SC Reptile and Amphibians
Week ending 04-01-01
March ended with very pleasant weather. We received heavy rains on Wednesday which flooded the river bottomlands again. On Friday (03-30-01) I was very pleased to find the water level in the concrete encasement over the larger farm spring had risen past the outflow pipe. For the first time in two years water was flowing out the discharge!.
Saturday (03-31-01) I mounted an expedition to find some reported Cottonmouths of Abbeville County. Temperatures rose into the 60s oF under partly cloudy skies. It seemed to be perfect day to find Cottonmouths and watersnakes basking. Win, his fiancee, my son-in-law, and I setout for a location that I had been told had plenty of Cottonmouths.
We arrived at the site about 11:00 am. The location turned out to be just over the line into McCormick County. There was plenty of sunshine and snakes should have had time to move to their favorite lounging spots. The area looked good for snakes. There was plenty of debris and rocks for shelter. The State Flower, Yellow Jessamine, was blooming and we saw an interesting Trillium plant sprouting on the wooded banks. However, we did not see any snakes. We found Cricket Frogs, a Leopard Frog, and a Green Anole. This river, like all the local rivers, had flooded on Thursday and waters were still quite high. Perhaps this discouraged the snakes. I will make another trip in a few weeks.
Just to confirm my instincts that the day was a good day for finding basking semi-aquatic species of snakes and to allow me to report that I had seen my first snake of the year, Win and I decided to visit the seawall at nearby Greenwood State Park. I expected to find Northern and Midland Water Snakes and was not disappointed. Because of the beautiful weather, the Park was very busy. Wisteria vines were blooming in profusion. We walked along the seawall where the sunlight was on the riprap. First, we came upon a killed adult Midland Water Snake. Then, Win spotted a large Northern Water Snake basking with just its head and neck showing. Within the next few minutes we had spotted a half dozen more snakes, pretty evenly split between Northerns and Midlands. We also saw a Broadheaded Skink basking on the riprap and several Green Anoles. On my trip home, I also spotted my first DOR snake of the year, an adult Black Rat Snake.
After reaching home, I did not want to quit herping so I checked the few coverboards and pieces of metal that I had placed around the farm. No herps, not even a Slimy Salamander!
Sunday (04-01-01) was cooler and very windy. As I drove into Laurens to return some movie videos, I saw a male Harrier Hawk (also known as a Marsh Hawk) hunting a roadside pasture. Harriers are my favorite hawks. I can still remember the first time I saw a Harrier snatch a bird on the fly. The hawk's low flight over a field spooked the bird (probably a sparrow) into flight. The hawk quickly maneuvered to a positon directly above the fleeing bird; then the hawk did a sideways roll so that it was upside down beneath the bird and grasped the breast in its tallons.
Today, I stopped on the roadside hoping to get some pictures with my camcorder. This Harrier continued hunting but stayed too far away for photographing. It moved to a field on the other side of the road and I followed. Still I could not get a shot. Then it disappeared in the distance. I guessed it was moving to another area of large fields about a half mile away. I drove there and searched for the hawk. I saw a hawk on the ground out in the field. It flew up, then dropped back to the ground. Must have been after a rat. The hawk came up empty and continued hunting. I saw it was not the male I thought I had cleverly followed, but was a female Harrier. Like the male she continued to canvass the field but would not come close enough for a decent picture.
Week ending 04-01-01
Spring is here and it's great. Still cool at night, and some days are cool/rainy, but it's still great. I've seen plenty of Anoles, Ground Skinks, and Fence Lizards. Great Butterflies also! On most evenings you can hear Peepers and/or Upland Chorus Frogs calling.
On Monday (3-26-01), I had planned to ride down to Jasper County and look around. Weather forecasts didn't look too favorable, so I stayed local. It was windy, and may have reached 55 degrees (F) during the peak of the day. But it was beautifully sunny. I went to the river/pasture and found a Spotted Salamander and a Marbled. I went up to a "beach/sandbar" area. There I was surprised to find good numbers of Common Shore Tiger Beetles (C. repanda) out basking on the open sand. Caught and released a few just for fun. Up by the old cemetery I found an adult Black Racer lying out in the open. Cool day and nice animals. Maybe I should have gone to Jasper?
Friday (3-30-01) was another good day. With students, on campus we caught our first Spicebush Swallowtail of the year. Also got a Stream Cruiser (Dragonfly).
Saturday (3-31-01), I stopped on the way home from work and listened to the Peepers and Chorus Frogs that were calling in several locations, also saw some Eastern Painted Turtles out basking. I got home, and checked my tin. Found a Southeastern Five-Lined Skink. I got a great surprise under one of the last pieces, a Mole Kingsnake! I seldom ever find these guys prior to May! But here he was, a baby from the 2000 hatching season (obvious by his size). What a neat find! Pumped up, I went to the pond. Saw a nice big Redbelly Watersnake slide off some brush and into the water. Nearby was an Eastern Mud Turtle, also basking.
Sunday (4-1-01), We (my son, our friend, and I) went for a walk by a pond nearby in Laurens County. We saw no odd herps, and few invetebrates, but we did find good numbers of Blue Corporal (Skimmers), saw one Scorpion, a Vole, and best of all, an Osprey! Slow day for herps and bugs, but it was nice to get out. It was very windy (sandblasted and eyes watering!) and even the pond was white-capping!
It's been a nice week, and I hope the upcoming weeks will hold even more excitement.
Week ending 03-25-01
During midweek we received a lot of rain. There was even some sleet mixed in. It was reminiscent of Spring rains of years past when the ground surface was soaked, water rushed in torrents down ditches, and the rivers overflowed their banks. There was even enough runoff to return the farm pond to full level (it had been losing water since I stopped pumping into it back in December).
During the day, Tom Turkeys have been strutting and gobbling in the fields. Frog choruses have been wonderful to hear in the evenings. Barred Owls have been chanting frequently.
On Sunday (03-25-01) the temperature was on the low side of pleasant but the sunshine was great. I walked around the bottomland pasture. The flood waters had mostly retreated, leaving sloughs and low areas with plenty of water. On adjacent high ground, patches of May Apples had sprung up; their single, white flowers will soon grow beneath the leaf umbrellas. Painted Turtles floated in still pools beside the river. Upland Chorus Frogs chirped until I approached closeby. I found a Green Anole basking on a stump and a couple of Slimy Salamanders beneath rotting logs.
Week ending 03-25-01
Beautiful Spring weather is here, but unfortunately outdoor time is not. We've seen our Ground Skinks, Green Anoles, and Fence Lizards. We've seen plenty of Butterflies, but most were species we've already found this year and the others were not caught and/or identified.
On Thursday (3-22-01) I saw my first Dragonfly of the year but at a great distance with too much glare to even consider an identification. I will say it was large.
On Saturday (3-24-01) with students on campus, we found our first Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle of the year. We also found a Worm Snake but I'm sure it was one already seen this year. (When you find them over and over under the same piece of tin, I think it's the same one!)
It's cooler now (Sunday 3-25-01) and I don't have much interest in going outside. I may go get into something on Monday. I know I need to. I'd love to drive the sand roads of Jasper County. I'd be delighted to feel sunburn on my forehead from the glare of the Okeefenokee sky. I'd cherish a day in the Francis Marion. There are so many place to go, so much to do. Just one spring. I do hope to get over to Oconee County soon to hunt for Milksnakes (one Monday soon) and I also need to fit in Calhoun County, and also Congaree Monument for a day hike or two. So much to do. Just one Spring (this year that is).
Week ending 03-18-01
I was traveling 6 days this week. The first 2 days were devoted to work at an industrial plant in North Carolina. No herps seen there. I had greater hopes for the last 4 days which involved accompanying my wife to a professional meeting held in Myrtle Beach.
Opportunities to observe herps in the wild were severely limited while I was there. Schedule, traffic and unseasonable cool weather presented major obstacles. I was very surprised at the amount of traffic this early in the year. Friday (03-16-01) afternoon it took 1.5 hours to drive 8 miles to the Convention Center.
With wild observation not practical, I visited two commercial wildlife attractions. On Thursday (03-15-01) I toured the Ripley's Aquarium. I did not see any herps there, but there were a lot of fish. The glass tunnel which wound through the largest tank allowed good views of sharks and sawfish.
On Friday (03-16-01) I visited Alligator Adventure. It was a lot larger facility than I had envisioned. I had never seen so many large Alligators. There were 2 albino Alligators. Additionally, there were a large number of other reptiles and a few amphibians in display cages. I carried my camcorder with me and made some acceptable pictures. However, most of the species were exotic. The Komodo Dragon was provided an especially large cage.
After the meeting adjourned on Saturday (03-17-01) my wife and I visited some of the local outlet stores. Late in the afternoon, I drove some roads bordering wetlands but did not see any herps.
On the return trip home on Sunday (03-18-01) I had planned to take a side trip through Hellhole Swamp and other potential herp hot spots but the sky was cloudy and the temperature at 50 oF, so we decided to drive straight home and visit our granddaughter instead.
I hear many people tell of seeing Cottonmouths in the Piedmont, but I have never been able to verify such sightings. A person who should know, has told me of a location in Abbeville County where there are "plenty of Cottonmouths." When the temperature rises in the next week or two, I plan to visit this location.
Week ending 03-18-01
Winter is drawing to a close and the weather is beautiful! Warm and sunny most of this week. We had some rains on Monday and more on Thursday but otherwise the days have been sunny.
We found plenty of Green Anoles, Fence Lizards, and Ground Skinks this week. Many trees are flowering now and Tent Caterpillars webs are present in Wild Cherry trees here and there.
On Tuesday (3-13-01) we saw more Tiger Swallowtails, some skippers, Azures, Falcate Orangetips, and a Clouded Sulfer on campus while at work.
On Wednesday (3-14-01) evening I herped for frogs at the pond and found loads of Southern Leopard Frogs, Spring Peepers, and American Toads all seriously breeding. I even saw a confused male American Toad clutching a female Leopard Frog. I don't think he even cared.
Saturday (3-17-01) at work I saw my first two Zebra Swallowtails of the year. After work, I took a walk with my good friend. We went down to the river. Upland Chorus Frogs and Spring Peepers called in several wet areas while it was full daylight. We checked the "good log" and found only one Spotted Salamander (recorded on my data sheet which one it was and the date). We then turned attention to birds and counted 25 species as we walked. Most were common. The best of the day were Red-Winged Blackbirds and 6 Woodpeckers: Red-Headed, Red-Bellied, Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-Shafted Flicker, Downy, and Hairy. None rare, but all great, and great to see them all on the same walk. I just knew we would see a Pileated before the walk was over but we never did. Nor did we see any Ivory-Billeds. (Gotta dream!)
Sunday (3-18-01) I went to some local National Forest and herped around some. I saw the expected lizards and found my first two Black Racers of the year. Both very small and under tin.
I'm enjoying this new year. I know we'll have more "winter" weather, with cool days even into the month of May, but for now I plan to enjoy every warm and sunny day that we get.
Week ending 03-11-01
I was not able to do any herping this week... sick with this year's version of the flu or whatever it's called. I did a few work essentials and visited the doctor.
Week ending 03-11-01
This week the temps have been a bit cool (long pants) but we've still been quite lucky in finding animals. All week: Green Anoles, Fence Lizards, Ground Skinks, Slimy Salamanders, Dusky Salamanders, and 2 Eastern Worm Snakes. Haven't been out "froggin" this week. I did stop a couple of times this week, rolled down the car windows, and listened to Spring Peepers.
Other stuff? Did the "Snake and Lizard" talk to 3 different biology classes Monday at Laurens High School. Nice kids. Nice teacher. Nice memories of that school.
Butterflies? Plenty of Azures, Mourning Cloaks, Question Marks, and today (3-11-01) I saw a Tiger Swallowtail! First of the year!
Birds? Nothing comes to mind as odd this week.
Mammals? Rabbits along the road. Deer also.
Anybody Catching anything? Here or elsewhere? Let me know.
Take care (and take those neckties off and go catch something!)
Week ending 03-04-01
Overall, this first week of March was very warm. We had a light rain once or twice. The ground surface is reasonably wet, but ground water levels are still depressed.
On Tuesday (02-27-01), I decided to check the few coverboards and pieces of metal which I have setout around the farm. The first two boards I checked each had a large Slimy Salamander underneath. I did not find any herps under the other 4 coverpieces I checked. There were 2 male newts in the minnow trap I had setout in one of the isolated pools.
On Thursday afternoon (03-01-01) I walked around the pasture which borders the large creek. A graduate student who is doing a research project on eastern newts had stopped by yesterday while I was away to return some newts he collected a week or so ago and to check out some new specimens. In a note he left, he reported seeing a large pig in the pasture. This piqued my interest and I hoped to find signs. I have never seen any wild hogs on the farm. There are certainly enough bottomlands nearby to support some. I found no signs of the hog. But I did spot a Mud Turtle making its way along a seasonally wet slough. I figured it was just moving to deeper waters. It saw me and tried to hide. I moved behind it and planned to observe it until it started moving again, but I became impatient before it felt secure. When I reached down to pick it up and examine it, I saw that another Mud Turtle was immediately in front of it but deeper under the water. I picked them both up. It turned out that the first turtle I saw was a male and the second one was a female. The female was a little larger.
Saturday (03-03-01)was a fairly warm day of light rains. Heavy rains and falling temperatures were predicted for Sunday. After dark I walked a paved road running along the edge of river bottomland. The Upland Chorus Frogs were singing in the bottoms, but I only found one live Chrous Frog and a couple DORs. I had better luck with salamanders, finding 2 Slimys (AOR) and 3 newly transformed Red Efts (only one was DOR).
Week ending 03-04-01
This week the temps have been pleasant and we have had some rain. A good combination for spring.
On Monday (2-26-01) I found an Eastern Worm Snake under tin in the woods.
On Tuesday (2-27-01) at work, after lunch, I took 3 students out for a walk with bug nets. We saw a number of Butterflies. Most were Question Marks, but there were also some Azures and some Mourning Cloaks. We caught, identified, and released them. On kid slammed his net down on the ground/driveway near the sand volleyball court. He yelled, "Tiger Beetle!" and he did indeed have a Cicindela repanda! In February!
Here and there throughout the week we've been out to look at the various lizards and have seen Green Anoles, Ground Skinks, and Fence Lizards fairly often. I've also noted some good birds this week including Brown Creeper, Tufted Titmouse, Barred Owl, and for the first time I've seen Turkeys, here on my land. Also seen Turkeys elsewhere in strutting displays this week. Spring is in the air!
On Sunday (3-4-01) I went to the river to look around. We'd had rain and it was still warm. I found Upland Chorus Frogs, Southern Leopard Frogs, and Marbled and Spotted Salamanders. Under the "good log" were two Spotteds. One that I'd not seen in about 3 weeks and I assume he's been in the water breeding. The other was a late arrival at the log. I've taken notes of who has been under the log and when they've been seen and when they've been absent. It's been real interesting to monitor their comings and goings. Under certain logs and plywood scraps I found several Black Widow Spiders, including one female that may well be one of the biggest I've ever seen. She's just huge.
Last week I neglected to mention, but while at the PARC meeting in Chattanooga I had a chance to visit the Tennessee Aquarium. I've toured this fine establishment before, but this time we got to go "behind the scenes", which was neat. The Aquarium is also now featuring an exhibit called VENOM that features everything from Bullet Ants to Death Adders! I was delighted to see Green and Black Mamba, Gaboon Vipers, Stone Fish, Velvet Ants, Sea Snakes, Lion Fish, Gila Monsters, Black Widow Spiders, Sting Rays, Bird-Eating Spiders, and many other assorted creatures in wonderful displays.
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