SC Reptile and Amphibians


June 2004

Week Ending 07-04-04

Gene Ott

A note about the reported Black Bear killed near Ware Shoals which I included in my notes of 06-20-04. The local paper ran a story saying the report was a hoax. I had contacted a the regional DNR office had been told the story was true. As of this time, I do not know what the truth is.

We are now in full summertime- hot days and thunderstorms. During the day, thousands of Cicadas ring out their mating song. At night, thousands of Katydids dominate the serenade. Mayflies swarm the nightlights.

On Friday (07-02-04) I found a DOR Eastern King Snake. In the afternoon, I bush hogged some pathways around the farm. I found that Beavers had recently constructed a dam on one of the small branches. After dark I cruised a while, finding two AOR and one DOR Copperheads, an AOR Northern Brown Snake that apparently had recently given birth, and a DOR Rough Green Snake. Fowler's Toads were all over the roads. Intermittent rain brought out many Gray Tree Frogs and a few Green Trees Frogs.

Saturday (07-03-04), I saw a large, dark snake crossing my driveway about 250 feet away. I moved as fast as I could but the snake was nowhere to be seen when I got there. It did not seem to be moving fast enough to have reached thick cover. There was a hole in the ground in the vicinity of where I judged the snake to have been. It must have gone down. It was probably a Black Rat Snake or Eastern King Snake.

Sunday (07-04-04), my family (four generations represented) gathered at the farm for a Fourth of July lunch of BBQ hash on rice, corn on the cob, tomatoes, onions, cantaloupe, and sweet mixed pickles. Before lunch, my granddaughter and I "found" the Brown Snake I picked up on the road on Friday night. We also legitimately found a Worm Snake under one of the Worm Snake boards. We also saw that the Phoebe babies had left the nest on the house. Win and Hope searched around a little. They glimpsed a water snake fall from a tree limb into a small manmade pool.


Joey's notes

This week has been warm, and we are still in a cycle of (almost) daily storms. We are also in a bright moon-phase, although storm clouds frequently darken the night sky.

Monday (6-28-04), On the way to work, I zipped by a couple of local gas stations and found a nice female Hercules Beetle. Totally neat animals.

Tuesday (6-29-04), A nice Royal Walnut Moth was my only neat find at the gas stations I toured prior to work. At work, I got a box of goodies in from GLADES HERP. Two Chaco Frogs (Pac-man Frogs), Two Cuban Treefrogs, a Barking Treefrog, a Florida Green Watersnake (male), a Red-Sided Garter Snake, and a Rosy Boa. All very nice animals, and it was fun setting them up in new enclosures. After work and after dark, I went to the pond. Loads of frogs were calling. I heard Green Treefrogs, Gray Treefrogs, Cricket Frogs, Narrowmouth Toads, Bullfrogs, and Green Frogs. I grabbed a few Fowlers Toads and treefrogs to use at work as feeder items but it was not easy. The pond had a low water level for months. The mud-flats have grassed in, and now with recent rains, the water level is fairly normal. This means ankle to knee-deep water and thick, chest-high grass. It is virtually impossible to see where you are walking. Bummer. I did flip some debris up-hill from the pond and found a nice adult Southern Ringneck Snake. Snake number 76 for the year. On normal years, I get about 100 snakes by this point (exactly half-way through the year) but this year is seriously behind. Oh well.

Wednesday (6-30-04), It was cool and rainy. We flipped some logs/tin/debris on campus and found some neat stuff . There was an Eastern Worm Snake, tons of Fowlers Toads, and a neat Tiger Beetle, Megacephala virginica. Inside, we fed the new animals from Glades Herp and everything ate except the Treefrogs.

Thursday (7-1-04), The boss came back from Texas. He had been there to help at a school we operate in the San Antonio area. While doing some yard work on that campus he had caught a small female Checkered Garter Snake. He brought her back in his luggage, safe and secure. I really like different Garter Snakes and would like to breed Checkereds someday, so it was nice to get her. We also spent some time working on the outdoor Caiman pen today. It was one of those cleanings that require the Caiman to spend a day or so indoors. The beast is about four feet long and weighs about 25-30 pounds. It also had an attitude. While I was getting it under control, it swung around and snapped on my left knee. Wow! That felt a lot worse than those nips I got occasionally when the Caiman was a hatchling! But, the bite could have been worse, the students were impressed, and the Caiman was undamaged. I suppose I must be more careful from now on. We also found our first 2004 Green Anole hatchling and a Brown Snake.

Friday (7-2-04), Checking the local gas stations prior to work, I found male and female Hercules Beetles but they were both crushed. At work, found the first 2004 hatched Five-Lined Skink. I also got a radio call from the volleyball court about a snake. It was still there when I arrived and I was surprised to see that it was a Copperhead. We have been there since 1997 and this is the first Copperhead that I have caught on campus. I quickly secured it, and drove to some National Forest lands about 10 miles from campus to release it. No incidents. No accidents.

Saturday (7-3-04), No time outdoors.

Sunday (7-4-04), Happy 4rth of July! In a patriotic mood, I flopped on the sofa and watched “STRIPES” (Bill Murray in the US Army, typical boot camp humor). I also wish this country success, and PEACE! Indeed, I wish this for all countries.


Joey Holmes

Week Ending 06-27-04

Gene Ott

For most of June, we have been receiving more than adequate rainfall. A very pleasant change from the near drought we were experiencing. Everything at the farm is lush.

While commuting to work I have seen several DOR Black Rat Snakes and have moved several Eastern Box Turtles off the roadway.

Barn Swallows have built a nest on one side of my house and Eastern Phoebes on the other.

My granddaughter and I explored the yard this weekend. We found a new Mockingbird nest and a new Carolina Wren nest. Each have eggs. We also found a Five-lined Skink, Fence Lizard, and Six-lined Racerunner Lizard. Saturday night (06-26-04) we walked around the house and driveway. I let her catch and release about two dozen Fowlers Toads. She was thrilled. I told her she is the "Toad Hunter."


Joey's notes

Several things to mention, right away. While on our vacation, we saw a number of turtles. Some were basking, some were floating here and there as we encountered wetlands. Virtually every type turtle there (Mississippi) is different from what I am familiar with here in SC. Unfortunately, while on vacation I never got my hands on any of those turtles, so positive IDs were not possible. Neat to meet them though. Along the way we saw lizards. Fence Lizards along the Tennessee River, and Five-Line Skinks in Clarksdale, but these are common at home. Frogs? I forgot to mention the Eastern Narrowmouth Toad I met at a creek in Quitman Co, Miss. All neat animals, and worthy of mention. Sorry to have ignored them.

Sunday (6-20-04), I did not make it to the pond for an evening stroll. I did get into the deep recesses of my backyard, where I checked my tin and found my old male Mole Kingsnake, still relaxing where I had seen him last.

Monday (6-21-04), At work, after a week away, I have a bit to do to get back into the swing of things. I did take time to pack up a few animals (a Pine Snake and some baby Ratsnakes) and ship them to GLADES HERP. They will send me a few animals I had wanted; two Cuban Treefrogs, a Barking Treefrog, two Pacman Frogs, a Red-Sided Garter Snake, a Fla Green Water Snake, and a Rosy Boa. I should get my box next week. After work, my new friends Bob and Phil arrived from out of state to collect some insects. Male Giant Stags were the prize. While waiting for darkness to fall, we had a bite of supper, got aquainted, and even checked my tin (my Mole King was still there). We searched the local gas stations after sunset and found a few neat items but no Stags.

Tuesday (6-22-04), I met Bob and Phil at 6 AM to check a big light on my campus that often produces Stags. They had a fit when we arrived and found a nice male, right where I expected it. They already had some females, so this was a nice find. While at work, the boys and I walked a bit and flipped debris. We found a nice variety of dainty snakes: Eastern Worm Snake, Southern Ringneck Snake, Brown Snake, and Redbellied Snake. All neat stuff. All very small. After work, Bob, Phil and I went to the pasture and pond. We found a few things, but nothing to mention. They made the evening rounds without me. I was very tired.

Wednesday (6-23-04), Bob and Phil checked the big light on campus with me at 6 AM. We found no male Giant Stags, and they would have to begin their drive home without catching a second male (I did have one to give them in case they did not score another). Later in the day, we (students and I) did a little experiment. We had been keeping an aquarium with a group of five Predacious Diving Beetles (Dytiscus) in the classroom. They routinely eat earthworms. This time we offered them a pinky mouse. They were on it within seconds, and in 10-15 minutes there was no sign of it at all! Invertebrates EATING vertebrates!

Thursday (6-24-04), At work, I found a male Giant Stag Beetle on the ground under the big light. It was dead. It had been dead for at least a day. It had obviously been when Bob, Phil and I had looked Wednesday morning! We had missed it! Gosh what a bummer for them!

Friday (6-25-04), I found a live male Giant Stag, but it was very small and a live female Hercules Beetle under the big light at work. It is also the first quarter of the moon, so nights will be bright for the next two weeks or so, and hunting the gas stations for bugs is over for now (unless we have dark/rainy nights). The dark of the moon in July will produce good Hercules Beetles, to be sure, but it is pretty much over now for the Stags.

Saturday (6-26-04), Holmes Photography worked a local wedding, so I did not have any time outdoors.

Sunday (6-27-04), Lots of errands/duties today.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 06-20-04

Thursday (6-17-04), I received an email reporting that the day before a large Black Bear (560 pounds) was killed by a vehicle on US 25 between Ware Shoals and Hodges, SC. The email had pictures. SC DNR confirmed that the report was real. This is close to my farm (maybe 12 miles as a bear might run). Upon occassion, one hears of reported bear sightings, but this is the first confirmed sighting that I know of so nearby.

I had to run errands that kept me out until twilight. On my way home, I detoured along a couple of my favorite cruising roads. I saw two AOR Copperheads and one DOR. Each was about 24 inches.

Saturday morning (6-19-04), a female Indigo Bunting flew into our new home that is under construction. I caught it as it bounced against a window pane. I took the opportunity to photograph it before releasing it.

Sunday morning (6-20-04), as a Father's Day gift, my son and son-in-law helped me install roofing shingles on the new wellhouse I am building. We worked until we used all the shingles I had. We lacked about four to finish. My entire family joined me for a lunch cookout. It was a very good day!

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

This week was different. I was off work. Mrs. Holmes did not have any appointments. My son is out of school for the summer. We have planned a summer VACATION! The HOLMES FAMILY VACATION; B & B TOUR. Not bed and breakfast. No, something better; BLUES AND BBQ!

Monday (6-14-04), We loaded the car with a weeks worth of provisions and recreational supplies. I had my nature gear (hooks, nets, bags, vials, etc), My wife had her photography equipment; my son had a guitar. We left SC on I-26. Drove to Ashville, NC where we took I-40 west. We crossed the Smokies and passed Knoxville quickly. We stopped in Crab Orchard, TN for a break. I caught a Tiger Beetle, Cicindela punctulata. We had lunch at a local place called the TOP DOG RESTAURANT near Crossville/Cookville. Not bad. We drove on into Nashville, got a room, and called my brother Jeff. Jeff arrived in minutes with a clean car to drive us around and show us some sites. He took us to eat at JACKS BBQ where we enjoyed a great meal! Then on to the Nashville GIBSON Store. They have a Mandolin factory, a retail store, and a listening room. They were having an open-stage Bluegrass jam that was pretty neat, but we wandered back into the store where we bumped into the master of the Rockin-Bluegrass Mandolin, Mr. SAM BUSH! We spoke with him briefly of shows we had attended in SC etc. Of all the people to run into in Nashville, Sam is around the top of our list. First day and the vacation is off to a great start!

Tuesday (6-15-04), Jeff picked us up for another day of Nashville (it is great to have a local to drive us around). We saw downtown and other neat sights. The Parthenon, Country Music Hall of Fame, Music Row, Gruhn Guitars, and had lunch at a Mexican Restaurant called LAS PALMAS. We did not make it to the parking lot where Bufford Pusser once beat up (a drunken) Jimmy Buffett. That was alright, I had seen that years ago. Jeff had to work that evening. He had a rehearsal for an upcoming recording session, but he invited my son to come along. Off they went. my wife and I returned to our room, took a nap, had supper, and went to the movies, STEPPFORD WIVES. Not a bad movie. My son and Jeff came back to the hotel. My son reported having a great time at the session in a Nashville sound studio. Not every kid gets to do that on vacation. Another memorable day.

Wednesday (6-16-04), We got up early, threw our stuff into the car and took off on I-40 heading west to Memphis. Saw a couple of DOR Coyotes and Armadillos along the way but little else. In Memphis we toured the (very touristy) BEALE STREET, where we grabbed a burger, and went to the GIBSON GUITAR FACTORY for a tour. We saw hundreds of the worlds finest guitars being made. Every step of the process! We also went to the legendary SUN STUDIO where Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and Johnny Cash got their start. A few more guitar/music stores and we were done with Memphis. Time to head south. A stop in Tunica, MS at an old farmhouse gave me the chance to catch my first ever snake in the state of Mississippi. It was a Western Ribbon Snake, under a scrap of plywood. We took the legendary US 61 south to CLARKSDALE, MS. Home of the Delta Blues. We got a room. We had a great BBQ supper at Abe’s BBQ (at THE crossroads) and went to a club called GROUND ZERO to hear some music. Local kids had the stage and they were very good! I expect to hear more from them in the years to come.

Thursday (6-17-04), We toured Clarksdale. We visited the Delta Blues Museum and downtown shops/stores. We checked into our “resort,” the SHACK-UP INN. It is a unique place where sharecropper shacks have been fixed up and equipped with TV-VCR, heat/air, fridge/microwave, and full bathroom. All rustic furniture, decorated with a Blues theme, and very clean. I went out back, and caught a dragonfly, just so I could say I had caught dragonflies in Mississippi. It was a Blue Dasher, something I can easily catch here, so it was no big deal. That afternoon, my son went to a Blues Guitar lesson a local fellow was giving at the museum. Sue and I rambled. Caught a Western Ribbon Snake under one bridge and a Gray Ratsnake at another. There was no live music in town, other than Bird-Voiced Treefrogs, singing by the river, so after dark I rambled. I found Fowlers Toads, Green Treefrogs, and under a small bridge, a Western Cottonmouth. Dark with a big head, just like in the field guide! I was thrilled!

Friday (6-18-04), My son and I rambled a bit in the morning, but it was very hot, and we found no snakes. He went back to the “resort” and I went out in search of Tiger Beetles. I found C.punctulata and collected a few, but nothing else. That evening we went back into town for more music. On a public-outdoor stage in town various local Blues artists played. Inside a small bar/restaurant the local kids were jamming. We got a lot of pictures and video. Later, I made one quick tour of the local bridges found nothing but a Bullfrog and Tiger Beetle, Megacephala carolina. That was enough for one day. We needed an early start in the morning.

Saturday (6-19-04), We got up, threw EVERYTHING into the car, and hit the road. 80 miles to Memphis. Memphis to Nashville is 200 miles. We hit a traffic jam and lost about 2 hours. Another 150 miles and another traffic jam (not as bad this time). We had supper in Knoxville at Sonny’s BBQ, then crossed the Smokies, and cruised on home. We made a lot of stops (as a family is likely to do) and got here after a 15 hour, 650 mile day on the road. Safe and secure at home again.

Sunday (6-20-04), Much to do to recover from a trip like that, and return to life as usual. I am going to relax now, enjoy FATHERS DAY, and may go to the pond when it gets dark.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 06-13-04

Gene's notes

Sunday (06-06-04), my wife and I traveled to Cheraw State Park for a week-long stay. Last Fall, I applied for and was selected to be an Artist- In-Residence by the SC State Park Service. I was assigned to Cheraw State Park and offered a week-long stay. I was really happy to be assigned to Cheraw because I have never been able to spend much time in that area of the state.

Snakes were difficult to find. I saw a DOR Black Rat Snake Sunday evening while scouting the area surrounding the park. I did not find another snake, living or dead, until Thursday morning (06-10-04). I found a Cottonmouth near the 17th green at the park golf course. This turned out to be the only snake I found in the park. I did find a piece of shed skin from a large Pine Snake. I still have not ever found a living Pine Snake.

On Friday night (06-11-04), Kevin Messenger invited me to accompany him on his cruise of the Wildlife Drive at the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge. Kevin, a herpetology student at North Carolina State University, has been performing a road cruise survey of snakes on the drive for the last two years. We road to and fro about six times. On the road we found a baby Copperhead, a Pigmy Rattle Snake, and a Scarlet Snake. Kevin also took me to a drainage creek from one of the ponds. This is his Cottomouth hole. We saw three specimens. One was a yearling or so. We also saw a Dwarf Water Dog. This was a first for me.

My wife and I had a wonderful time at the park. The golf course is beautifully laid. The cabin was very nice, and the park staff could not have been more friendly. I found some other wildlife to photograph, including Fox Squirrels, a Chuck-Wills-Widow and nest, nesting Yellowbelly Sliders, Trumpet Pitcher Plants, and bugs.

I will be posting more detailed notes later. One very interesting observation was that the local reptiles did not seem to like rain. During the first four days at the park, there were occassional showers and partly cloudy skies. The reptiles were few and far between, including lizards. The sun shone bright beginning Thursday and the reptiles came out. Six-lined Racerunners appeared everywhere and Yellowbelly Sliders ventured out of the water to find nesting sites. Most locals considered the weather had been dry, even counting the showers in the early week. My experience elsewhere has been that showers in times of drought bring out the reptiles. Not so in the eastern sandhills. I finally understood why Kevin insisted on a low probability of rain before driving down from Charolotte.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Monday (6-7-04), I felt horrible. Allergies had bothered sinuses. Sinuses had bothered throat and lungs. It ends up as a respiratory infection. I stayed home from work, went to the Doctor, got a couple of prescriptions ($$$$$) and tried to feel better. We had evening storms, but I did not out. I felt too bad.

Tuesday (6-8-04), I felt better and decided to try to go to work. I stopped by a store on the way and picked up a small male Stag Beetle. At work, I went into my classroom and found a container on my table with a live male Stag Beetle. Later in the morning, a student gave me a dead male Stag Beetle he had found over the weekend. Later in the day, we were flipping tin/debris on campus and found yet another male Stag Beetle! Packed a Mole Kingsnake up and sent it (UPS) to a friend in Texas who had done me some favors recently. Quite a day, so far, but it was not over. Because it was cool and rainy/stormy I thought it might pay off to check my tin. Found a Redbelly Snake and an adult male Mole Kingsnake! I checked my photocopies of Mole King belly patterns (taken of snakes caught and released in my yard) and thought it to be one from last October. I would keep it, take it in to work, make more copies of the belly pattern, check for a match, record the information, then release the snake again when I get him back home.

Wednesday (6-9-04), At work, I checked the new Mole Kingsnake and he DID match the snake I had caught/copied/released last October. Cool! After work he returned to his piece of tin in the backyard. The papers/data were filed in my records.

Thursday (6-10-04), At work, one of the students brought in a male Hercules Beetle he found near an outdoor light.

Friday (6-11-04), I was up early and made rounds of the local stores before I reported to work. I also met up with my friend Mike. Mike is in from the west coast and is hunting insects. Last year he was here and we failed to find him a Stag Beetle. This year he has less than 3 days and will be mainly on his own as I have lots of work to do. We went to my campus and checked my light (the big yard light with a canoe under it to serve as a trap) and he found his male Stag Beetle! A big one at that! He also had a female Stag and a male Hercules Beetle he had found, so his trip is already quite a success! Sorry we could not spend more time together.

Saturday (6-12-04), Working in the photography business (a wedding) kept me busy.

Sunday (6-13-04), Cool and rainy, I check my tin. I found 2 Redbelly Snakes and my old friend, the male Mole Kingsnake! He was about 35 feet from the piece of tin where I caught him Tuesday/released him Wednesday. I did not bother him much, just sent him on his way. Definitely the same snake. There was a distinctive dent in his side from some broken ribs. No need to take him in for more photocopies.

I am off next week and will try my best to get into something exciting. I will let you know.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 06-07-04

Gene's notes

Gene Ott

This week I have no observations to report. I am sure I must have seen some, but none of special interest. I spent the week at work and in preparation of a week-long vacation starting Sunday.


Joey's notes

First things first. Last week I neglected to mention the eggs. Yes, we have eggs. On Thursday, May 27, my up-state Cornsnake gave me about 12 good looking eggs. That same day, a female from Florida had 29 small yellow, poorly shaped, obviously infertile eggs. Hmmm? She is about 10 years old and spent a fair bit of time this year with a male who is older than her. Just the same, her eggs developed without ferilization. What to do with 29 bad eggs? Freeze them of course. I have read that Scarlet Snakes will accept unfertilized eggs (slugs) so now I have something to feed the next Scarlet Snake that comes my way. About a year’s worth of food without sacrificing any good eggs.

As far as last week goes, not much to report. The photography business (my wife’s work) keeps us busy. Outdoors time has been limited.

Monday (5-31-04), At work, the Tiger Beetles, Cicindela rufiventris, have emerged and are everywhere outside my classroom. Been watching their larval burrows for a while, now it is nice to see them reaching their potential. Inside, we devoted a lot of time to cleaning and setting up our large aquatic tanks. We are keeping fish in a 75 gallon tank and using a 125 (with shallow water and two submersible heaters) as an incubator. Eggs kept in moist vermiculite in plastic shoeboxes can simply float in the warm water. After work I found a small Eastern Kingsnake and adult Eastern Worm Snake out back, under my tin.

Tuesday (6-1-04), We got Eggs! A lovely female Bairds Ratsnake dropped 6 eggs but 4 look pretty bad. I went ahead and froze one that was obviously bad. At home, out new air conditioner is purring away and the house is cool and comfortable again (but now the checking account is in agony).

Wednesday (6-2-04), We continued to work on aquariums at work. Setting up a 55 gallon tank for a (still un-obtained) Broad-Banded Watersnake. By the way, anyone know where I can get a Broad-Banded Watersnake? Always wanted to keep one.

Thursday (6-3-04), Full moon. No time outdoors.

Friday (6-4-04), No time outdoors.

Saturday (6-5-04), No time outdoors but I did move a nice looking adult Black Ratsnake off the road neat the house. After dark, I needed to gas up my Jeep. Funny how I need to do this after dark! Found a crushed/dead, but fresh, Giant Stag Beetle at one of the local gas stations. Still no live ones.

Sunday (6-6-04), No time outdoors.

Joey Holmes

July 07, 2004
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