SC Reptile and Amphibians
Notes from March 20 - 26
The weather this week has been glorious. The frogs are still singing loudly and the snakes are becoming more active. Sunday evening I noticed the Whip-a-wills persistently calling. Nowadays, whenever I drive somewhere, I take the longer, slower route hoping to find a snake on the road. I found one adult Black Racer AOR, 2 adult Black Rats DOR, and a juvenile Redbelly Water Snake DOR.
Friday, I bought a burger and went to the local county park for lunch. There is a small beaver pond where painted turtles were basking. I found a pair (male and female) of adult Fence Lizards eyeing each other. I captured a nice image of the female. Saturday, I found a juvenile Southern Ringneck Snake under a log near my home. It had classic belly markings.
Been a busy week, some herping. Spring is here. Lots of green showing up. Lots of stuff blooming (Dogwood is one I have noticed and can identify), and Tent Caterpillar webs are a common sight in small trees along the roads. Recently a friend from work told me of seeing an Armadillo on Hwy 49 just north of Laurens SC and to the south of I-385. Armadillos in Laurens?!?!?! Went to the SC State Museum the other Sunday. Jim Knight has installed a killer exhibit with robotic Dinosaurs! Get by if you can.
On 3-20-00, first day of Spring, I checked my tin and found a family of mice (WhiteFoots?) and 2 rather large Eastern Worm Snakes. Also, at the pond there were tons of Dragonflies (Green Darners I think). Good way to start Spring.
On 3-21-00, at work, I found that my Bluegill Bream had died. Had that fish since July of '97, maybe I overfed it on pinkies. Sniff, sniff. Now I can get a Bass! Still lots of skinks and Green Anoles have started head bobbing displays. Also, heard the Upland Chorus Frogs singing.
Wednesday, 3-22-00, the Caiman tank (125 gallons) and fish tank (75 gallons) got their seasonal cleanings. We do this at the beginning of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Warm enough to take the Caiman (now about 36 inches) to the outside pen for some good UV rays for a few hours. At home, I found my Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake had died. Caught him in '95; he tended to get crusty on the face in hibernation each year. This year must have been too much. Under the tin, the mice were still there; found another Eastern Worm Snake and an Eastern Mole. Took the mole inside and my son thought it quite cool, but my wife was not impressed. Went to the pond after dark, heard Southern Leopard Frogs, Peepers, Chorus Frogs, and American Toads. The breeding frenzy is over but there were some still out trying.
On 3-23-00, I took my class to the river pasture. We found a Northern Red Salamander and a Spotted Salamander was under the "good log". We saw a Redheaded Woodpecker. Later, at home, my tin held a Southeastern Five-Lined Skink.
On Saturday, 3-25-00, Win Ott and I took 3 students to the national forest near Charleston. Slow day. We found Snapping and Spotted Turtles, Yellow-Belly Sliders and Cooters. We also found 1 Eastern Cottonmouth, and 1 Black Racer. We saw good birds: Pileated Woodpeckers, American Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Wood Ducks, Belted Kingfishers, Osprey, and 3 Swallow-Tailed Kites!!!!!!!(just cruising/circling together). The butterflies were good and we saw some Skippers, loads of Clouded Sulphers, Spring Azures, Tiger Swallowtails, and Giant Swallowtails. We saw good dragonflies of several varieties (Green Darners and Clearwings, and some little Gray/tan ones). We saw some Raccoons and 2 larger mammals: two herping buddies! Made it back to campus after only 12 hours and 443 miles. Long day. We also saw many pines already peeled and logs ripped up or rolled. Too many snake hunters abusing the national forests? Could this account for the lack of snakes?
Today, under my tin, I found another Eastern Worm Snake and a small Black Ratsnake.
Notes from March 13 - 19
The temperatures were up and down this week. But we did get some good rains. In fact, the week ended with a heavy rain which flooded the river bottomlands. We haven't had flooding like this for several years.
I walked around the woods several times during the week but found only Green Anoles and Ground Skinks. I flipped the boards and tin several times but did now find any herps under them.
The Wild Turkeys are strutting. An Eastern Phoebe has built a nest on the pond dock.
With all the rain, I hoped to find some interesting salamanders on the road at night. I searched several evenings but found mostly frogs. Thursday, just after dark I searched but found very little. After returning home, it rained some more and the temperature rose slightly. About 10 p.m. I stepped outside and found a Spring Peeper at the foot of the doorway. The sky was clearing and the nearly full moon, which was almost directly overhead, was ringed by a hallo. I had to go searching again. I found Upland Chorus Frogs, Spring Peepers, Northern Cricket Frogs, an immature Green Frog, and a Red Eft.
Tomorrow is Spring! Winter be gone! Have had rather unstable and un-herp-able weather this week. I went out on Monday and, in spite of cold breezes, caught an American Lady Butterfly. On Wednesday I caught Spring Azure, Tiger Swallowtail, and Falcate Orangetips. These butterflies are kind of fun now that I have a net and field guide. We also got our first Black Racer of the new year! The Slimy Salamanders, Green Anoles, Ground Skinks, Fence Lizards, and basking River Cooters have come to be so common that I may not list them anymore for the season.
On Friday, a colleague stopped by and dropped off a Florida Pine Snake for photographing.
With little to report this week, thought I'd mention "Daily Doubles" I've had in past times. I've found 2 copperheads together under a piece of cover, 2 Eastern Kingsnakes, a Racer and a Corn, and Racer and Black Ratsnake, plus numerous times I have found small (Redbelly, Brown, Worm, Earth, Ringneck) snakes together. On the same day I've caught: Copperheads and Cottonmouths, a Canebrake and an E. Diamondback, an Eastern King and a Mole King, a Speckled King and a Prairie King (of course, not in SC), a Black Ratsnake and a Yellow Ratsnake (well, as yellow as SC has), and assorted Watersnakes. Once under a bit of shingles (on the ground) I found a ringneck with a full row of half-dots, a ringneck with NO markings at all on the belly, and one with a few small half-dots here and there. All three were together under the cover in northern Pickens County.
Notes from March 1 - 12
The weather has taken a turn toward cold today and tonight may get close to freezing, but overall March has been very pleasant and warm thus far. The reptiles have begun stirring. The spring frogs are still singing: Upland Chorus, Spring Peeper, Southern Leopard, American Toad, and Pickerel. I haven't heard the Cricket Frogs but have found a few on the roads.
On March 5th I found a Eastern Mud Turtle foraging in a drainage ditch at my farm. I checked the spring well where the Three-Lined Salamanders breed and was surprised to see a single adult still there. The peak of their breeding activity was back in October. I saw a couple of larval salamanders in the well. Looked like they were maybe an inch or so long. I did not disturb the water. Later, at a beaverpond a few miles away I saw about a dozen Eastern Painted Turtles basking.
Wednesday, the 8th, I heard noise coming from the area of my outside garbage cans. Upon investigation, I found a young Opossum trapped in one of the uncovered cans. I had taken the trash to the green boxes the day before. There was a little garbage left in one of the cans. The opossum had jumped in but could not climb out. This is a sure-fire way to catch 'possums. I turned the can on its side so the opossum could escape. The next day I discovered the bag of cat food on the patio had been spilled. I figured it was my possum buddy again. I salvaged most of the food but left some on the pavement. That evening I found the possum eating the scraps.
I did not get to herp again until the 10th. I found my first snake of the year. It was a last-year's neonate Redbelly Water Snake. I found it alive on the road. Walking around the house I saw 2 Green Anoles basking and found a Ground Skink under a board. As I took a bag of garbage out to the storage cans, I heard noise coming from a metal can that did not have its top in place. I thought the opossum had trapped itself again. I was surprised to see 2 adult Green Anoles trying to climb the sides of the can. This was an old can which had corrosion holes in its bottom. The lizards could have entered through the holes or fallen in like the opossum. Later that evening I found a neonate Northern Water Snake DOR.
Win took a vacation trip to Florida during the week of March 5 - 11. He found several interesting herps, mammals, and birds. I hope to get him to write up his notes for posting next time. He made some good tape of an armadillo rolling in the mud. Some of the herp pictures are already posted (see the What's New list); more will be posted soon.
It looks like I will not be doing the extended work travel that had been planned, so I expect to post weekly notes until the winter. Also, since I have a number of pictures of herps not indigenous to South Carolina and many pictures of other types of animals, I am reorganizing and expanding my web sites to provide better access to these other pictures. Look on this web site's home page for the link to "Herps Worldwide." I plan to add a link to pictures of other animals soon.
I did almost no herping the first week of March. I was busy with yard work (ugh) and housework (my wife and I share the housework) and everything else. I saw some Anoles, Slimy Salamanders, and heard Spring Peepers most evenings.
I did some "inside" herpetology. I took my breeders out of brumation. Have a few nice animals getting ready to pass on their genes Hope to have a good year for them. Several have already eaten.
My brother tells me that he has found several Western Cottonmouths, a Black Racer, and a Black Ratsnake in an area he visits northwest of Nashville.
During the second week of March the warm weather was with us and things perked up. Several evenings lately were great for watching the stars and satellites.
On Monday (3-6-00), I hit some of my local places: Tiger River, Minnow Pond, Cow Pasture, and here at the house. At the Tiger, on the north bank (southern exposure) are rocks, ledges, Laurels, and hardwood/Pine mixed forest. I found the expected Fence Lizards and Anoles (these have been found all week in many locations) but no snakes. I did end up seeing snakes in my yard! Under the tin out back there were 2 Red-Bellied Snakes (tan and gray phases) and an Eastern Worm Snake. Also, Ground Skinks and Slimy Salamanders (these also were seen all week in many locations). At the pasture, under the "good log" there were 7 Spotted Salamanders and one other in another area under another log. I also saw a Southern Leopard Frog, some River Cooters, and lots of Blue Butterflies (I think). At the pond there was a small herd of turtles that marched down the bank and into the water as I pulled up. No close look at any of those. There was a dead Canadian Goose lying in shallow water and I walked over to it. I assumed some xxx!! with a rifle had shot the goose. I rolled it over to look for the bullet hole. There was a hole but there was also a very surprised Eastern Painted Turtle who claimed she "didn't do it!"
On Tuesday I did inside work.
On Wednesday I took my class to the pasture. We saw the 7 spots under the "good log" and found another two elsewhere. We saw several butterflies, including an Orange Sulphur and a Blue. At the Pond we saw the first Dragonflies of the year (Green Darners). When I got home with my son, there was a box on the porch from Glades Herp! My wife had ordered a T-shirt and a book for me that I had mentioned a week or two earlier: SNAKE HUNTING THE CAROLINA TIN FIELDS. Well, book or no book, we had a really warm day, a really warm pond nearby with clear water (not very clear in the summer), and those new masks and snorkels... We didn't have tons of time but the shallows over the grass beds and the mud flats out deeper were really cool. Wish the pond was this clear year around. Also, I saw a Purple Finch.
Thursday was still quite warm. I kept the Caiman in the outdoor pen for UV rays on the warm days. Saw the first Tiger Swallowtail and 6-Spotted Tiger Beetle of the year. We also had a FOX NEWS team come to the Institute to do a story on the program. They came in my room and got all up on us with cameras but weren't there long. It turned out to be a pretty good story.
Friday we turned tin and cover-boards and caught a Black Ratsnake and saw some 5-Lined Skinks.
Saturday it was cooler but we got a Red-Bellied Snake and saw Falcate Orangetip Butterflies.
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