SC Reptile and Amphibians


December 2000

Gene's notes

A good new year to all!

I did not observe a single reptile or amphibian in the wild during December. There were two major reasons for this deficiency. First, I spent most all of my spare time and energy helping my son-in-law remodel a storage room into a baby's nursery. On December 29th, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful girl of 8 lbs 8 ozs! All are doing well.

Secondly, the weather has been cold. For the first time in over a decade, it appears that we will have a real winter in South Carolina. Back in January, we had about 2 weeks of winter weather, then it turned warm for the rest of the season. But this winter season promises to be more sustained. Locally, the temperature dropped to 7 deg F one night back in November. This month we have had at least a dozen nights when the temperature has dipped below 10 deg F. The coldest was 0 deg F. Here in the valley we always get colder than the official weather stations located at airports, which are all on hilltops. A point on the map a few miles from my farm is named Coldpoint. The story has it that it got its name because it was the coldest train stop on the line. Coldpoint is on a hilltop too. Here in Deer Valley we get a lot colder than Coldpoint.

We are still getting enough precipitation to keep the ground surface moist, but the groundwater is still suffering. My farm pond has no perennial branches feeding it. We have received some rains of more than 2 inches, but these have resulted in very little runoff into the pond. By pumping water from a nearby branch for about 2 months I was able to fill the pond.

I believe the extra surface moisture we maintained during 2000 was beneficial to the local lizard populations. Fence Lizards and Racerunners have been very scarce for several years. However, at the end of this summer I saw a good number of newborn Fence Lizards and a few newborn Racerunners.

In 2000 I did not keep as precise notes on specimens observed as I had in 1999. I was especially slack with DORs. I plan to make more precise and detailed notes during 2001. I think such observations can be useful. Many people believe that roadway deaths have major impacts upon herp populations. There is no doubt that a great many herps and other animals are killed on roads. A couple of years ago I developed a simple model of snakes crossing roads. This analysis, plus my own antedoctal observations, led me to conclude that not all roads are equal in their killing capacity. I believe I will reckon on this issue some more in 2001.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Week ending 12-3-00

It's getting colder! Green is gone. The browns of fall will soon be replaced by the bleak gray of winter.

On Monday (11-27-00) we collected feeder lizards on our campus. We got a Ground Skink, Five-Lined Skink, and numerous Green Anoles. Baby Milk and Ratsnakes fed happily.

Otherwise, a Harrier/some Robins were about the highlights of the week for nature type stuff.

We did have more snow. I started on Sunday (12-3-00) around sunrise and continued off and on until about 2:30 PM but there was little accumulation here. This is the first time I've ever seen this much snow come this early in the year.

Not much else going on. Time for nature has been limited by work/family obligations. Hmmmm. Not much herp activity going on now anyway.

Week ending 12-10-00

Most of this week has been cold. Not much herping to be done outside. On Friday we did have a chance to get outside and collect a handfull of feeder lizards (mostly Green Anoles but we did find one Ground Skink). These are getting harder to find as the weather gets cooler.

Birds are common. Songbirds are everywhere. Seen some Hawks around and today noticed a lot of Meadowlarks (always been a favorite of mine).

Mammals such as deer and squirrels are everywhere but others are not often noticed.

At work we have been hard at it, to complete the interior of our "Mouse House". We are functional now, but in the future we're going to have a very nice little building in which to raise rodents for food and sales. We will also have to use it to house our breeder snakes for the winter cycle.

Looking forward to the sounds of the Chorus Frogs.

Week ending 12-17-00

The temps this week have been rather cool, but with some rain to help the area recover from drought.

Mammals have been a focal point this week. Deer have been pretty much everywhere as I've driven here and there. On Friday at work, our "Havahart" trap, set for squirrels/opossum/rabbits was tripped, with a Gray Squirrel inside. He was released unharmed. But the best mammal of the week was on Tuesday, about 9 AM, when a possum ambled through campus. Cool. I seldom have seen them during daylight hours.

Reptiles/Amphibs? I found a Green Anole on Friday. The temps were in the mid/high 40's

Birds? Same old stuff.

Inside the classroom/lab? Same old stuff.

Not much going on here. Hope you all are doing well. Making plans for the upcoming Amphibian breeding season, the spring warm-up, and captive breeding season. I have still to hear the first of the Chorus Frogs but I know that it will not be long now!

Week ending 12-24-00

Merry Christmas!

I've had a nice week. I've been off work and have enjoyed some nice family time and nature time.

Great Birds this week: Kestrel, Meadowlark, Eastern Bluebird, Killdeer, Red-Tail Hawks, and many others have been around.

The weather this week has been cold for a lot of herping. We had sleet/snow on Tuesday morning. After lunch I went to the river pasture to look at salamanders. Under logs by the backswamps and tributaries I found 3 Marbleds and 1 Spotted. We had sleet again on Thursday night and I went back to the pasture on Friday. This time I found the Spotted and 2 Marbleds. That was the extent of my field herping for the week.

Had a good time on Saturday evening, coming from a family gathering with two small nephews in the car. We saw several "Reindeer" here and there as we drove! Lots of fun.

I hope that each of you has a wonderful Christmas! Filled with warmth, and love, and family happiness!

Week ending 12-31-00

Happy New Year to Everyone!

Santa was good to me! I got a Tiger Beetle coffee cup! I got new bug net! I got Audubon Field Guides: "Tropical Marine Fishes" and "African Wildlife" and the "Audubon Guide to the National Wildlife Refuges of the Southeast"! I got a new field pack (day pack) since my other was full of holes and hanging by one strap! I got a copy of the "Field Guide to the Life and Times of Roger Conant" And my dear sweet wife has for years bought cloth with "critter" patterns (bugs, butterflies, dragonflies, lizards, turtles, fish, etc) and made them into a quilt for me for the couch on cold winter evenings! It's Awesome! (and I got some socks and stuff)

Outside, I've seen Meadowlarks, Redtail Hawks, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-Shafted Flickers, and loads of deer. The temps have been under 45 degrees all week.

On Friday (12-29-00) I took my class out on campus, herping. It was 36 degrees. We found Dusky Salamanders under rocks in the little creek. We found Slimy Salamanders under plywood cover-boards in the woods. In the mulch/leaf piles at the base of some trees on campus we found 3 Green Anoles (under a layer wet leaves/ice) hibernating.

In the final hours of 2000 (Sunday 12-31-00), I went to the river and checked on the Spotted Salamander I'd seen. He's still under his log. That wrapped up the year.

CAUGHT in 2000
(Including animals caught by Joey Holmes, his son, and students)

First Snake of 2000: Brown Snake found on 2-24-00
Northern Water Snake6
Midland Water Snake8
Redbelly Water Snake16
Banded Water Snake1
Smooth Earth Snake3
Brown Snake11
Red-Bellied Snake15
Eastern Garter Snake4
Southern Ringneck Snake13
Eastern Worm Snake28
Southeastern Crowned Snake2
Rough Green Snake4
Eastern Hognose Snake1
Black Racer13
Corn (Red Rat) Snake1
Black Rat Snake15
Mole King Snake1
Eastern King Snake7
Eastern Cottonmouth1

156 Snakes, 20 varieties

None of the snakes caught in 2000 were kept. All were released.

Year 2000 was herping almost exclusively in South Carolina, yet I did not go to Jasper County at all. Other than one day trip to Pisgah National Forest in the mountains and an overnight trip to Chimney Rock, NC (both family trips), I've stayed in South Carolina. I also had the chance to catch snakes for the first time in Williamsburg, Union, and Marion Counties (South Carolina) Now I've caught snakes in 26 of South Carolina's 46 counties.

First time for collecting Eastern Spadefoot Toads and Southern Chorus Frogs; my best year ever for Spotted Salamanders. Got my first Little Grass Frogs in several years, and had a great year for Southeastern Crowned Snakes (2 is a great year). Also the usual gators, turtles, lizards, salamanders, and frogs were found but are not recorded.

Again, it's been a great year, and I appreciate the chance to share it with you.

Good luck in 2001.

Joey Holmes

January 2, 2001
Gene Ott

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