SC Reptile and Amphibians


April 2002

Week ending 04-28-02

Gene's notes

This week began warm, turned cool, and ended warm. Traveling to and from work, I saw 4 DOR Black Rat Snakes on Monday (04-22-02). I did not see any other snakes until Firday (04-26-02), when I saw a DOR Redbelly Water Snake and a DOR Corn Snake.

I walked around the farm a good bit on Sunday (04-28-02). It was a beautiful, warm day. I heard a water snake slip off the bank at one of the isolated pools; otherwise, I did not see any other snakes. I flipped coverboards, but found no herps. At the farm pond, the large Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turles were basking on the rock. I did unearth an adult Six-lined Racerunner Lizard from its resting hole. The local Racerunner population has been very small during the last decade; I hope their numbers are now increasing.

Because I have recently received several letters from newcomers discovering that we have scorpions in SC, I took a picture of one I found under a coverboard. I'll have to look up the species for it. Another interesting critter found under a coverboard was a large grub, about 2.5 inches long and 5/8 inch in diameter. I need to ID it also. Fire Ants are busy digging and reproducing.

A couple of Eastern Phoebe nests have hatchlings now. The Bluebird box has a nest with eggs. I found 2 sparrow nests with eggs; I think they belong to Chipping Sparrows. Both nests were in small Cedar trees.

At my work office in Greenville, the male Cooper's Hawk comes almost daily to stare at itself in the glass walls. I have not seen any activity at what I had hoped was its nest; nor I have I seen its mate. I believe it must now be alone and lonely.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

This week has been another glorious spring week. I love the beauty of this season.

Monday (4-22-02), With a pretty day to enjoy, I took off early for the York/Chester County areas. Luck was with me in York. I caught 2 snakes, Rough Green Snakes, both adults and both AOR. I also collected a Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). Time now for Chester! Well, at least I got my Chester County C. sexguttata. Later in the day, I found myself in Cherokee County and easily found/collected another C. sexguttata, within sight of the giant peach (watertower) on I-85. Pretty neat day.

Tuesday (4-23-02), Work. We checked the (beetle) pitfall traps and found them to be holding a fair selection of pretty cool Ground Beetles (Carabid) and 5 Tiger Beetles (C. sexguttata). Effective little traps.

Wednesday (4-24-02), Work. We did walk a bit on campus, and found a Southern Ringneck Snake and an Eastern Worm Snake under coverboards. After work I walked a bit in some local National Forest. I did not find anything to mention here, but did enjoy being in the woods.

Thursday (4-25-02), Work. After work, yard work.

Friday (4-26-02), Work. I took some students off campus and 32 miles later we were in Fairfield County. We collected some Dragonflies (Spangled Skimmers, Whitetail Skimmers, Eastern Pondhawks, and some Clubtails) and caught a Black Racer. Afterwards, here at home, I checked my tin and found a Southern Ringneck Snake and an Eastern Worm Snake.

Saturday (4-27-02), Off work on a Saturday! My son and I took on 7.5 miles of the local Tyger River as part of a Spartanburg County Recreation Dept. activity. They had about 60 boats on the water, paddling for fun and racing down the river. I had my canoe, which is the wrong kind for whitewater, and my son had his kayak (Old Town Otter) which was better suited for the challenges the rapids posed. Well, my son went right through EVERYTHING without a problem. Even in rapids where the spotters were ready with throw-ropes, my son did great. I had more trouble. My canoe was too clunky to make some of the turns (the keel on the bottom to add stability in flat-water, makes turning difficult) and once in a big rapid, my bow hit a rock, the canoe stopped instantly, but I kept going. That was a very uncomfortable rapid but I bounced off the boulders and reached the canoe (which had remained upright the whole time) before we got to the bottom of the rapid. Didn't need the spotters at all. Never have. While on the river, I saw several cool Beetles, many Dragonflies, mainly Clubtails, and 3 Midland Watersnakes. Good day. VERY sore later. By the way, we didn't win anything, but we both got a cool T-shirt.

Sunday (4-28-02), In the Columbia area for a bit mid-day, I took a quick look around in Lexington County. I only had a few minutes but was able to collect a Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). A good catch.

This week I succeeded in catching snakes in two new counties (Rough Greens in York and the Racer in Fairfield) and got two new county records on Tiger Beetles (C.sexguttata in Cherokee and Lexington). Not a bad week. I have now caught snakes in 32 of the 46 SC counties.


Joey Holmes

Week ending 04-21-02

Gene's notes

Monday (04-15-02) was a beautiful, warm day. On the journey home from work I saw a DOR black-phase Eastern Hognose and a small DOR Corn Snake. My wife reported seeing a "silver" snake on the road as she drove home also.

Tuesday (04-16-02) was another beautiful, but hot, day. It felt like a July day. On my way home from work, I drove to the location where my wife reported seeing a the "silver" snake yesterday. Unfortunately, I found it. Since the road is heavily traveled, I had figured the snake did not stand much of a chance of surviving its mistake. It was now dry and flattened and it took a good hard look to ID it as a mature Mole Kingsnake. It was almost uniform brown on the back. Being smooth-scaled and shiny, I expect it did indeed look like a "silver" snake when in better condition. I setout for a local road cruise just after sunset. My finds reflected a July night also. I found 3 Copperheads AOR. The first was a very large,very stout specimen of at least 48 inches. The next was a specimen of newborn size and coloration. The third was an immature specimen of about 18 inches. Before heading home, I saw another flattened snake carcass on the road. Because it looked unusual, stopped and examined it; finally deciding it was indeed a Black Rat Snake. About a half mile from home I saw an enormous German Shepherd type dog gnawing on a roadkill carcass. Later, just before I went to bed, I saw the dog in our driveway.

Wednesday (04-17-02) was another beautiful day. I left home early in order to make a business day trip to Lugoff, SC. Before leaving, I saw the stray had gotten into our trash cans. Along the journey to and from Lugoff, I looked but did not see any herps (other than basking turtles). My wife called Animal Control about the stray; however, when I got home the stray was still there and trash from 6 trashcans was scattered about. I cleanup the trash and set out a bowl of dry food for the stray. The food disappeared within an hour, so I set out another full bowl. After my success last night, I couldn't resist cruising again tonight. I set out at sunset and traveled some roads a little farther from home. I found a DOR Copperhead, obviously killed early in the day or last night. Closer to home I found an AOR Copperhead of about 28 inches. Fowler's Toads were scattered sparsely along the roads.

Thursday (04-18-02) my wife called Animal Control again. They said they would set a trap for the stray. I was after dark getting home, but still arrived before my wife. This was a good thing because sitting in a trap just off our back patio was the stray. The dog's shoulders rubbed the top of the trap when it stood. The trap measured 28 inches high!

Friday (04-19-02) as I drove home from work I saw a Corn Snake crossing the road. My son, Win, came over to help prepare a family birthday cookout supper. He reported seeing a Black Racer hunting along the edge of the farm pond.

Saturday (04-20-02) was another beautiful, hot day. All of it was spent with family. In transit, I did notice a DOR Black Racer and a DOR Black Rat.

Sunday (04-21-02) seemed even hotter and very dry. Cricket Frogs sang at the farm pond, day and night. In the morning I saw a DOR Black Rat Snake. Just before sundown, I set out on a local road cruise. I cruised until after dark (about 2 hours) but did not see any snakes live or dead.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Been a busy week. Quite a week. It has been hot, with temps up to 90 degrees. Lots of animals moving, and although many are getting hit on the roads, many more are lurking in the bushes. Fortunately, so am I!

Monday (4-15-02), With errands to do, I knocked around locally. In the nearby National Forest, I found a Black Racer and Eastern Worm Snake. I was thrilled to see a Fox Squirrel in Laurens County. Brother Jeff Holmes (in town for a bit) found a Mole Kingsnake in our Mother's yard. After school, my son and I helped a small Snapping Turtle off the road. We put him in the nearest creek.

Tuesday (4-16-02), Some time in the evening was available, so I got to go outdoors a bit. Under coverboards (just prior to dark) I found 3 Black Racers and an Eastern Kingsnake. A Brown Snake was on the ground near where I had parked, and I noticed it as it began to crawl. After sunset I cruised the local roads and found 2 AOR Copperheads and helped them to the safety of the forest.

Wednesday (4-17-02), I had my students install several pitfall traps for insects, using plastic party cups instead of buckets. We also cleaned out our Caiman's outdoor pen. He seemed to enjoy the sunlight.

Thursday (4-18-02), I saw a Grey Fox cross the road on my way to work. Later, we checked the pitfall traps and flipped tin on campus. Found a Black Racer.

Friday (4-19-02), Up early and off with 5 students to the National Forest outside Charleston. We flipped some tin.......nothing. We road cruised, and saw no snakes on the road but did spot 10 Cottonmouths, 2 Banded Watersnakes, and 2 unidentified watersnakes (likely Bandeds) that flipped into the water before we could approach. Under a log, I caught an Eastern Worm Snake. Along a rutted swampy road in Williamsburg County, someone had thrown out some plywood. No doubt to keep from getting stuck in the deep ruts. Under one piece I saw a snake moving in the wet, matted grasses. I grabbed. GLOSSY CRAYFISH SNAKE! My first! It is a small one, but that doesn't dampen my spirits! I am overjoyed! We collected several neat Dragonflies and a few small Beetles, but nothing matches getting that Crayfish Snake. We saw plenty of Turtles, helped one small Snapper off the road, and saw two adults in what was either a sort of territorial dispute or a mating attempt. That was neat. Later, when I was almost home, just about a mile from the house, I found a DOR Mole Kingsnake. It was busted up pretty bad and I was very tired so I didn't salvage it. Sorry.

Saturday (4-20-02), checking the tin and pitfall traps, we caught a Black Racer (under tin) and in one of the pitfall traps we had a Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). In the evening, on the road near my house, I had to help another Copperhead get off the road safely.

Sunday (4-21-02), I had a little time, and went into Abbeville County, where I quickly caught a Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). On into McCormick County and another C. sexguttata and some C. repandas. All of these would be new county records. Cool! Cooler still was the Rough Earth Snake. It was under a log, along the shores of Lake Thurmond. Neat little snakes. Nice to catch it in the upper/western part of the county, near the McCormick/Abbeville county line. Much later, a local evening drive yielded a baby Black Rat Snake AOR.

Lots going on! Lots to do!

Joey Holmes

Week ending 04-14-02

Gene's notes

I did not get to do much in the way of herping this week. Flipped some coverboards walked around one sunny afternoon but found only an American Toad. (Of course, the turtles were basking in the pond with every hint of sunlight).

One interesting mammal siting: a DOR adult River Otter.

Song birds are busy building nests. I saw 2 Eastern Phoebe nests at my house and a pair of House Finches are constructing a nest in an electric light fixture. Unfortunately, I will have to clean it out for safety reasons.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

This week has been mainly damp and overcast, but spring cannot be suppressed! Tent Caterpillar webs are everywhere, butterflies are everywhere, and herptiles are seen almost daily: mostly Ground Skinks, Green Anoles, Fence Lizards, and Slimy Salamanders. Basking turtles are easy to spot from many road/bridges by the water. My students are constantly reporting that they had seen or caught Tiger Beetles.

Monday (4-8-02), Lowcountry stuff that was included last week.

Tuesday (4-9-02), At work, there was a Luna Moth on the front of my Mouse House. Neat. My Glass Lizard loved it.

Wednesday (4-10-02), We cleaned the large "wet tanks" in the classroom. Makes a big mess and takes most all day.

Thursday (4-11-02), Flipped my tin here at home and found a very small Eastern Worm Snake and Southeastern Five-Lined Skink.

Friday (4-12-02), 4 Luna Moths on the lights on the Mouse House. We (my class and I) flipped tin/boards/logs and found an Eastern Worm Snake, and 2 Black Racers.

Saturday (4-13-02), After dark, using flashlights, my nephew and I flipped my tin here at home. We found the same Southeastern Five-Lined Skink and baby Worm Snake that I had seen on Thursday, but also found 2 Redbellied Snakes, Ground Skinks, and Slimy Salamanders.

Sunday (4-14-02), Had a little road cruise for the evening hours but saw nothing on the roads. At the store I found nothing more interesting than a Click Beetles. When I stopped by the pond, I found loads of activity. Spring Peepers, Southern Leopard Frogs, Bullfrogs, Fowlers Toads, Gray Treefrogs, Green Treefrogs, and Cricket Frogs were all calling! Sounded great! I also saw an adult Redbellied Watersnake and an adult Midland Watersnake prowling the shoreline. I chose not to get wet and musky.

Enjoy Spring!

Joey Holmes

Week ending 04-07-02 (04-08-02 for Joey)

Gene's notes

Monday (04-01-02) This week was Spring Break in the local public schools. My wife and I set out for a long awaited vacation in Beaufort, SC. Within a mile of home, I spotted a small Eastern Mud Turtle crossing the road. Later, I also saw a couple of Green Anoles scurrying across the highway. Before arriving in Beaufort I saw 2 DOR snakes, a black-phase Eastern Hognose and a small Black Racer. On a ranch south of the Savannah River Site, we stopped to photograph some longhorn cattle and Cattle Egrets.

Tuesday (04-02-02) My wife shopped around downtown Beaufort while I took a midday drive over to Jasper County. The fartherest extent of my journey was the Tillman Sand Ridge Heritage Preserve. It was a warm day, dry day. I walked about the preserve looking at some of the Gopher Tortoise burrows. On the way over and back, I cruised some interesting areas, including the vicinity of the legendary Okatee Hunting Preserve. I saw a jet-black Fox Squirrel scampering along the side of the road and a large Snapping Turtle basking on a log near a boat ramp. I did not spot any snakes, dead or alive.

Wednesday (04-03-02) After some shopping and strolling in historic Beaufort, my wife and I drove to the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area (WMA) which is part of the ACE Basin Estuarine Research Reserve in Colleton County. The WMA is very well maintained and offers a variety of habitats for viewing birds, reptiles, and other wildlife. I saw another black-phase Fox Squirrel and several of the more common gray-phase specimens. None would stay near enough for a good photo. Alligators were easy to find. I did not see many basking turtles, probably due to the presence of alligators. I did see a Softshell Turtle (probably a Florida) in the grass on the slope of a causeway. No snakes today, but there must be many about on other days. On the highway during our return to Beaufort, I spotted my first coastal snake, a DOR. The traffic was heavy so I did not stop. It looked like a Corn.

Thursday (04-04-02) The temperature was cool and the skies overcast. In the morning, we took a CD-directed, driving tour of St. Helena Island and Gullah history. Then we stopped briefly at Hunting Island State Park. We walked on the fishing pier and visited the lighthouse. On the return to Beaufort, I saw a DOR adult Copperhead near Frogmore. After lunch, we cruised a little in the vicinity of Yemassee. Back at the Bed and Breakfast where we were lodging, I saw an Osprey in a tree across the street.

Friday (04-05-02) Our time in Beaufort ended. Not wanting our vacation to end, we made reservations for the night in Santee. We took a slight detour and visited the Francis Beidler Forest on the Four Holes Swamp in Dorchester County. We spent a couple hours walking the 1.75 mile boardwalk. Temperatures were a little cool. Seemed like a perfect day to find herps basking in the sunlight. The birds were unusually quiet. We saw skinks and anoles first, although not as many as I expected. Finally we found a snake, an Eastern Cottonmouth basking on a log. This specimen was very light colored, yellow rather than olive. We also saw basking sliders and cooters.

Saturday (04-06-02) We drove home, stopping to shop and take in a movie in Columbia. At home the cats told us their food bowls were empty. My daughter had checked our house and refilled the bowls just a couple days earlier, so they should have had plenty of food. Later I found out why the food had disappeared; I found an Opossum raiding the bowls.

Sunday (04-07-02) A beautiful day. Warmer, but still cool. I drove to Abbeville and pickup my 15-month old granddaughter for a day visit. At home, I looked under a piece of tin and found a female Broadhead Skink. My son, Win, and his wife came over to visit. Win walked around the edge of the farm pond and found a newborn Yellowbelly Slider. Encouraged, Win and I walked about the farm. We found an adult Black Racer hunting near a stream.

We had a great vacation week. The number of herps found was disappointing. A ranger at the Beidler Forest confirmed that herps were slow coming out this year. But there is always plenty to see and being out is great.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

This was a very nice week. Dogwoods bloomed, other trees are budding,, the world is "greening" up! I was off work for most of the week and took advantage by spending a good bit of time outdoors.

Monday (4-1-02), My son, my nephew, and I went up into the edge of the SC mountains to see what we could find in the way of herptiles and insects. We used SC 11 and went in the Greenville/Pickens areas. Herps were few, but we did see Anoles, Skinks, Fence Lizards, and some turtles (basking in ponds). We also collected Tiger Beetles (Cicindela sexguttata and C. tranquebarica in Greenville, and in Pickens we found C. tranquebarica and C. repanda). We saw, but lost, what looked like C. sexguttata in Pickens. Oh well, reason enough to return on another sunny spring day!

Tuesday (4-2-02), Work.

Wednesday (4-3-02), Very Warm and sunny, my son and I walked the River Pasture. We saw tons of turtles, a few lizards, a few frogs, one very quick watersnake, and a Northern Red Salamander. We saw the expected birds and even got a good look at an Osprey! We found a few Dragonflies, and many Tiger Beetles (C. repanda and C. sexguttata). Very nice day.

Thursday (4-4-02), Turned towards Cherokee County to try for a C. sexguttata there (would be a new county record) and struck out! I did find C. repandas quite common. Collected a nice Baskettail Dragonfly, lost a fast Black Racer, and saw a huge male Wild Turkey strut among a flock of hens in an open pasture. I then stopped into the corner of Chester County but there I found only C. tranquebarica. Slow day, a little cool and breezy, but I'll be back.

Friday (4-5-02), Sinus problems. Got on a new allergy med.

Saturday (4-6-02), Holmes Family canoeing with my wife and I in the canoe and my son in his kayak. We did 5.5 miles of the Enoree River (exactly 2 hours) and had a great time. We saw the expected Herons, Kingfishers, Wood Ducks, and even an Osprey. Very pleasant outing. No herps, but we had fun anyway.

Sunday (4-7-02), Up and on the road early. Solo. I arrived in the National Forest outside Charleston by 9 AM. I checked some tin I know and found a fair sized Cottonmouth. I never have found a Cottonmouth under tin before but this fellow sure was. Poked around a bit more but things were slow. Around lunch I found a large group of mammals in the road: my brother Jeff Holmes and some of his friends. We all enjoyed the swamp for several hours. We found lots of neat things to talk about, including a baby Banded Watersnake. But, they soon left me alone in the wilderness once again. I made my way to Williamsburg County, to look for C. sexguttata (for another new county record) but only found Banded Watersnakes (6 of them, all small). On to Georgetown County where I caught one Dragonfly (Whitetail Skimmer). Back to Berkeley County, where a Black Racer lived up to his name and escaped my best efforts to catch him. Supper and bedtime, alone in the wilderness!

Monday (4-8-02), Up and guzzling coffee in camp! Nothing like it! I ran into Jeff and some of his friends, but we decided to split up. My main objectives were to go into Charleston County to catch a Snake, Dragonfly, and Tiger Beetle. I got my Dragonfly first, an Eastern Pondhawk. Next came the Tiger Beetle, C. sexguttatta, and then my Snake, an adult Eastern Kingsnake, under some tin at an old house-site. Good stuff! Objectives met! Back in Williamsburg County, I managed to get the C. sexguttata I had wanted to catch for a new county record. Great! 4 Objectives met. Good trip and time to head home! I got in about 6:30 PM and unloaded the truck, washed off all the swamp/dust. It was a good trip. I fed a lot of mosquitoes and collected some other neat insects (all the snakes were released). Other than the mentioned species, I saw the expected turtles/lizards/frogs/deer/raccoons/birds but nothing odd comes to mind.

Been a full week, I had a great time, and I hope you all have the chance to enjoy nature and spring to the fullest.

Joey Holmes

April 30, 2002
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