SC Reptile and Amphibians
Week ending 07-01-01
I am going to sum up my notes for the last two weeks of June with this posting. I have still not been able to find much time for herping. The first 4 days of the week ending June 24, were devoted strictly to work.
On Friday (06-22-01), my family and I headed to Garden City for a week long vacation. This was a special week because my daughter and her family, including my only grandchild now 6 months old, were able to come for most of the week. Also, Win and his fiancee, Hope, also came down for several days. This was Win's first vacation to the Beach in over 10 years.
I spent most of my vacation with the family, doing normal family vacation things. I did make a trip over to the National Forest during the day on Monday (o6-25-01). It rained sporadically while I was out. The rain brought out several Mud Turtles. The only snake I found was a Green Snake.
On Tuesday (06-26-01) I visited Hunting Beach State Park and other nearby areas. I found a Black Racer AOR. In a roadside ditch, I found some Eastern Chicken Turtles which let me get close enough to make pictures.
I had hoped that Win would go herping with me, but he got interested in surf fishing. On Monday while I was out herping, he and Hope saw 2 water spouts in the ocean. Then while fishing after dark on Tuesday (06-26-01) they saw an unusual, bright light in the sky. Possibly a meteor. Later we heard that other people had reported seeing the strange light.
Friday (06-29-01) I was back in the work grind. On Saturday evening I road cruised my usual route. It had rained just before dark. I saw many frogs and toads, but no snakes.
The number of snakes being killed on the roads has declined greatly in the last 2 weeks. However, with the frequent rains we are getting, many Box Turtles are still to be seen on the roads. Most people now-a-days appear to try to avoid hitting them, but the kill rate is still high.
While at the beach I was able to make pictures of a number of shore birds, including the Brown Pelican, Black-necked Stilt, Common Tern, Great Egret, Green Heron, Laughing Gull, White Ibis, Willet, and Wilson's Plover.
Week ending 07-01-01
Had a good week, Warm/hot with some evening storms. Animals have been on the move. I have checked a good amount of tin, and try to find excuses to run to the store at sunset.
Monday (6-25-01), Had the day to myself, and cruising/herping in and around storms I visited some local areas I like. I caught 2 black Racers under tin, and a Redbelly Snake. I also got the truck stuck down a dirt road, but a quick call (ain't cell phones great) to the Institute brought out a group of strong teenagers the were up to the challenge! Sure beats jacking it up and piling limbs/rocks under the wheels!
Tuesday (6-26-01), Spent some time with the Tiger Beetles from last week. With good lighting, the Tiger Beetle book, and a magnifying glass, I concluded that what I had taken to be C. abdominalis was really C. rufiventris. I know most people don't care, but I do, and I hate to report a false ID on anything.
Wednesday (6-27-01), Herping with students on campus, we came across an Eastern Worm Snake, Redbelly Snake, and an Eastern Kingsnake (snake #100 for the year!). We also met a hive of Yellowjackets (#2 for the year) but nobody got stung. We found 3 species of Tiger Beetles (sexguttata, punctulata, and rufiventris).
Thursday (6-28-01), Mowing here at home. Found Yellowjacket hive #3 and #4 in the yard. Still no stings!
Friday (6-29-01), On campus with students we found Yellowjacket hive #5. One boy got hit about 5 times on the leg, but had no allergic type reactions. Off campus with students, we found a Copperhead under a scrap of plywood. Gravid female and pre-shed. Kids collected 15 Dragonflies (saw our first Great Blue Skimmers for the year but collected none). Found plenty more Tiger Beetles (rufiventris). We also found several Cow-Killer Velvet Ants (male and female).
Saturday (6-30-01), Evening road cruise. Nothing more than frogs/toads on the road
Sunday (7-1-01), Spent a bit of time outdoors during the afternoon. I caught a Great Blue Skimmer and saw many other Dragonflies but each species was well represented in my collection already. Found 2 Redbelly Watersnakes and a Black Racer, But all were very fast, and as a result, my efforts to catch them were futile.
Well the year 2001 is half over. I have caught 101 snakes. Not bad, but it will slow down now. Fortunately, at work we will start warm weather trapping (turtles and snakes mainly) now and that also allows for fun times outside with the bug nets. I also have some time off in the upcoming weeks and hope to enjoy it as much as possible!
Time to get outdoors now!
Week ending 06-24-01
This week has been good. A fair number of nice animals. Let me begin.
Monday (6-18-01), Spent some time in the afternoon at the Enoree River (Cowpasture). Almost immediately on arriving I looked towards my feet and saw a dark Tiger Beetle. My son made the approach and slapped down the net. We got him under control and quickly found it to be a Cicindela punctulata. Down on the sand bars we were to find Cicindela repanda and trifasciata. A good day for Tiger Beetles. We saw nice Dragonflies and collected a few but nothing odd.
Tuesday (6-19-01), Did a snake safety talk for the employees at a local state facility. Had a Blackwater Clubtail on my desk when I got back to work. One of the students had caught it while canoing on Sunday (Enoree River). Later, my son had a female Hercules Beetle for me when we got home. He had picked it up outside of church (he is helping with Vacation Bible School this week).
Wednesday (6-20-01), Cleaned the large aquariums in my classroom. Got one that is 125 gallons and a 75 gallon. That is a lot of water and gravel.
Thursday (6-21-01), Summer Solstice. A student brought me a Stag Beetle (#4 for 2001). Later, we rigged up a way to mount 2 bug nets on the back of my truck like outriggers for trolling. I took my son on a brief drive near the local reservoir to see how they would work, but very few dragons were seen flying over the road. Bummer. We did see what I am pretty sure was a Great Spangled Fritilary while at the reservoir.
Friday (6-22-01), On campus by the walkway I spotted a small, dark Tiger Beetle as I walked with a group of students but had no net and the beetle flew away. At 3 PM, I took the program van, filled with gear, and loaded with 4 students and another staff, and took off on a road trip. We went to the National Forest outside of Charleston. We arrived at the clearwater pond, caught a few small Pondhawks, a Cicindela trifasciata, and strapped bug nets to the luggage rack (for trolling). We ate a bit of supper, and started cruising. We met one other guy who had just found a DOR Canebrake Rattler. He showed us the snake, we measured it at 57 inches. Nice one! Too bad it was not found alive. During our cruising we found 2 Banded Watersnakes, 1 Redbelly Watersnake, 1 Mud Snake, 1 Cottonmouth, and 1 Copperhead. We caught a few Dragonflies but nothing odd. We saw Deer and Grey Fox, Anhinga, Wood Ducks, Ibis, Heron, Cattle Egrets, Red-Headed Woodpeckers, Barred Owls (lots of these), and of course tons of frogs/toads on the road. We also heard frogs. We heard Green Treefrogs, Gray Treefrogs, Pine Woods Treefrogs, Squirrel Treefrogs, Little Grass Frogs, Cricket Frogs, Carpenter Frogs, Eastern Narrowmouth Toads, and Bullfrogs. Really loud at times! Defeated by time, we had to leave, but I had one more stop in mind; The boat landing at Moncks Corner. There we found Bullfrogs and shined an Alligator at a distance. The boys thought that gator was pretty neat. I also found another Tiger Beetle, a new one for me, Megacephala carolina. Awsome. Made the drive back to our area but just had to make one more stop and whipped into the store at our exit. It was closed but the outside lights were on. Got Stag Beetle #5. Broken right mandible but pretty cool anyway. Day completed at 3:30 AM
One odd thing happened on this trip. I took the scooming net to collect some aquatic plants for my aquariums. I scooped and found a creature wiggling in the net. Right away, I took it to be a salamander, perhaps a siren or amphiuma, although very small. I reached in to get it and it bit. Hard. I mean this hurt! I lifted it out and it was hanging on. Invertebrate. About 1-2 inches long and pointed at the tail. Had mandibles similar to a Hellgramite (in fact it reminded me a bit of a hellgramite) but more delicate. I removed this beast from my finger but the pain continued and I did bleed a tiny bit from the wound The pain throbbed, but finally went dull. Also had some slight numbness on that finger and sensitivity the following day. I feel like I was envenomated. Books here show a larva of a Predacious Diving Beetle looks closest. Could it be? Are they venomous? Could it be the larva of a Toe-Biter (Giant Water Bug)? I know they have a sort of venom and can produce pain and numbness. Any Ideas? I did find one in the bucket of aquatic plants (when sorted in my classroom on Saturday), So I still have the culprit.
Saturday (6-23-01), Clean the van, clean and feed the mice, stay awake. Right outside my classroom on the ground, was that small dark Tiger Beetle. This time we got him! A lot like a punctulata but its abdomen is red?!?!?!?!? Cicindela abdominalis! My first! Then again, having just recently obtained good books about Dragonflies and Tiger Beetles, a lot of them are "firsts" for me.
Sunday (6-24-01), Local evening road cruise just produced Red Fox, Deer, Frogs and Toads.
This Saturday (6-30-01) the year 2001 will be half over. I like to have 100 snakes caught by that time. Now have 94. Will I make it? Stay tuned and find out.
Week ending 06-17-01
Another week of work and almost no herping for me. We have continued to get rain. The remnants of tropical storm Alison dumped enough water to fill the last half-foot of deficit in the farm pond. The storm also left some storm damage in Laurens. The rains have rejuvenated the frogs. Green Tree Frogs and Cricket Frogs serenade at the pond, but Narrowmouth Toads are the loudest chorus.
Black Rat Snakes and Box Turtles continue to be killed on the roads.
Win and Hope made a herp presentation to 4-H'ers in Abbeville County on Monday. The little Love Bird which showed up on Win's car the other week continues to thrive.
Week ending 06-17-01
It's been hotter this week. Summertime hot. We've had evening storms. It's breeding/egg laying season for most local reptiles. All this put together makes for a fun week. Sadly loads of racers/ratsnakes are getting hit on the roads as are Box Turtles. From the roads we do see Deer and Turkeys almost daily.
Monday (6-11-01), My son and I went to the Tyger River. It's not far and makes for some fun nature time. We found the expected turtles and lizards basking. Tiger Beetles (repandas) along rocks and sand bars. Midland Watersnakes were common and we found about a dozen. There was also a Copperhead in a crevice in some boulders. An attempt to catch him just drove him further into the dark security of the crevice. I did catch one snake I was looking for. One I often find on that river, the Queen Snake. It was a small male. Nice. We also caught a couple of great Dragonflies; Spot-Wing Glider and Dragonhunter (incredible animal!). On a hot day...............get in the river!
Tuesday (6-12-01), On the Citgo Station near work, I got my big Stag Beetle! A PM road cruise into Union County (SC) produced a nice little female Corn Snake AOR and tons of frogs.
Wednesday (6-13-01), Did a little Dragon netting late in the day. Got a Spangled Skimmer with the Super Soaker. I found myself under a SWARM of Prince Baskettails and netted one, then got a Regal Darner when I was slowly driving along by holding the net out of the truck window.
Thursday (6-14-01), Went to the minnow pond. Green Treefrogs, Bullfrogs, Eastern Narrowmouth Toads, and Cricket Frogs were all calling loudly and easily seen. We found several Redbelly and Midland Watersnakes but only caught one male Redbelly. Did find one big Fishing Spider. We cruised the little store in Cross Anchor and found a Giant Stag Beetle on the sidewalk, under the lights. Cool!
Friday (6-15-01), Everglades Ratsnake eggs (about 20). Cow Killer (Velvet Ant) at work.
Saturday (6-16-01), On the way to work I found a female Stag Beetle on the store near work. On the front of my Mouse House, under the big light, another Male! 3 male Giant Stags in one week is outstanding for me! After work was family time at my in-laws over in Greenville County. Cookout, that sort of thing. They had a pond. I collected some Dragonflies. Got Piedmont Clubtail, Spangled Skimmers, Widow Skimmers, Eastern Pondhawks, and Blue Dashers. I saw but failed to get Carolina Saddlebags and Prince Baskettails. I hit a Slaty Skimmer with the SuperSoaker and knocked him into the water. Before I could scoop him out from above with the net, a Bream took him! I must say it was great fun to let smaller nephews, nieces, and various in-law kids use a bug net. They had fun trying to catch bugs! Not much success, but fun, and sometimes that is more important!
Sunday (6-17-01), Happy Fathers' day to all who are Dads. Being a father is an incredible responsibility and must be taken seriously. But it is also one of life's greatest joys. I hope all who could, called or visited their fathers. I wish I could call mine. I went to the cemetery. But, I have many great memories of a man who taught me to love nature and learning. That's the type dad I want to be.
We went for a little family road cruise late in the afternoon but we didn't see any snakes. We did see Frogs, Deer and two Barred Owls, sitting together right on the road. Neat.
Have a good week and go get in a river (cool off).
Week ending 06-10-01
Work and knee surgery recovery are still limiting my herping. I continue to see many Black Rat Snakes dead on the road (DOR). Black Racers also. I found my first Mole King Snake of the year; unfortunately it was DOR. We have had significant rain this week. The moisture has inspired many Box Turtles onto the roads. I've moved many off, but many are DOR. I found a female Mud Turtle AOR.
Week ending 06-10-01
This week, the roads of my area have been the scene of horrible killings. Many Box Turtles and Rat Snakes have died under the wheels of man. Heartbreaking. The expected lizards and toads have been seen . Been hearing Cicadas, singing in the trees.
Monday (6-4-01), I went to the pond with my son, and we collected a few Dragonflies. Got some nice things. Still have yet to get the beautiful Twelve-Spotted Skimmer!
Tuesday (6-5-01), Saw several Red Admirals at work. First of the year for me. On the way home from work, I stopped and picked up 2 adult Black Ratsnakes that were crossing the roads. At least these 2 didn't get hammered. One appears gravid and I may keep it around a few weeks to see. If it lays eggs, I will hatch them for release and will of course feed the mother to help her recover from her investment, and then release her in a remote area nearby.
Wednesday (6-6-01), At work I offered food to the newly acquired Mud Snake. It too, will be released after being photographed for the web site. I looked in my freezer and found a "bag 'o salamanders" that held one Amphiuma (better save for hard times) and one Mudpuppy . Both of these dated back to 1997. I also had in the bag a 12" Tiger Salamander that I had kept for 5 years (some of you met this creature if you visited my classroom). I opted to thaw the tiger. Within 30 minutes the Mud Snake was feeding. Excellent! Walking on campus with students, we found a Redbelly Snake. After work I went to the local reservoir and collected some nice Dragonflies(Prince Baskettail, Calico Pennant, Banded Pennant, Eastern Pondhawks, Blue Dashers). After dark, I road cruised into Union County (SC) but saw no snakes, just deer and frogs (tmtc).
Thursday (6-7-01), Turkeys. Adult hens and half-grown chicks were crossing the road at work in the morning. More Turkeys in the evening locally. In fact, I think I may have seen Turkeys every day this week!
Friday (6-8-01), My son and I went to York and Chester Counties. We caught Dragonflies (Widow Skimmers and Banded Pennants) in each county but found no snakes. We did see some skinks under tin here and there. On several storefronts we found adult Dobson Flies and Mayflies in one place- a huge hatch must have happened nearby. We found a beautiful Diana Fritillary. In one place by a pond we watched an Osprey catch a fish. BUT, the rain came! Hard rain that stalled and ultimately ruined herping. We came back to our local spots. The river pasture. I rolled the "good log" and found .......Yellowjackets! We did find two types of Tiger Beetles; repanda and punctulata. Collected some Dragonflies (Slaty Skimmers, Spangled Skimmers, Eastern Amberwing), and saw a Pipevine Swallowtail, Bobwhite Quail, and one of my favorites: Goldfinches. All very nice. Still no Snakes. On an evening run to the local store, I found an AOR Eastern Garter Snake. Climax to a day spent with nature!
Saturday and Sunday (6-9-01 and 6-10-01), Lots of family business and no time for nature study.
With increased rains, animals are becoming more active. We are also in the egg-laying season for most local reptiles. Lots of excitement in the air. I hope everyone has a chance to enjoy the natural world with which we have been blessed.
Week ending 06-03-01
This was a short herping week for three reasons: Monday was included in last month's notes; I was busy with work; and Friday I had orthoscopic knee surgery which confined me to home for the weekend. All went well with the surgery and I hope to be back into light herping soon.
During the short work week I did see a few interesting things on the way to and fro. DORs included 2 Eastern Kingsnakes, a Black Racer, and a Black Rat Snake. I also saw an AOR Yellow Belly Slider. On a bridge I found a DOR Red-shouldered Hawk. In looking it over, I found a DOR Five-lined Skink glued to the wound on the hawk. My guess is the hawk was concentrating on capturing the skink and never saw the vehicle that killed them both.
On Wednesday night (05-31-01), I made a short road cruise. I found DOR: a small Southern Copperhead, a Black Racer, 2 Black Rat Snakes, and 2 unidentifiable snake carcasses. I did find one young Black Rat Snake AOR.
Win brought over and released a Black Rat Snake which had been caught in Greenwood. At the farm pond he saw a large Redbelly Water Snake and several Eastern Narrowmouth Toads. He also reported an unusual bird find, a yellow, red and blue Love Bird (Latino Phase). The bird was perched on Win's car in his front yard. An obvious escapee, it was very hungry and glad to have someone care for it again.
A web site visitor informed me that the 3rd annual Fathers Day Turtle Fest will be held on June 17, 2001 at Cypress Gardens. They also have a new International Reptile House open. I'll have to make on point to visit Cypress Gardens again. Many years ago, I saw my first Yellow Rat Snake in the "wild" while boating there.
Week ending 06-03-01
This week starts with Tuesday (5-29-01). Regular day at work, then for the evening, my son and I road cruised. Over in the edge of Union County, SC, we found one snake, a baby (from the 2000 hatching season) Mole Kingsnake AOR. Cool.
Wednesday (5-30-01), Seeing Summer Tanagers at work regularly.
Thursday (5-31-01), Cooking out on the grill, enjoying the pondhawks and skimmers that cruise through the yard. Stopped briefly at the pond after dark. Heard Green and Gray Treefrogs, Fowlers Toads, and Cricket Frogs. A colleague called; we talked herping. May is over and I didn't find any Giant Stag Beetles. Bummer. June could produce, but it May is usually better for me.
Friday (6-1-01), Took a stroll on campus with a class of boys. Found a Redbelly Snake and a nice (11") male Broadhead Skink. A good friend came by with a copy of "GROUND BEETLES AND WRINKLED BARK BEETLES OF SOUTH CAROLINA" by Janet C. Ciegler and published by Clemson. Nice book to have. Thanks!
Saturday, (6-2-01), Work till 4 PM, then family time.
Sunday (6-3-01), ROAD TRIP! Set off at 3 PM for the National Forest outside Charleston with another staff tagging along and 4 students. None of these boys had ever been road cruising or to the lowcountry. We arrived, ate, and were on the road herping by 7 PM. BANG! Right away we got started with an AOR Carolina Black Swamp Snake! At 7 PM! Full Daylight! Wow! Got one in 1982, another 2 weeks ago, and now #3! We cruised on and got Eastern King and Eastern Ribbon Snakes AOR. We ended up with about 7 or 8 AOR Banded Watersnakes. Found 2 Cottonmouths that were over in the water, but we needed to stay dry and reasonably clean, so we left them in peace. We finished off with an adult Cottonmouth AOR and then an adult Mud Snake (also AOR). Nice stuff. We heard the expected frogs on this trip: Bullfrog, Bronze Frog, Green Treefrog, Cricket Frog, and Pine Woods Treefrog were all calling. Regal Darners were flying and we snagged a few. Also got Blue Dashers and a Great Blue Skimmer. Mammals? We saw deer of course, and Raccoons & Gray Fox. DOR Armadillos on I-26 WEST of Orangeburg! We ran into a fellow in a pickup truck with a camcorder who said he'd seen a Black Bear there about a week ago and hoped to see it again. We saw no bear. The birds were nice, with Warblers/Egrets/Herons/Osprey/Barred Owls/Pileated Woodpeckers as expected, but got a real thrill with a Wood Stork that we saw twice. I've never seen one north of the ACE Basin so this was really a neat find. We stopped at the boat landing in Moncks Corner and found another Cottonmouth. Then it was highway time. I ended up in my bed by 3:10 AM. not bad.
My nephew vacationed in Cherry Grove (Horry County/Grand Strand) and went Tiger Beetling. I loaned him a good book, with a "cheat sheet", some collecting jars, and a net. He returned on Sunday (6-3-01) and reports Cicindela marginata and dorsalis media. He saw hirticollis but couldn't get it. I'm glad he had fun Tiger Beetling! There are a lot of worse things a teenager can get into at the beach!
What wonders will this week hold?
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