SC Reptile and Amphibians


January 2003

Gene's notes

The new year started with pleasant weather; in fact, I heard Chorus Frogs singing in the wetlands on New Year's Day! A juvenile Green Anole came out to bask on my patio.

Northern Harrier Hawks are now wintering in SC. They are magnificent birds and I never tire of watching them hunt. I was able to capture a few half-decent images of a Harrier hunting in a field behind my home. Maybe one of these years I will be able to afford a digital camera with good telephoto capabilities.

Temperatures turned colder during the middle of this month. We had snow in the upper Piedmont on the 16th. On the 18th temperatures dropped to 7 deg F.

Early night of the 21th we had gentle, continuous rains and temperatures held steady at 50 deg F. I walked for about 45 minutes along a road which runs along the divide between the hills and the floodplain of a large creek near my home. I found 1 Green Tree Frog, 3 Upland Chorus Frogs (1 d.o.r.), a dozen or so earthworms, and a Whitetail Deer. I heard half-hearted singing of Chorus Frogs from the wetlands.

On Thursday (1-23-03), we had a bit of snow, less than 1 inch at home but other nearby areas received much more. Then the temperatures dropped. Friday (1-24-03) morning temperature bottomed at 5 deg F, but Chorus Frogs were singing again by Sunday (1-26-03).

While commuting to work each day I have noted the normal number of D.O.R. Gray Squirrels, Opposums, and Skunks (Striped and Spotted). However, on Friday (1-31-03) I saw a D.O.R. mink.

A cool, wet January ends. February promises increased amphibian activity.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Week ending 01-05-03

I begin this week still in Las Cruces, New Mexico. On company business, a group of AMI people had come out on 12-27-02 to help set up a new program. I was assigned a 2nd shift schedule that would allow for mornings free. Wrong time of year for the small creatures I love, but the potential for new species and adventure was great, and I was optimistic.

Monday (12-30-02), Daybreak. Snow poured. Accumulation was about an inch when it stopped about 8:30 AM (Mountain Time). I went from the program back into town and picked up some supplies so the school could keep some snakes I had brought from my classroom. It was time for lunch-break by the time I returned, so I took a few minutes to turn some rocks behind the store near the program (Black Widow Spiders underneath, just like in SC) and explored a dirt road that led nowhere. I did get to see my first Blacktail Jackrabbit. Very exciting! Break over and back on the job, we would work until after sunset. Supper at Cracker Barrel. TV and reading in my room.

Tuesday (12-31-02), Warmer. A co-worker with interests in nature and I took off away from town. We found some remote areas to explore. In one area there was lots of debris to turn over. I was certain I could find a snake, but no such luck. I did, however, find my only reptile of the trip; a Southern Prairie Lizard. It was beautiful (like a Fence Lizard with stripes). A real delight. We also saw a Swainson’s Hawk and Inca Doves (both new to my life list) as well as Prickly Pear, Barrel Cactus, Cholla, Octillo, and Yucca (all very neat plants for an "Easterner" to see). We took pictures of ourselves in the desert and (with bug net in hand) on sandbars on the Rio Grande. The photos look neat and you would never know it was only 48 degrees! After our shift, we had western-style BBQ at a place called "Cattleman’s." Very tasty, but I still prefer SC style BBQ! I ushered in the new year alone in my room, reading about Theodore Roosevelt’s adventures in the South American wilderness.

Wednesday (1-1-03), Happy New Year! Again my co-worker and I left town and found a dirt road off the interstate to explore. Under some rocks in the roadside ditch I found a small black Beetle. Not much, but at least I have a specimen in my collection from this trip to New Mexico. Afternoon came and the shift went well. Later came supper with friends at a little place near the hotel.

Thursday (1-2-03), Picked up a few small items around town to bring home. Also saw a Roadrunner darting among flower pots at an outdoor market. Work. Supper at Denny’s.

Friday (1-3-03), Last day. I spent a good bit of time at work, making sure I had covered all of my assignments. Supper was at a nice place with good Mexican Food. Then it was time to pack for the road. One of the team members and I would be heading home. My traveling partner, Eric, and I are old friends. We had been to countless trainings and conferences together in the last 8 years, and he had even worked at Piedmont with me for a while. He would be a great guy to make the long drive with.

Saturday (1-4-03), We departed pre-dawn on what turned out to be a very pretty day. It was warm enough for T-shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes. Daylight came as we rolled through El Paso. We took a few minutes off for a bite of breakfast in Van Horn. In Culbertson County there was a little barn/corral by the interstate and we stopped there and turned a few boards and some tin. Again I was certain we would catch a snake, but again I was wrong. Just found more Black Widow Spiders (just like in SC!). We pressed on. I was not impressed with the Pecos River (nor had I been with the Rio Grande) but I did see a thousand places along the way that I would like to have hunted. We made one more stop (in Howard County) and I prowled among some rocks for a while but never even saw a lizard. We had a late lunch in Sweetwater (where they sell clamp sticks and snake hooks in the liquor store) and then drove some more. After that we drove some more. Then we really needed to get on the road, so we did some serious driving. We drove and drove and drove! By evening we were in Dallas and too tired to push any further. Another hotel room. Another supper at Denny’s.

Sunday (1-5-03), We got up and hit the road on another pretty day (shorts and T-shirt again). We left Texas (enjoyed a huge flock of Snow Geese in a field along the highway) and never batted an eye at Shreveport. East of Shreveport we stopped at a truckstop for a little break. I found a couple of small beetles to collect, but nothing exciting. Time to drive. A Pileated Woodpecker and Great Blue Heron were all the wildlife I saw while in Louisiana. Mississippi was next (fast food lunch in Jackson) but we saw no wildlife. Same for Alabama, no wildlife. We settled for the night in Atlanta. Back in Eastern Standard Time! Close to home.

So I had driven west, welcomed in a new year, completed my work in New Mexico, and had made most of the miles that lay between me and home. But just not content without my family nearby.

Week ending 01-12-03

Monday (1-6-03), Still on the road from the New Mexico trip. I awake in Atlanta, eager to get on home. We made it out of Georgia without incident and arrived in Columbia around 11 AM. From there it was a brief drive to work, where I checked on things in my classroom and around campus. Picked up my son in town, and went HOME. Along the way I saw a Shrike sitting on a fence post. Good to be home. I had driven close to 4000 miles through 7 states in the last 10 days. It was VERY good to be home.

Tuesday (1-7-03), Back at work.

Wednesday (1-8-03), Work.

Thursday (1-9-03), Work. Very nice day! About 68 degrees and sunny, I caught my first reptiles of 2003; a pair of Green Anoles! It is a start. Saw a Nice Three-Line Salamander in the creek behind my classroom. Also had a small Sulfur Butterfly dance across campus. Need more nice days like this. Not a bad day at work.

Friday (1-10-03), Work. My Glossy Crayfish Snake fed on a Dragonfly larvae we picked out of the creek on campus. Since it was captured, it had never fed on anything other than crayfish.

Saturday (1-11-03), My first day off since December 25. I helped my wife with her photography work.

Sunday (1-12-03), Saw a Harrier Hawk as we drove to Church in the AM. Saw Hooded Mergansers as we drove to Church in the PM.

Week ending 01-20-03

This week has been a typical winter week. Typical January. Cold. Short days. Little time or interests in the outdoors.

I did make it by the pasture on Thursday (1-16-03) and visited the "good log". Only thing I found was Spot #6 (the new one I started seeing this season). I would love to see the others (#1 - #5) but will just have to see if/when they show up.

Friday (1-17-03) through Monday (1-20-03), loaded the car and took the family to Charleston, SC for the weekend. While there, we saw Pelicans, Gulls, and Cormorants around the harbor; elsewhere in the region we saw Hooded Mergansers and White Ibis. We had some frigid weather and the chance to see herptiles was low. Had a nice time anyway. Mid-winter break.

Warm weather will come soon. What might it hold? I do have some goals in mind:

Still need to catch Southern Hognose Snake and Rainbow Snake (on the coast) and Timber Rattlers and Eastern Milksnakes plus 3 rare Tiger Beetles (Cicindela patruela, C. purpurea, and C. splendida) that occur in the mountains.

I still would like to catch snakes in 9 SC Counties: Abbeville, Anderson, Bamburg, Barnwell, Dillon, Edgefield, Georgetown, Lancaster, and Lexington.

I still would like to collect Tiger Beetles in 2 Counties: Colleton and Bamburg, and to collect any specimens that may represent new county records or fill in the (county) gaps in my collection.

I would love to do more Dragonfly and Beetle collecting (anywhere/anytime).

I would be happy to continue to write field notes and collect specimens to be photographed for the SNAKESANDFROGS website.

I would like to complete the SC Tiger Beetle website:

I would like to take advantage of any chance to enjoy nature and the beauty of the outdoors.

March just about 5 weeks away, I can hardly wait!

Week ending 01-26-03

Another winter week of .........winter.

Monday (1-20-03), The Holmes family returned from a weekend trip to Charleston. I unpacked, washed some clothes, and repacked. The road is again before me.

Tuesday (1-21-03), After a full day of work, 8 of my co-workers and I loaded up and took off to a company conference at Myrtle Beach. I gazed out of the car windows as we drove. We passed bridges I had lurked under and dirt roads I had prowled just months earlier, when the weather was warmer. It was fair weather for the season and I fancied Chorus Frogs calling from the swampy areas we passed, but of course the co-workers were anxious to get to the hotel/meetings.

Wednesday (1-22-03), Meetings come and go. Around lunch, I had a few minutes to enjoy my ocean-front balcony. I saw Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Black-Backed Gulls, Brown Pelicans, and loads of Scoters (species unknown due to distance). I was especially delighted to watch a Dolphin swim by. Not bad.

Thursday (1-23-03), In our final session at the conference, the weather forecasts came true. It was snowing. We checked out and left the beach in the snow. By the time we left Horry County, the weather was clearing. And although we crossed a South Carolina blanketed in a layer of fresh snow, the roads were clear and safe. We arrived home about 4-5 hours later, to about 4-5 inches of snow.

Friday (1-24-03), Work. With our history of electrical troubles, I was just happy that the power was still on!

Saturday (1-25-03), Walked a bit in my woods. Very pretty with the snow everywhere.

Sunday (1-26-03), Went to the River Pasture. Checked under the "good log" for Spotted Salamanders. The Spot I had been seeing all winter (that would be Spot #6) was gone and another was in his place. Checking the head pattern he proved to be Spot #1. This was an animal I had first seen December 19, 2000. He had been around again in the winter of 2001-2002 but I had not seen him since 1-25-02. A full year ago! It was great to see him again, but I had to wonder; Where/how has he spent that year? How deep did he have to go during the heat and drought of summer? What has his life been like? His life as a predator? His life as potential prey? His underground life in the darkness of the tunnels? So many questions. I wish he could tell me!

Week ending 02-02-03

Happy Groundhog Day!

Not much going on around here. Another week of winter to report. Winter weather. Winter. Bleak. Gray.

I will say that this week I have seen some neat birds (Red-Shouldered Hawk, Meadowlark, Hooded Merganser, Blue Heron, and others).

Wednesday (1-29-03) we had a Opossum in a small animal trap we had set on campus. A female, we marked her and released her unharmed.

Friday (1-31-03), Got a surprise at work: a box from BioQuip! Finally got my 22watt UV light trap with bucket insert and photoswitch. Operates on AC power! This is a really neat trap (for nocturnal insects) and I cannot wait to use it. Got a few assorted books also. Later in the evening I got a call from an old friend I had not seen in years. He lives in Pennsylvania, and we talk a bit on the phone every now and then. I remembered his 1980 visit. I was not really into insects then but tried to be a good host and help him find whatever he was looking for. One evening we went out to a farm I worked on at that time. There was a yard light and underneath we found lots of bugs. I remember him finding a Tiger Beetle and saying that it would give a nasty bite. Now, 23 years later, with an interest in Tiger Beetles, I was curious about what we found that night so long ago. I asked him and he, without hesitation, said, “Megacephala virginica”. He remembered that beetle! Neat! He evidently has a pretty good memory!

Sunday (2-2-03) Better weather. Sunny. Temps in the 60s. No time for outdoors but a beautiful day anyway.

Not long until Spring!

Joey Holmes

February 8, 2003
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