SC Reptile and Amphibians
Week ending 03-31-02
Week ending 03-24-02
Week ending 03-17-02
Week ending 03-10-02
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.
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!
April 1, 2002
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