SC Reptile and Amphibians
Week ending 05-27-01, plus 05-28-01
This week we had some cooler temperatures and a little rain. Paper Wasps are busy rearing their first brood. Poison Ivy abounds. The local public schools let out on Friday. On Sunday, I also noticed hearing my first Cicada of the year. Springtime is now over.
This week I have decided to include Memorial Day (5-28-01). The next week's notes new will start a new month and it seems natural to keep this long weekend holiday with the May notes. Also, I went herping on Memorial Day. I am scheduled for knee surgery on June 1, so it will probably a few weeks before I can do any real herping again.
This week, the carnage on the roads of Rat Snakes continues. This week's DORs included 7 Black Rats and 2 Corns, not including those found on Memorial Day (see note for 5-28-01 following).
Saturday (5-26-01) morning while driving into town on errands, I saw 3 Eastern Box Turtles (alive). Two were on the road shoulders so I left them to continue on their way, but one was between the concrete barriers of a bridge so I stopped and moved it to safety.
On Sunday (5-27-01) I saw a snake swimming across the farm pond. I moved as fast as my bum knee would allow to the bank where it was headed. It was a large female Eastern Kingsnake. I picked her up to make pictures. She measured approximately 47 inches. She was very fiesty, but calmed down in about a minute.
Having Memorial Day (05-28-01) off, I decided to do as much herping as I could. So I made plans to drive to the Sandhills near Aiken. I woke to thunderstorms and rain at home. The weather forecasters were calling for rain in the middle of the state. Since things had been very dry in the Sandhills, rain should help get the herps moving. Unfortunately, the rain I was seeing at home barely stretched farther south than the county line. I found only a few sprinkles in the Sandhills.
Since I could not do a lot of walking, I mostly road cruised. I de-trucked and searched a couple of spots. I saw a few lizards scurrying about. Under a piece of sheet metal roofing, I found a Black Racer. I also found a couple of AOR Box Turtles and removed them from the road. Otherwise, all the herps I found were DORs. But, I found a lot of DORs!
The first DOR snake was an Eastern Worm Snake, about 6 inches long. I found 3 Dor Black Rat Snakes and 6 DOR Black Racers. Two of these DOR Black Racers were over 5 feet in length and had been killed within 50 feet of oneanother. I also found a DOR Redbelly Water Snake and a DOR Eastern Coachwhip (immature, about 42 inches). The most exciting finds were 3 DOR Pine Snakes. I have been searching for a live Pine Snake all my life. The first Pine was an adult, showing the pattern and coloration of a Northern Pine. The second was an immature Pine of about 33 inches. It still was showing its baby colors. Both of these snakes were killed on the same road, about a mile apart. Needless to say, I cruised around this particular area for a long time.
After lunch I decided to explore new territory further southwest. Just in side Barnwell County, I found my third DOR Pine Snake. This was a full adult (52 inches) showing the Florida Pine coloration and pattern. It also was the freshest specimen, obviously having been killed within a few hours. I searched and searched but could not find a live Pine or another live snake anywhere. My quest will continue!
Week ending 05-27-01, plus 05-28-01
Monday (5-21-01), After dark, I went to the pond and walked around. I found Eastern Mud Turtles, Redbelly Watersnakes, Fowlers Toads, Cricket Frogs, tons of little Southern Leopard Frogs, and Green Treefrogs in serious breeding chorus. I also saw a family of Wood Ducks (Mother, with babies close by) in some tall grass that was growing out in the shallow water. I tried not to disturb them.
Tuesday (5-22-01), I had to work. All normal in my classroom.
Wednesday (5-23-01), I went over into Union County SC to some ponds on National Forest lands. I was looking for Dragonflies and found plenty. I found Prince Baskettails, Spangled Skimmers, Calico Pennant, Lancet Clubtail, and Eastern Pondhawks. There were also plenty of Mourning Cloaks and Tiger Swallowtails enjoying the fresh air and sunshine by the pond. I stopped at the minnow pond on the way home and found a lot of other Dragonflies (Twelve-Spotted Skimmers, Black Saddlebags, Whitetail Skimmers, Green Darners, and Eastern Amberwings........all great stuff) and there on mud flats, where the water level had receded, were some Tiger Beetles (Cicindela trifasciata) that I'd seen in Four-Holes Swamp and in Berkley County just a couple of days earlier. I checked my books and found nothing about that species in Spartanburg County. Cool! I went back later, and saw a Muskrat, as I collected some Dragonflies. I used a Super-Soaker loaded with water and dish detergent. Worked pretty well on perched animals. I know it is kind of like gassing Gopher Holes for Diamondbacks, but I just wanted to see if it would work. I do prefer the purity of the net (can be very challenging!).
Thursday (5-24-01), Yard work, then hay fever. Worked up specimens for the Dragonfly collection. Got a new computer. I'm very confused by the changes.
Friday (5-25-01), Cool and rainy. After dark I saw Deer, Raccoon, Gray Fox, and Cottontail Rabbits out along the roadways.
Saturday (5-26-01), Running errands, I saw 2 AOR Eastern Box Turtles.
Sunday (5-27-01), Up early and off to Beaufort. Flipped a little tin here and there, saw a Wood Stork fly over I-95 in the ACE Basin. Found a DOR Mud Snake in Yemasee, but we were on the beach at Hunting Island State Park by 9:30 AM. Instantly found Tiger Beetles. Cicindela trifasciata which were, according to the books, known from Beaufort County but not mentioned from Hunting Island. Cool. Soon others came along. Cicindela marginata were expected there and were common. Cicindela dorsalis media was harder to find but we saw some. Excellent! In a pile of driftwood I saw a male Skink. There were fair numbers of Robber Flies and Damselflies, and I even found a Seaside Dragonlet. The beaches were crowded but we enjoyed the surf, sun and sand. I stood most of the time (on a previous beach trip, while reclining on the beach some "well intentioned" folks had tried to push me back into the water!) but had great fun. Always a pleasure to see the Brown Pelicans and Gulls. Later, we visited the National Cemetery in Beaufort in honor of Memorial Day. It was impressive with all the Flags out. Makes you think. My total respect and gratitude to all who served and sacrificed in the name of freedom and democracy!
Monday (5-28-01), Back out on the beach we found more Tiger Beetles (same species as found on Sunday). I did spend some time on the banks of the lagoon at low tide but only found trifaciata and marginata. We eventually had to head back. loading the car we found a Lone-Star Tick and our first PAINTED BUNTING! Glorious! He was better than the books could have made him look! I walked to within 15 feet and he was in perfect light. Absolutely stunning! Found a DOR Yellow Ratsnake and DOR Diamondback Terrapins and then, 4 hours of hard, hot, highway. Great family weekend. Great State Park.
Week ending 05-20-01
It has been a hot, dry week. We had a temptation of rain, but it just made things more humid. The farm pond has dropped about a foot in the last month. I started pumping water into it from the branch, but I fear I waited too long. Without rain, the branch will stop flowing in a week or two. DORs this week have included 4 or 5 Black Rat Snakes and a Corn Snake.
Tuesday (05-15-01) I got home early from work. A Redtailed Hawk routinely sits in the top of a dead White Oak tree at the top of the pasture above my home. It was there as usual. I took the camera and head up the road towards it. As usual the hawk registered its dissatisfaction with my actions by screeching loudly as I left the yard. However, it did not fly away as usual. I got close enough to start taking pictures with the digital camera. It left the tree, but instead of flying off to a distant perch, it soared in circles. After first it was pretty far off, but then it became bolder and closer. All the while it screeched in compliant. I was able to snap a couple pictures using the highest pixel density. Unfortunately, I ran out of memory and was not able to snap a picture at its closest approach. Admitting defeat, I retreated to home and the hawk resumed its perch. Later, I road cruised locally after dark. I found an AOR baby Southern Copperhead. Later I found an AOR young Eastern Garter Snake.
On Saturday (05-19-01), while mowing grass, I found a very young Southern Ringneck Snake, about 6 inches.
On Sunday (05-20-01) I hosted Sunday dinner for my family...shrimp and grits. Hope, Win's fiancee, had caught a beautiful Black Rat Snake while taking a walk earlier in the week. The snake was about 3.5 feet in length and was the largest snake she has caught thus far. She brought it over and after lunch I made pictures. Win had set out some cover items (metal trash can lids) beside the farm pond last week. He and Hope are giving a talk to a group about water snakes in June, so he was hoping to attract a Redbelly to catch as a display specimen. Checking them, he did not find any snakes but did find an Eastern Narrowmouth Toad.
Week ending 05-20-01
Been a very busy week! Seen the expected Lizards/Toads around. Great Moths coming to lights now (Luna, Tulip Tree Silkworm Moths, Polyphemus, Big Poplar Sphinx and tons of smaller stuff)
Monday (5-14-01), Walked the pasture at the river. Nice Birds. Nice Dragonflies. Repandas Billions of basking Cooters/Sliders. No snakes. Very nice anyway. At the Reservoir, noticed loads of tiny toads, hopping about near the shoreline.
Tuesday (5-15-01), At work, we found a little Eastern Kingsnake we'd caught and released before. Caught a Black Racer. Found a Wild Turkey on the nest with 12 eggs.
Wednesday (5-16-01), With a class, went to the river pasture. Collected a Gray Petaltail and Whitetail Skimmer. Found a female Black Racer and then a Female Black Ratsnake. Both typical adults. Later at the pond, we found Spring Peepers and Southern Leopard Frogs to be coming ashore after metamorphosis. Collected more Dragonflies; Carolina Saddlebags, Black Saddlebags, Eastern Pondhawks, and more Whitetails. We saw several Twelve-Spotted Skimmers but couldn't snag any. The boys sure seemed to get excited about trying!
Thursday (5-17-01), Stopped at the pond and caught a Green Darner just before dark. After sunset I took off road cruising. Found an adult Eastern Kingsnake on the road at 9:08 PM. Seemed odd to see her out so late (I've seldom seen these out after dark) but soon realized she had a belly very full of something and may have finished dinner late and was still looking for a nice place to sleep it off. Later got an AOR Eastern Garter Snake and missed something else AOR, maybe another Garter. didn't stop for AOR frogs.
Saturday (5-19-01), ROAD TRIP! After work made a family run to the National Forest near Charleston. First trip down our favorite road netted 6 Banded Watersnakes AOR and 3 Herpetologists. They were down from NC and were roadside, watching a big female Mud Snake eat what must have been a rather large Amphiuma. We cruised on and at 10 PM found another Banded watersnake and a snake I was very glad to see. Black Swamp Snake AOR! I've only ever caught one, in Florida, and that's been 19 years ago! We took some nice pictures (wish I knew how to send them e-mail). Also saw Barred Owls, Whip-Poor-Will, Bobcat, Deer, and tons of Frogs and Millipeds on the road. Bunked in a hotel in Summerville.
Sunday (5-20-01), With a bit of a late start, we pretty much missed the morning crawl but did see a couple of AOR Racers, and one other unidentified fast-crawler. Saw a basking Banded Watersnake and Cottonmouth. Snagged a few Dragonflies (Blue Dasher, Bar-Winged Skimmer, and Cyrano Darner) and saw many others of various species. It was rather warm (no, it was HOT) and we went to the clear water pond for snorkeling. We enjoyed the water and underwater I saw lots of bass and bream, and chased and caught a large male River Cooter underwater with my butterfly net! TON of FUN! Then we found the open areas of shore had good numbers of (Tiger Beetles) Cicindela trifasciata. I collected a few just to be sure of the ID. The pond area also had loads of Dragonflies; Calico Pennants, Carolina Saddlebags, and many I didn't know. Sure was nice. Around here and there we saw Blue Herons, American Egrets, White Ibis, Louisiana Heron, Ospey, and various Warblers. Super stuff! On the way home we stopped in Moncks Corner and in the Four Holes Swamp and found the C. trifasciata (Tiger Beetles) in those locations in good numbers. Top it all off with the DORS; Armadillo at I-95 and I-26, and in Newberry County I stopped for a DOR snake on I-26, a Mole Kingsnake, but found a second DOR Mole King about 20 feet from the first one I'd seen. Both collected, tagged, bagged, and frozen. Busy day. Oh, one more first for me, my first Lone-Star Tick (not collected).
Have a good week. Remember; take off those ties and go catch something!
Week ending 05-13-01
This has been a good herping week locally. DORs have included 5 or 6 Black Rat Snakes, a Copperhead, a Rough Green Snake, a Yellowbelly Slider, and a young (2- 3 year old) Eastern Box Turtle.
On Wednesday (05-09-01), after 3 cloudy days, we finally got a little rain beginning about dusk. I figured there would be herp activity on the roads so I took a local cruise starting about 9:30 pm. As expected the frogs were abundant: Green Frogs, Spring Peepers, Gray Tree Frogs, Green Tree Frogs, and Fowlers Toads. There were a lot of DORs; the scavengers will be feasting. I also came upon a Southern Copperhead. There was still a light drizzle, but I managed to snap a picture. As I used a stick to move the snake off the road, I discovered that it had an injury to the head. (If you look closely at the picture, you can see the jaw is misshapened.)
Thursday (05-10-01) brought more scattered rain but none near my home. I went cruising again after dark on the same circuit I followed Wednesday night. Fowlers Toads were about along with a few Green Treefrogs. It was not long before I came upon an AOR Copperhead. Last night's find had been a nearly perfect example of the Southern Copperhead coloration and pattern. Tonight's was a nearly perfect Northern Copperhead. I expect all of the local Copperheads are intergrades between the two subspecies. I later came upon a DOR Copperhead.
On Thursday (05-10-01) Win borrowed my camcorder. He had seen a Whitetailed Deer doe and fawn in his yard the previous 2 mornings. So he hoped to get some pictures on Friday (05-11-01) morning. As things usually go, the deer did not return on Friday. However, while walking in a field he came upon a Killdeer which performed its wounded bird routine to lure him away from its nest.
Saturday (05-12-01) morning, my wife and I drove to Greenwood to buy some potted flowers. Along the way I found my "first of the year" AOR Eastern Box Turtle, a male. We also saw a Turkey biddy running on the side of the road and an AOR Fence Lizard.
Later that morning at home, as I was transferring the new plants into the window boxes, I saw a large turtle, a cooter or slider, crossing my driveway at the culvert for the branch. Since Win still had my camcorder, I decided not to bother the turtle. It proceeded into the seeding fescue grass of the adjacent pasture. About 30 minutes later, Win drove up to return the camcorder and visit. I told him of the turtle and he immediately went to investigate. The turtle was a female looking for a suitable nesting place. She had gone only a couple of yards into the grass and started digging. She was an old female with most head marking disappeared. Win put the camcorder on the tripod and left it to record the turtle's activities. While setting up, Win saw that Fire Ants (note: this is an animate gif file, approx. 300 kb) were crawling on her head. Whether it was the ants, our activities, or just poor soil, after about 30 minutes the turtle decided to move on to a new location.
Sunday (05-13-01) was devoted mostly to Mothers' Day activities. However, when I drove to a nearby restaurant to purchase lunches, I found an old male Yellowbelly Slider on the road.
Week ending 05-13-01
Hello to Everyone and Happy Mothers' Day,
This week we've been warm and had some brief rains. Unfortunately I've not been able to take full advantage of the season. Been some DOR Ratsnakes, Kingsnakes, Copperheads, etc. Here and there plenty of the expected lizards and toads to be seen.
Monday (5-7-01), I went to Cherokee County (SC) to put in a little herping time. I stayed mainly along the I-85 corridor and looked behind stores, old peach sheds, trash piles, and billboards. I found Six-Lined Racerunners and Fence Lizards. Saw a Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle. No live snakes, but I did pick up a DOR Mole King (tagged bagged and frozen now) which means I've now found them present in Laurens, Spartanburg, Union, and Cherokee Counties. Back home I chased but lost a Black Racer and found a huge shed skin from a Black Ratsnake.
Tuesday (5-8-01), Did I do anything fun?
Wednesday (5-9-01), Had a training in Union. Near the site was a pond with Cricket Frogs calling. Sure did wish I was outside with a dipping net.
Thursday (5-10-01), Some evening rain so I went road cruising locally. Found one Copperhead AOR over in Union County. Saw tons of deer, rabbits, Barred Owl, and Whip-Poor-Will.
Friday (5-11-01), My son and I looked around a bit after school. We saw some neat Dragonflies (Spangled Skimmers and Calico Pennant). Chased a Black Racer. At sundown we went for a road cruise. Stopped by a local wetland area, saw a Redbelly Watersnake and a number of tadpoles but the best thing was finding a number of Marbled Salamander Larvae. Very nice.
Saturday (5-12-01), Hit some good roads, flipped some good tin, nothing exciting.
Sunday (5-13-01), Family time (NO MUSK).
Still waiting on the Stag Beetles!
Week ending 05-06-01
I saw only a few DOR snakes this week: a Black Racer, a Cornsnake, and a couple of unidentifiables.
On Saturday (05-05-01), after attending my future daughter-in-law's graduation from Lander University, I went into my home office. The room had been closed up all day, so I opened the shutters of the one window with the intention of getting some fresh air. Much to my surprise there was a Black Racer napping on the window sash. It did not take much thought to figure out that it was the little Racer I had bagged last weekend for the purpose of taking its picture. Since I did not have time to take pictures during the workweek, I had left the snake in the bag, thinking this would keep it calm during its captivity. Most herpers use pillow cases as collecting bags, but I like to use pillow-liner cases instead. The liner cases have zippers on the opening end. Upon examining the bag this snake had been in, I found a hole in the cloth near one end of the zipper. It appears that the snake had found a weakness in the stitching and had worked at it until it had made a hole large enough for it to escape through.
After dark, about 9 pm, I began cruising local roads. The most common herps on the roads were Fowlers Toads. Their breeding cycle is winding down and many are leaving the wetlands for their normal upland habitat. The first snake I found was an AOR very juvenile Redbelly Water Snake. Despite its small size, its banded (or blotched) pattern was already disappearing. In fact, it was so reddish brown on its back that it looked like it was covered in mud. I found it on a ridge road, well away from any branches or ponds. Upon making a circuit back to the same road and close to the same road stretch, I spotted an AOR yearling Black Rat Snake.
Sunday (05-06-01) was another warm day. An easterly wind blew most all day. I saw one of the female Softshell Turtles basking on the rock in the middle of the pond. A medium-sized River Cooter had joined her. I made pictures of the juvenile Redbelly Water Snake and Black Rat Snake and released them. I walked around the farm, checking coverboards and tin but did not find any herps underneath. I did see an adult Six-Lined Racerunner Lizard in a field. This sighting is encouraging because Racerunners have been scarce locally in the last few years. Eastern Bluebirds had hatchlings in one of the boxes. Nests of Eastern Phoebes had been constructed on ledges in most all the outbuildings; some had hatchlings. In the forest, evidence abounded of the late frost we had a couple of weeks ago. Many trees had their leaves partially burned by the frost. Tulip Trees (also known locally as Yellow Popular) seem to have been hit the hardest. On many of these trees all of the leaves were brown and shriveled. I have seen this same late frost damage to American Beech trees. The leaves are not really dead. In a few more weeks, the trees will pump fluid back into the leaves and the green color will return.
Sunday evening, just after dark, I cruised the same roads as on Saturday. Herps were almost abscent, just a couple Fowlers Toads. Deer were plentiful and an Oppossum scurried out of my way.
Week ending 05-06-01
Not a bad week. Nice and warm, but very dry and a bright moon. It is May 6 and we've yet to have a decent thunderstorm this year! It's very dry.
Monday (4-30-01), I stayed local and herped a bit. Caught two Black Racers under a car hood that I found out behind a farmhouse. Also picked up a female Broad-Head Skink.
Tuesday (5-1-01), not much going on. In my classroom at work, we are trying to keep some Cricket Frogs. Moist substrate, water dish, 6 Cricket Frogs. How to feed them? Flies! Send out 6 students with bug nets, position them over the compost pile, and you have flies. By clipping a wing you can introduce an active food item and the little frogs love them. The Clemson Salamander feeds well on them also. We are temporarily keeping a Northern Red Salamander also and finding it to feed well on field Crickets
Wednesday (5-2-01), took a walk with the students. We found an Eastern Kingsnake that we had caught a week before and released. We knew this because we checked its belly pattern against the photocopy of the one we had caught and then released. We also found a Black Ratsnake while out in the woods. Took an evening road cruise. Too much moonlight.
Thursday (5-3-01), snake safety talk with local scout leaders.
Friday (5-4-01), May to me means Mole Kingsnakes emerge. Today I found a 38 inch male that was DOR about a mile and a half from my house. Tagged it, bagged it, and in the freezer. Two with data. I found about 6 in the freezer without data. Oh well, I'm trying to do better.
Saturday (5-5-01), nothing exciting to report.
Sunday (5-6-01), family day at the lake. I stayed inside. Hunter did see a couple of watersnakes by the water's edge, but likely just Midland Watersnakes. Today marks my 10 year anniversary teaching Wildlife Science at Piedmont Wilderness Institute.
All the expected Butterflies have been around. This week we added Spicebush Swallowtail, Red-Spotted Purple, and American Lady. Found a Polyphemus Moth one morning. The expected Anoles, Skinks, Toads, Fence Lizards have all been around. We've paid little attention this week to Dragonflies, but Whitetail Skimmers have been showing up and so have Ebony Jewelwings.
Have a nice week, More Mole Kings and Giant Stag Beetles coming soon!
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