now big enough to breed and will be bred back to an Okeetee male), 1 Great Plains Ratsnake (to be bred again to a male Okeetee Corn), and some Everglades Ratsnakes, Mole Kingsnakes, South Florida kings, and Sinaloan Milks. Also he has a remarkable "red phase" Eastern Garter male to breed with a normal female (should be interesting.)
Joey set a goal to find a Spotted Salamander this winter. He and his students set out some boards during the fall at a location where he had found some in past years. Joey reports: "Sunday 1-9-00 it rained. It rained on into Monday AM. Herping the Spotted Salamander backswamp on Monday morning, I found nothing but heard Upland Chorus frogs. Heard them every day thru Thursday. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we found Anoles and Ground Skinks during the warmer times of the day. On Thursday, I took my class once again to the backswamp to look for spots. Every usual log and board had been rolled but one student found a small log, really it was more like a limb. He rolled it and called out, 'I got one!' It appears to be a small female, but is still bigger than any Marbled or Red, and has a perfect pattern with 6 head spots being orange. Truly beautiful.... We found the critter 28 yards from water and at an elevation of about 11.5 feet above the level of the backswamp. This was higher up the hill than I expected to find them." Win went to the backswamp a week later and found his first Spotted Salamander. A male, 8 inches, and appearing very old. Win reports the one he found was closer to the water pool than the earlier female but still had some distance to travel.
The power outage at PWI caused some concern for the animals in the lab. Temperature dropped into the 40's; however, Joey reports the animals seem OK. Hopefully no injuries or diseases will turnup.
Joey says he is tired of winter now! He even tried field herping during last week's cold. He reports: "We went to the creek one day and flipped rocks but found no salamanders. Under coverboards and logs we found some roaches and ants active but nothing else. I went by the Spotted Salamander backswamp one day but it is frozen over. I know there may be salamanders under the ice, but they will be fine until a thaw, and in the next warm spell they'll go back up the hill and underground for another 11 months. For now, the little female I caught the other week is eating crickets like crazy. One day this week, I watched a Killdeer as he fastwalked across the snow. It just seemed kind of odd to see this bird that I so often see under the hot sun in open pastureland. I'M SO SICK OF IT!"
I'm more content to let the season have its due and grateful to have precipitation of any kind to recharge the ground water. But, we always have mild weather on Win's birthday, February 11th, and I am looking forward to searching for more amphibians then. In the meantime, Joey shared one of his herping memories to instill hope that better herping days will be here soon.
Gene Ott, Win Ott, and Joey Holmes
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