SC Reptile and Amphibians


March 2002

Week ending 03-31-02

Gene's notes

Monday (03-25-02) morning at work a co-worker called to tell me the Cooper's Hawk was perched just outside one of the 2nd floor windows. I got my camcorder and setup to make pictures. The bird was very closeby, about 10 feet; however, it was in shadow and bright sunlight filled the background. Making a useable picture was difficult because of the contrast. After a few minutes the hawk flew to the ground. I followed to the ground floor. Many of the offices on this floor are unoccupied. I found the hawk looking at its reflection in the glass walls.

Tuesday night(03-26-02), a light drizzle fell as I drove home after a long day at work. I slowed as I passed through my favorite salamander hunting ground. I saw a salamander just barely discernable in the light cast by my truck's headlights. I stopped and checked to ID it. My best judgment is that it was a Seal Salamander, (belly), the first I have seen locally. Most field guides do not show them ranging this far south (southwest Laurens County) I little further down the road, I found an adult Slimy Salamander.

Saturday (03-30-02) was pleasant with frequent rain. During a sunny period, I saw the Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtles basking on the rock in the farm pond. This was my first observation of them this year. An adult Green Anole scurried across the dock. After dark I visited my salamander hunting road. I usually walk to and fro once along this 600 meter length of road. I saw about a dozen live frogs (Green Tree, Upland Chorus, Spring Peeper, and Pickerel) and a couple dozen DORs. It was rather quiet at the road; only a few Chorus Frogs sang. In the distance I heard American Toads and Spring Peepers, and, for the first time this year, Cricket Frogs. Earthworms, snails, and millipedes were about. I found a DOR mud turtle. I found AOR one adult and one new Slimy Salamander and an adult female Marbled Salamander.

Sunday (03-31-02) had intermittent rain and sunshine. In the afternoon, I walked about the the farm checking under coverboards for herps but found none. After dark, I heard my first Fowler's Toad song of the year. He was in the front yard.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Getting better this week. Temps have been acceptable and there has been some sun and some rain. Butterflies and Dragonflies have become common. Lizards are abundant. Turtles bask at any hint of sunshine. SPRING IS HERE!

Monday (3-25-02), Warm and sunny, with me off work! I made a little drive over into Union County. I wanted to collect a Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) as there is no county record for that species in that county. I got one in short order and returned to my local area. I collected Dragonflies (Carolina Saddlebags, Whitetail Skimmer, Corporal Skimmer, and Springtime Darner) and another Tiger Beetle (C. sexguttata). Fun way to spend a few hours.

Tuesday (3-26-02), Work. One of my students caught a Tiger Beetle (C. sexguttata) while we walked on campus. We also found quite a few Dragonflies (Corporal Skimmers).

Wednesday (3-27-02), Work. A lot of the female snakes in my classroom have shed for the first time this spring and we have been putting them in with the males for breeding. Hope to make lots of eggs/babies this year!

Thursday (3-28-02), Work. Clean cages, feed.

Friday (3-29-02), At work, some boys found a small Black Racer. We caught it, and let it go in the nearby forest.

Saturday (3-30-02), Walking on campus, we flipped our tin and found a small female Black Ratsnake. Nearby was a male Black Racer. Both were caught, but both were released where we found them.

Sunday (3-31-02), Happy Easter! Church time, Family time, and rain kept me from spending any time outside, but that's okay, I had fun.

I am off work for a week, April! Herps! Beetles! Dragonflies! I cannot wait!

Joey Holmes

Week ending 03-24-02

Gene's notes

Wednesday (03-20-02), the Spring Equinox, was wet with drizzle most all day, heavier at night. After supper, I found a Northern Cricket Frog (my first of this year) and Pickerel Frog on my home patio. This convinced me that I should go amphibian spotting along the nearby road that parallels the alluvial plain of Rabon Creek. It was a good night for frogs and salamanders. I found many live specimens of Green Tree Frogs, Southern Leopard Frogs, Spring Peepers, Upland Chorus Frogs, and Northern Cricket Frogs. Most of the Green Tree Frogs and Southern Leopard Frogs were small, some no larger than a Chorus Frog. I also found several Gray Tree Frogs (also, a first for this year). Slimy Salamanders were very active. I found over a dozen adults and maybe a dozen new adult forms, each about 2 inches long. They all showed speckles on their back, so I conclude the all black specimen I found in December was unusual. I also found 2 Red Efts and 1 Marbled Salamander. Besides the amphibians, there were many large millipedes about. I also saw 4 or 5 small crayfish, ranging from 0.75 to 2.5 inches. I passed a handful of snails and 1 slug. Of course, the nearly always present night-crawling earthworms were numerous.

After leaving the road by Rabon Creek, I went to the pool where American Frogs had been breeding 10 days before. I saw not a single American Toad.

Thursday night (03-21-02) temperatures dropped. Early Friday morning temperatures bottomed at 16 F. A hard freeze which killed some blooms.

Sunday (03-24-02) temperatures were pleasant. I walked about some but saw only one lizard. Turtles were basking on the rock in the pond.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

This week has seen cool weather, warm weather, and some rains. Typical for this time of year.

Monday (3-18-02), I had some errands in Spartanburg early, and stopped to visit a colleague at his office at Wofford. We talked herping. Later I went to the pond and saw good numbers of Green Darners, so things seem to be improving daily.

Tuesday (3-19-02), Cool and rainy. Work.

Wednesday (3-20-02), Cool and rainy. Work.

Thursday (3-21-02), Cool and rainy. Work.

Friday (3-22-02), Off work! Sunny! A bit cool, but I didn't let it get to me. We were to spend the weekend with relatives in Sumter. I drove down early with the canoe and kayak and the desire to explore and collect. My first stop was in Kershaw County, but it was too early and therefore too cool. I drove on to Lee County and quickly secured a Dragonfly (Blue Corporal, Libellula deplanata), and several Tiger Beetles (Cicindela sexguttata, Cicindela scutellaris). I continued to explore Lee County, some very nice areas there, but found nothing else. On to Darlington County. There I found and collected another Blue Corporal Dragonfly and another Tiger Beetle (C. scutellaris). On to Florence County. No Dragonfly or Tiger Beetle but I did get my one-and-only snake of the trip, a Copperhead, under some tin at an old barn beside a dirt road. On to Sumter, too late/cool but I did some scouting.

Saturday (3-23-02), Explored/collected in the area of the Manchester State Forest with my son and nephew. We got Tiger Beetles (Cicindela scutellaris). Then we went to the Sparkleberry Swamp and enjoyed the canoe/kayak for a few hours. Beautiful swamp! We saw Cormorants, Osprey, tons of songbirds, tons of basking Turtles (I managed to grab one Yellow-Bellied Slider from the canoe), tons of Green Anoles, a few Skinks, two Alligators, and tons of Dragonflies. I collected some Dragonflies (Baskettails, Epitheca sp). FUN DAY!

Sunday (3-24-02), My nephew rode with me and we left Sumter early enough to stop and collect in Richland County. We got some Tiger Beetles (C. sexguttata, C. repanda) and some Dragonflies (Blue Corporal, Libellula deplanata, and some Lancet Clubtails, Gomphus exilis). On to Calhoun County, where we got some more Tiger Beetles (C. scutellaris) and a Dragonfly (Lancet Clubtail). In Lexington County we found nothing, despite searching some good areas.

So, I got into some new counties, explored some beautiful areas, and had fun on foot, on water, and on the road. Fun stuff!

Joey Holmes

Week ending 03-17-02

Gene's notes

This week, I saw turtles basking on the rock in the farm pond for the first time this year, sliders and painteds. Good rains during the first half of the week added a couple inches to the water level in the farm pond.

In most local areas, the ornamental pear trees (Bradford) passed their peak during the week. In the fields, turkey gobblers are strutting.

Thursday (03-14-02) night the farm pond was vibrating with the waves of snores from Pickerel Frogs. It is difficult to record the strange sense of their sounds. Spring Peepers, Southern Leopards, and American Toads added their voices, but Pickerels were dominant. The Leopards seem to be just about finished with their singing. I walked around the pond bank and found a pair of Southern Leopard Frogs in amplexus. I also visited the pool below the spring. I saw a few American Toads. A couple of Southern Leopard Frogs waited near egg masses.

Saturday (03-16-02) was a balmy, humid day. Temperatures rose into the low 80s F. After dark, I paid a visit to the pool where I had found American Toads in the peak of breeding activity last week. Now I found males still singing but did not see any specimens which I thought were females. There were plenty of egg strings in the water. The songs of some of the males sounded off key, even to my tone-deaf ears. I saw a few Leopard Frogs in the water and on the road. Spring Peepers were singing loudly, but I never could spot them.

Sunday (03-17-02) I walked around the farm and flipped some coverboards. I found a juvenile Five-Lined Skink and a Southern Short-tailed Shrew.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

This week has been pleasant, with nice days and mild nights. Spring Azures, Mourning Cloads, and Anglewings have all been present, with some Skippers beginning to show up. Turtles have been basking on logs in the river on the sunny days, and most days have been sunny. It seems like Wild Turkeys and Deer are everywhere, as I have seen them almost daily. Still not much herping, but we'll get there!

Monday (3-11-02), Cool, with the temps struggling to reach 60 degrees F. But, the sun was intense. Armed with the desire to catch a Tiger Beetle in Greenwood County, I loaded the truck and took off. I found that at Lake Greenwood, the water level was down and there was plenty of exposed shoreline at Greenwood State Park. I prowled the shore in sunny areas and soon had my Greenwood County Cicindela repanda (Tiger Beetle). Good score! I also saw my first Damselfly of the year.

Tuesday (3-12-02), Work.

Wednesday (3-13-02), Work.

Thursday (3-14-02), Work, But after work I stopped by the pond. Plenty of Spring Peepers, American Toads, and Southern Leopard Frogs calling. I saw my first Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly of the year, and my first Dragonfly of the year; a large fast creature, I took to be a Green Darner. Neat. There was also a nice adult Redbelly Watersnake basking on bushes by the water. I heard another snake slide into the water but failed to get sight of it.

Friday (3-15-02), Very nice day. We walked about 3 miles searching for the beloved Tiger Beetles and Snakes. None were found. We saw a Tiger Swallowtail on Campus. After work I again stopped at the pond. This time the Green Darner was flying in tandem with another. Not much else.

Saturday (3-16-02), Clouding up a bit, it was nice and warm. While at work I didn't have time to get outdoors. On the way home I stopped at the reservoir, and again, did a lot of walking, but only took note of one Green Darner. It was good to get out on foot anyway. While I was at work, my nephew was here and caught his first Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) in my yard. He is becoming quite interested in these neat little Beetles and was glad to finally get this species.

Sunday (3-17-02), Cool and rainy, with family obligations, I decided to stay indoors.

Oh Spring, where art thou?

Joey Holmes

Week ending 03-10-02

Gene's notes

On Tuesday morning (03-05-02) I noticed a pair of Crows perched in a tree beside the parking lot at my office. It was the same tree where I had seen the male Cooper's Hawk the week before. The crows were cawing and generally hanging about like hoodlums. After I passed them and moved closer to the rear entrance to the building I heard the call of a bird I did not recognize. It was not a musical call but was more melodous than that of the crows. The call was repeated several times before I found its orator. A female Cooper's Hawk was on the ground looking at its reflection in the glass wall of the office building. My first thought was that it had crashed into the glass, perhaps chased by the crows. I was glad to see it did not act injuried. When it saw me approaching it immediately flew off. As I left work at twilight, noticed some doves flying in and lighting in some Bradford Pear Trees at one end of the parking lot. Then, I saw an attacking Cooper's Hawk zooming about 10 feet above the ground toward the doves from the far edge of the lot. The hawk crashed through the branches of the tree and appeared to land in an area of Boxwood on the otherside. I quickly walked to the area but found no sign of hawk or victim.

I did not get to do any outdoor activity until Saturday (03-09-02). Locally, we received sporadic rains during the afternoon which soaked the ground surfaces.Temperatures climbed into the high 60s F, maybe into the 70s. I was away from home until nearly sunset. I noticed the frog songs had changed significantly from those in February. This night I heard the melodious trill of American Toads. The song of the Chorus Frogs were now a minor part of the chorale. At the farm pond, the shrill chirps of Spring Peepers and chuckling rasps of Leopard Frogs were joined by the snoring tat-tat-tat of Pickerel Frogs.

After it was good and dark, I drove to the road which runs along the big creek's bottomland near my house. Several coon hunters were at the bridge listening to the baying of their hounds. I walked up and down the road. My first find was a Midland Brown Snake. It was my first snake of the year. It had been injuried and was in its dying convulsions. A few Spring Peepers and Chorus Frogs were on the road. Some were dead, some were unharmed. Some larger frogs, Leopard and Pickerel, were DOR. It seemed such a promising night, I was disappointed with so few finds.

I decided to drive a couple of miles and visit a promising pool which I had scouted in January. It was formed by a logging road crossing a drainage swale. When I got there, the joint was jumping! American Toads were everywhere. Hopping, singing, floating, and coupling. I found a large Green Frog on its way to the party. On the road nearby I found another Brown Snake (this one looked more like a Northern, but all are probably intergrades). I thought this one was unharmed, but when I picked it up I saw that it had been damaged on the left side of its head. Before leaving this productive area, I was saddened to see recent dumping of trash into the creek.

I returned home about 10 o'clock. The temperature was still short-sleave comfortable. I decided to look around the pond for the Leopard and Pickerel Frogs. I spotted a large Redbelly Watersnake doing the same thing. It was slim from hibernation. The snake paused when I first shown my light on it but soon resumed its slow, methodical probing of the debris for hiding frogs. And, I resumed my clumsy, plodding search for frogs, too.

For the first quarter-hour of searching, I could not spot any frogs. Unlike American Toads, these frogs stop singing when approached. The first frog I saw was a Spring Peeper cling to the branches of a low bush. They are usually harder to spot than the larger frogs. Finally, I discerned a Pickerel Frog sitting in the grass at the edge of the water. I spent a lot of time trying to get a good picture of it, even stepped into the water for a better angle. It just kept moving farther into the grass.

After I trained myself how to discern the Pickerel Frogs from the grass and debris, I had no difficulty spotting others. However, I never did spot a Leopard Frog and had to retreat from the pond listening to their chuckles at my back.

I found this evening a very satisfactory beginning to prime herping time.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

This week has had a few things of interest. The weather seems to be improving. On warmer days Spring Azures and Mourning Cloak Butterflies are seen regularly.

Monday (3-4-02), Rudy Mancke came up to the Wilderness Institute to look over our Dragonfly collection. He and I went over the IDs and localities of the specimens. Seems there will be quite a few new county records to publish. It was good to have this visit from Rudy, and I appreciate the time he spent with my specimens.

Tuesday (3-5-02), Nothing noteworthy.

Wednesday (3-6-02), Spent part of the day at home working on the Tiger Beetle collection.

Thursday (3-7-02), Walking on campus with students, I saw nothing odd or noteworthy, but it was a nice day to be outdoors.

Friday (3-8-02), I took a group of students off campus to the river pasture to enjoy the great weather. Two boys caught their first Tiger Beetles (Cicindela repanda), and another got a strange little beetle called Elaphrus ruscarius. We found fair numbers of Spotted Salamanders under logs and found a single Marbled Salamander. Wood Ducks and Mallards were the birds we took notice of. Later, on my own after dark, I stopped at the pond and collected a few Spring Peepers (Ribbon Snake food) and saw plenty of American Toads. Peepers were calling intensely but those Toads were oddly quiet. I also had a good chance to observe a pair of Beavers cruising about in the water. Even got that tail-slap that is always such a surprise! Picked up a Diving Beetle under the lights of the little store at the cross-roads.

Saturday (3-9-02), Early during my work-day, a co-worker and I spent about twenty minutes watching two male Wild Turkeys strut and puff-up and try to intimidate each other over a group of five hens. Pretty neat. They see and hear us every day, so the Turkeys on campus have very little fear of us and just do their own thing with us watching from 50 yards. It warmed up nicely as the day progressed, so I took a group of students to the nearby Sumter National Forest. We had a limited amount of time but managed to find Fence Lizards, Green Anoles, a Broad-Head Skink, and our first snake of the year: a sub-adult Black Racer. Well, it's a start!

It is getting better!

Joey Holmes

April 1, 2002
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