SC Reptile and Amphibians


April 2000

Notes from April 24 - 30

I did not see any herps, other than Green Anoles, until Friday (4/28/00). Win and I searched the pasture along the river bottom at home. I pulled open a stump an found the largest Southern Ringneck Snake I have ever seen. It was approximately 18 inches!

On Saturday, I flipped a piece of metal and found a Smooth Earth Snake. This was my first snake of the year under the tin which I had purposely set out. Enthused, I searched further and found 3 Slimy Salamanders.

Sunday, I set out with Win and a friend to visit Aiken State Park. It was a beautiful day. The morning was a bit cool and finds were slow. We saw some fence lizards, one male was showing particularly vivid blue on its belly. We were getting a little discouraged, but as the temperature climbed things picked up. Win searched a bog where he had found a Cottonmouth last year. Sure enough, there was an Eastern Cottonmouth on the very same tree stump again! Probably the same snake.

We next visited the large fishing pond at the park. There were a few people fishing. They told they had seen a large water moccasin at the spillway so that's where we headed. Win flushed a snake which fled to cover in the rip rap. While search for it he found a Helgramite. He could not find that snake again, but another one attempted the same get away. This one Win caught. It was an adult Midlands Water Snake. Jerry Henshaw, the Park Manager, came by and used the snake to point out to the fishermen that it was a nonvenomous snake and should not be harmed. We also saw a mature Five-Lined Skink, a Broadhead Snink, and numerous Six-lined Racerunners near the pond.

Before leaving the park, we stopped at a smaller pond in the main picnic area. While catching some of the abundant Southern Cricket Frogs and inspecting their varied colorations, Win caught an immature Banded Water Snake.

After returning home, Win checked under the canoe at the fish pond and found a large Rebbelly Water Snake. It was preparing to shed its skin and in no mood to be disturbed. It left its dental imprint on Win's hand. (Also, I neglected to mention in last week's notes, Win found an immature Northern Water Snake and an immature Redbelly Water Snake at a small pond.)

I have not seen many DOR snakes yet this year. This week I only saw DOR a black-phase Eastern Hognose and a Black Racer.

Gene Ott


April has come and gone. Just like a weekend away that you've planned for so long. Just was too quick. Time flies.

Last week I neglected to mention that I had seen Ebony Jewelwing Damselflies, and one night at the pond I found a Pied-Billed Grebe, hidden in the grasses out in the water. This week we've had some cooler weather, and later in the week allergies have just about had the best of me. Getting too much sludge in my lungs (coughing and such). Today, Sunday (4-23-00), it was too pretty! Yet feeling like crud, I just stayed in. Hope to be better soon.

On Sunday (4-23-00) I checked my tin here, and found a Redbellied Snake and an Eastern Worm Snake. Not much.

Monday (4-24-00): I didn't do anything outside really; it was cool and rainy.

Tuesday (4-25-00): There was a workshop in Spartanburg with Janisse Ray (author of "Ecology of a Cracker Childhood"). My wife and I went with another couple. We went to a workshop on Field Note Writing and Observations. Nice class. We also saw some colleagues while there.

Wednesday (4-26-00): I got outside a bit. Found a Brown Snake, a Smooth Earth Snake, some sort of really cool dragonfly and a Question Mark Butterfly.

Thursday (4-27-00): At a local spot we found a pair of Black Ratsnakes. Both are pre-shed; if the female isn't gravid now she will be soon.

Friday (4-28-00): In some local National Forest land near campus, my students and I found a snake we seldom see, Southeastern Crowned Snake. I found 2 of these in 1996, and one of them was in this same place. Must be a pretty good spot for them. I've only ever caught the 3, and 2 of them were in that spot! We also found a Northern Red Salamander in another location. As usual this time of year, there were many many skinks.

Saturday (4-29-00): Some walking in local National Forest, I found a good many skinks (one was a female Broadhead), but nothing else.

I talked with brother. He has recently done work in some of the Nature Conservancy locations in west Tennessee. He said there were too many Cottonmouths! Stressful slogging through the wetlands pushing them aside so he could keep walking! My kind of place! Wish I could have been there!

I hope this week will be better for herps. The weather is looking warmer and should be good.

Hope you all can get outside,

Joey Holmes

Notes from April 17 - 23

On Monday, I drove to the Sumter National Forest in McCormick County. The morning and the scenery were gorgeous. I walked a trail to Stevens Creek, an area known for its unusual plant species. I found Cypress Trees growing along the bank of this lower Piedmont river. Other than a few scurrying lizards, I did find a beautiful Box Turtle.

When he got home from work Monday night, Win found a young Oppossum raiding the cat's food and took some pictures. He used the camcorder's IR mode.

Tuesday morning, a pair of Canada Geese were on the rock in the fish pond at home. I could not resist making a picture. Later, Win and I checked a minnow trap I had placed in the nearby branch. There was an immature Midland Water Snake in it. About noon, while driving into Laurens I noticed a large bird on a nest in a tree in the middle of a Beaver pond beside the highway. It was a Great Blue Heron. There was a rookery of 4 nests.

On Friday, Win and I made pictures of the 3 Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtles which Joey had caught. What a set of impressive turtles! The largest female had a shell length of 18 inches and weighed approximately 19 pounds. The other female's shell was just a quarter inch shorter, but it was noticeably thinner and weighed approximately 16 pounds. The size difference between the adult male and female of the species was tremendous. The male's shell length was 8 inches and it weighed only about 1.3 pounds! I posted a lot of pictures; the easiest route to them is to visit the "What's New" page. We released the turtles into the fish pond at home. We hope they will stay around at least long enough to lay eggs. I have seen a female basking on the rock every sunny day since releasing them. When we released them, I noticed a large Redbelly Water Snake slide into the pond also.

On Sunday I turned over a log beside the fish pond and found an immature Eastern Kingsnake about 28 inches in length. It was a male and was obviously sexually aroused. I looked around for a female nearby. Sheltered under a large fallen tree limb about 5 feet away was an an adult Black Rat Snake. I wonder if the Black Rat was the source of the King's excitement. Encouraged by these finds I searched around the pond some more. I found an Eastern Mud Turtle under a board which lay partially in the water. The turtle had itself a den under the board. There were several channels dugout in the mud for entrance/exit. Looking in a cavity with a fencepost I found a bird nest with recent hatchlings. In a previous year, I have seen a Chickadee use this post for nesting. I'll have to keep watch to see what species is using it now.

Gene Ott


Been hard at it this week. Stayed local, and found some nice animals. Loads of Skinks and the Anoles are displaying and head bobbing. Inside the lab, some of the snakes are getting heavy with eggs and the African House Snakes and Sinaloan Milksnakes are still mating when put together.

Monday (4-17-00) I went to Spartanburg and visited a colleague at his office. I returned the Fla. Pine Snake that had been borrowed to photograph. We talked herping (he recently caught a Pygmy Rattler) and I got ready to go out and catch something. I came home, checked my tin, and found a Redbelly Snake and an Eastern Worm Snake. Went to the river and in a very small pond (cattle watering hole) I set a funnel trap and a turtle trap. I caught a Brown Snake in the process and also watched a watersnake swim downstream.

Tuesday (4-18-00) I got another Worm Snake and another Redbelly under cover boards at work. My colleague came down and we went to check the traps. Nothing but small fish in the funnel trap, but the turtle trap held a 20-25 pound Snapping Turtle. Quite a beast. We released him and relocated the trap to the river itself, adding chicken to the bait tray that still held some fish. I had expected Painted Turtles, but I suppose the Snapper went in first and the Painteds wouldn't go near.

Wednesday (4-19-00) I checked the traps. The funnel trap was empty but when I pulled in the turtle trap...WOW! There were 2 large female (Gulf Coast Spiny) Softshells and a male! I've only caught a few softshells and never have gotten a female until now. Good catch!

Thursday (4-20-00) I herped a little with my students and only got a Rough Green Snake. I had a co-worker take some students to the mountains for rappelling. They returned with a Seal Salamander, a species needed for photographing. I went to the pond that evening and found 6 Midland Watersnakes. I heard Cricket Frogs, Bullfrogs, Fowler's Toads, Gray Treefrogs, Green Treefrogs, and Spring Peepers. Nice night out.

Friday (4-21-00) on my way home from work I stopped at a few herping places I know. I found a Smooth Earth Snake, a juvenile Black Racer, and a Brown Snake. My funnel trap, contained a nice sized male Redbelly Watersnake.

Saturday (4-22-00) another colleague stopped by work and dropped off/picked up stuff. He brought a nice Eastern Hognose skull (cleaned) that clearly shows the "fangs", some more Bairds Ratsnakes, and a little Black Ratsnake. Later, I took some students to an area in nearby Sumter National forest that should have Scarlet Kings and Northern Pines. It was a bit cool, but we did find a number of skinks (including a nice male Broadhead) and two Southern Ringneck Snakes.

Have seen some nice birds this week: Goldfinches, Barn Swallows, Eastern Kingbird, Red-headed Woodpeckers, and an Osprey.

Good butterflies this week included: Pipevine Swallowtail, Variegated Fritillary, Sleepy Orange, Red-Spotted Purple, and have seen many species already listed this year. We preserved a few Dragonflies (with data) and one student even got a nice Green Darner.

Joey Holmes

Notes from April 10 - 16

Cold weather and rain limited herping activities this week. However, I started the week (Tuesday) by making photos of a captive-raised Florida Pine Snake (approx. 78 inches). I also picked up from Joey for photographing later the Carpenter Frog which he caught last week.

Wednesday was a good weather day, but I decided to catch up on grass mowing instead of herping. While cutting briars in the pasture, I uncovered a nest of Cottontail Rabbits.

On Thursday the weather turned cold and dreary. However, at the pondside, I turned over the canoe and found an adult Redbelly Water Snake seeking shelter. It looked like it had a rough life from the number of scars on its belly; and its tail appeared to have been recently removed - perhaps by a large Channel Catfish or Snapping Turtle. The rainy, cold weather continued through Saturday.

Sunday was a gorgeous day. In the late morning as the sun began warming things up, I drove a few local roads and found 3 Box Turtles, the first I had seen this year. At the pond, I noted the Cricket Frogs had begun to sing and heard Gray Tree Frogs in the woods.

Gene Ott


We've had good weather and bad weather. Found a few things to talk about.

On Sunday (4-9-00), after last week's report went out, I found 2 more Eastern Worm Snakes under my tin. I also noted that the (House or Purple) Finches on my front porch had hatched.

Monday (4-10-00), I walked by the river. Other birds were hatching also because I saw a Wood Duck hen and 1 little duckling. Where are the others? Weasel? Ratsnake? Hawk? Owl? Snapping Turtle? A Killdeer also ran away slowly and loudly, rather than flying. The best bird that day was an Osprey cruising low up the Enoree River! I saw 15-20 deer in 2 different herds; some sort of Baskettail Dragonfly (plus lots of other species); Spicebush Swallowtails; Zebra Swallowtail; and, of course, Tiger Swallowtails. Found Six-Spot Tiger Beetles and C. repanda; plus C.tranquebarica. There were loads of Cooters basking and several Eastern Painted Turtles. I saw a nice male Skink (one of the 5-Lines) and heard Gray Treefrogs. Over at the pond there were more Six-Spot Tiger Beetles and a pair of Blue-Wing Teal. Lots of Damsel and Dragonflies.

On Tuesday (4-11-00) Gene Ott came to PWI and photographed the Fla. Pine Snake for the web site. Also, I found another Worm Snake under the tin at home.

Wednesday (4-12-00) I took my students walking. We found a Red-Bellied Snake, a Black Racer, and a Wild Turkey nest with 12 eggs (I hope Win Ott can photograph it for the bird section of the web site). We caught some Dragonflies. One of which I think may be a Spring Darner (had some expert help with that ID). Best thing Wednesday? My brother called from the lowcountry of SC (spending time off from Tennessee Nature Conservancy in the SC lowcountry) to report that he had finally found and caught a SC Eastern Diamondback! A new animal which will soon be fitted with a PIT tag and radio tracking device. He said it was a 4 foot adult female that appeared to be gravid. He took about 8 minutes to catch it in a slow, low stress, no hands, method. A colleague was with him. Closer to home, under my tin I found another Worm Snake and a Southeastern 5-Line Skink. That night at the pond, my son caught a nice adult Redbelly Watersnake but missed a Midland. We found Fowlers Toads, Cricket Frogs, Gray Treefrogs, Bullfrogs, and Spring Peepers. Later, stopping by the store for ice cream, we picked up a beautiful Polyphemus Moth.

Thursday (4-13-00), it was cool and rainy. I stopped on the way home at an abandoned farm to flip a car hood out back in the bushes and found an Eastern King. Also, found my Worm Snakes and some mice under the tin here.

Friday (4-14-00), the weather was still cool and rainy.

Saturday (4-15-00) was still cool and rainy. Went to the pond (my brother had stopped by on his way back to Tennessee and wanted to go to the pond). We found fair numbers of Peepers and 1 Bullfrog.

Sunday (4-16-00), I walked in the pasture with my son and a friend. We saw the expected birds, turtles (including a big female Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell), dragonflies, butterflies, and Tiger Beetles. We did see a Black Racer and heard Gray Treefrogs. Also, we saw a couple of Blue-Wing Teal.

The coming week looks like good weather for herps and I hope to spend a great deal of it outside! Best of luck to you all!
TAKE THOSE TIES OFF AND GO CATCH SOMETHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joey Holmes

Notes from April 3 - 9

The weather has been hot and cold this week. We had frost this morning (4/9) which killed some of the new growth on local plants. The great news is we are still getting rains. I have not had much luck finding reptiles yet, excluding basking turtles and lizards. The Fowlers Toads began singing this week.

This was my wife's spring break from teaching, so we took a mini-vacation to the low country Thursday through Saturday. We first visited Charleston. I did no herping there, but while eating lunch Friday we did enjoy seeing an Otter swimming down the Ashley River and a dolphin using the same pathway up the river.

We spent Friday evening and Saturday morning on Edisto Island. We both fell in love with the Island. The trees in local forests were magnificent. Herp-wise all I saw was an Eastern Mud Turtle, a small Banded Watersnake (DOR), and a Black Racer (DOR). On the trip back home, I found a small Brown Water Snake basking at a public boat ramp on the Edisto River near Walterboro.

Gene Ott


Been off work this week, been busy, found a few good animals (verts and inverts) to tell you about.

Mon (4-3-00), turned up 2 Eastern Worm Snakes in the yard and later my son and I went to various local spots where we found an Eastern Mud Turtle, another Eastern Worm Snake, Whitetail Dragonflies, Green Darners, Corporal Skimmers, and a Violet Masked Glider. We saw Wood Ducks, Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles, (saw another Tiger Beetle but it out-smarted me, so I didn't get to ID it), and heard Gray Treefrogs and Cricket Frogs calling. Caught a Silver Spotted Skipper and found a DOR Redbelly Watersnake. Later that night, back at the pond, I found Bullfrogs, Southern Leopard Frogs, Fowler's Toads, and Gray Treefrogs. I heard the Cricket Frogs and a Green Treefrog calling but didn't follow up. Found another Mud Turtle, and 3 Redbelly Watersnakes - one of which was caught and then released after a bite and a good musking that I needed.

On Tues (4-4-00), it was cool outside, but I did hear 3 snakes slide in an area of the pond where the Redbellies are often seen. I did get a Pearl Crescent Butterfly, and Star Wars (Phantom Menace) came out on video to keep me and the kid busy.

On Wed (4-5-00), I saw what must have been thousands of Corporal Skimmers, 5-10 Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles, good numbers of basking turtles and Ground Skinks, several Anoles, and (standing still) watched a Black Racer prowl about for 30 feet or so before I picked him up.

Thurs (4-6-00), family time with my wife off work for the day.

Fri (4-7-00), up and off towards the National Forest near Charleston. It was my wife, our son, and myself together. A friend joined us there. My brother, in from Tennessee and herping the lowcountry for a week or so, joined us also. We were in and around the forest until mid-afternoon on Saturday. We found 5 Black Racers, 2 Eastern Cottonmouths (caught and released 1), 1 Eastern King was caught and released. It was my son's first Eastern King. He's caught Mole Kings, Scarlet Kings and now an Eastern. We saw 2 Banded Watersnakes and one Redbelly. The birds we saw included: Pileated and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers; American Egrets, Blue Herons, Turkeys, Osprey, 2 Swallow-Tailed Kites, and what was likely a Bald Eagle (we only saw it briefly). We also found Southern Cricket Frogs, a Southern Toad, and a Carpenter Frog. While snorkeling in the clear-water pond my son and I saw tons of bass and bream, and picked up a huge Bullfrog off the bottom where it was hiding. We loved the snorkeling and my wife enjoyed the warm sunshine and took pictures. Above the water, my friend, my son and I had a blast with the insects. We found Zebra, Tiger, and Palamedes Swallowtails, Carolina Satyr, Pearl Crescents, Monarchs, and some Sulphurs, and others we didn't get into the nets. We also found good numbers of Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles, Violet Masked Glider, Calico Pennants, Painted Skimmers, Blue Dashers, and some huge Swamp Darners. My friend also found something called an Eastern Giant Ichneumon. A weird looking beast of a insect. We set out a turtle basket and a funnel trap when we arrived and checked them as we were leaving. Had a 12-15 pound Snapping Turtle in the basket and the funnel trap contained several Eastern Mudminnows and a Redfin Pickerel, plus a very, very, very small Musk Turtle. Must have been a '99 hatch. We saw the expected lizards and cooters/sliders that were basking. The mammals we saw included: 4 Deer and 3 raccoons. Had a great time, just wish we could have camped (we stayed in a hotel) and stayed longer (all spring maybe!).

Joey Holmes

Notes from March 27 - April 2

Although the weather was good this week I did not see many herps. Most of the work week was devoted to work and a conference. On Friday, I did visit Paris Mountain State Park during a long lunch. The Five-lined Skinks were active. My goal was to get some pictures of a Queen Snake. I found one basking. Unfortunately, it found me first, and my only glimpse was of it diving into the stream. I stationed myself nearby and waited for as long as I had time, about 35 minutes, but it did not reappear.

I walked through the woods near home on Saturday. Cricket Frogs were hopping about the branch. I turned over some logs but found only a shed snake skin. My prime goal was to look for an owl's nest, but I did not find one. The next day a Great Horned Owl taunted me from the same patch of woods.

For those who are interested in bird pictures, I have moved my pictures to the new web server and added some new pictures and sounds (Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl nestlings, Mockingbird, and others). The link to these pictures is at the bottom of the SC Reptiles and Ampibians home (index) page. I plan to move the mammal and other animal pictures soon.

Gene Ott


Raining hard now with a little thunder. It was very pretty until today (Sunday). I forgot to mention several things last week..... While in the National Forest on last Saturday (3-25-00) we saw a Bronze Frog and heard the choruses of Carpenter Frogs. Reviewing our videos revealed that one of our Butterflies was a Palamedes Swallowtail. One of the Dragonflies was a Calico Pennant. I have a friend to thank for making these ID's. I wish that the Peterson Field Guide people would come out with a good guide to Dragonflies/Damselflies. If any of you have any influence with them please suggest this. Have been seeing scorpions under cover boards this week also.

On Tuesday (3-28-00) while at work we found a Red-Belly Snake. We started some breeding in the lab with 3 of our female Corns being mated. Also the female Mole King had shed. When introduced to her cage, the male Mole King was quite active and bred with her (the same male did not breed with her last year). We also bred the Sinaloans later in the week. In the evening after dark I noticed a lot of Cottontail Rabbits out and about. There were 4 deer in the yard when I pulled up.

Not much noted on 3-29-00, but there were 2 Luna Moths on the front of the store when I stopped to get coffee on the way to work. One was there through Saturday, same place every day.

On 3-30-00 (Thursday), I found a Eastern Worm Snake under my tin; then went to the pond and saw an adult Redbelly Water Snake and lots of Green Darners (too fast for me to catch in the Butterfly net).

3-31-00 (Friday), at work we caught a Common Buckeye and a Spicebush Swallowtail. We also saw the first Whitetail Dragonflies of the year (my students are getting into this butterfly/dragonfly stuff; guess I am too). We found various lizards and a Black Ratsnake under a trashpile. After shiftchange, a colleague stopped by, bought some rats, and we had a nice visit. At home, I found an Eastern Worm Snake under my tin.

4-1-00 (Saturday, LOOF LIRPA), we herped some off campus and found assorted lizards. We did get a Mourning Cloak Butterfly and I saw an unidentified Tiger Beetle, but the kid with the net didn't see it and scared it off as he approached. At home, under the same old tin I found the same old Worm Snake.

Hope you all have a good week, catch lots of good stuff!

Joey Holmes

April 25, 2000
Gene Ott

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