SC Reptile and Amphibians


September 2004

Week Ending 10-03-04

Gene's notes

Monday (09-27-04) night the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne passed through the state. The Piedmont was spared most of the winds, but we had lots of intense rain. Local weather stations recorded totals of about 4 inches, but my unofficial bucket showed more than 6 inches. And, it came down fast. Frances soaked the ground; Jeanne filled the pond. The runoff flooded local creeks. My driveway culvert could not handle the flow and the water rushed over the drive, causing significant erosion.

Tuesday (09-28-04) evening temperatures remained above 70 F. I drove local roads. Just after dark, I found a Garter Snake (AOR) with a vivid dorsal stripe. I saw a few frogs and toads, stopping to look at one very large American Toad. After 4 or 5 trips up and down my favorite 3 mile stretch of road, I headed home. In the driveway, at the area eroded by the storm overflow, I found a large Copperhead which retreated beneath the eroded riprap. Encouraged, I turned around and cruised some more, but without noteworthy observations.

Saturday (10-2-04) evening my wife, daughter, son-in-law, two grandchildren, and I attended a rodeo in Greenpond. We all had a great time.

Sunday (10-3-04) morning, my wife and I moved our bed into our new house up the hill on the farm. This was the 10th anniversary of home being destroyed by fire. We had been living in a cabin on the farm since then.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Several years ago, I was going through my records, and realized that I had caught snakes in quite a few of the 46 counties in South Carolina. I thought it might be a good idea to catch a snake in EVERY county. Most were a matter of time, and a visit or two. The other week, when I scored in Edgefield, I then had only one county to go, Barnwell.

Monday (9-27-04), I was off work, another hurricane/tropical storm (Jeanne) was approaching. A perfect time to go herping! I reasoned that terrestrial, diurnal snakes would be hunkered down, under cover (tin/debris). I also reasoned that the under-ground snakes would be flooded out of their burrows and may be under tin/debris also. I could hunt in a hat/poncho, and bring a change of clothes/shoes. It might work. I needed to go to an area with lots of stuff to flip/turn. I called Tony Mills in Aiken, and he was game to spend some time outside in the storm, herping. I drove down, we met and hit the woods immediately. We found Slimy Salamanders and Southern Toads, Skinks, Anoles, Fence Lizards and Racerunners. We also found snakes. A Corn Snake and three Black Racers, all under coverboards/tin. My theory proving sound. We then ventured into nearby Barnwell County, to a spot of private property, and hit a large stack of tin. We peeled back the sheets one-by-one, and there, near the bottom of the stack was my BARNWELL COUNTY SNAKE! A Hognose! Patterned! Dare I dream it to be a Southern? I grabbed it up (it musked and pooped on me instantly) and checked. Eastern Hognose! Oh well, it was pretty, I have not caught a Hognose this year, and best of all, it was in BARNWELL COUNTY! Tony had to get back to work after that, and I rambled on alone. Five minutes later I found a DOR Canebrake Rattler. It was an adult, in good condition, so I salvaged it for a specimen. Here and there I go. I found another Black Racer, out crawling in wind and rain. I also found more lizards and even some Tiger Beetles (Cicindela tranquebarica, punctulata, and scutellaris). More wind, more rain, more driving. It turned out to be a 260 mile day but well worth it, because now I can say, “I have caught a snake in EVERY county in the state of South Carolina!”

Tuesday (9-28-04), At work, my Bullsnake eggs are pipping!

Wednesday (9-29-04), All 4 of my Bullsnakes eggs have hatched and the babies look good! At home, under my tin, I find the female Mole Kingsnake from last week and October of 2003. She had shed, and looked very good (she was about 30 yards from where she was released 8 days ealier).

Thursday (9-30-04), Laurens, SC begins its annual festival (every small town has to have a festival) called the “Squealin’ on the Square”. It is a BBQ festival! I could not have asked for a better theme!

Friday (10-1-04), More BBQ! I helped judge some of the seafood entries (this is the SC BBQ Championships).

Saturday (10-2-04), More BBQ! Beef brisket, pork loin, Boston butt, funnel cakes, etc, etc, etc!

Sunday (10-3-04), Recovering from a BBQ over-dose. I checked my tin, Nothing. I did not even care. It was a VERY good week.

SPECIAL THANKS TO TONY MILLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 09-26-04

Gene's notes

Again, I spent nearly all my time on family, work, and getting our new home ready. During the week I saw DOR: a large Eastern Kingsnake, a young Black Ratsnake, and and adult (9 inch) Smooth Earth Snake. This was the first Smooth Earth I have found in several years. They do not seem to be very common near my home. Anoles, Fence Lizards and Skinks are basking in the sun around the house every chance they get.

Thursday (09-23-04) evening as I turned into the farm driveway, there was a dense mist rising from the adjacent bottomland pasture that I just had to photograph.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Another week goes by. with limited time outdoors, but some things happened.

Monday (9-20-04), After work, I needed to mow (I keep trying to tell myself that I may be destroying wildlife habitat, but no use, I know I have to mow) the back yard. On my first pass I noticed a Rough Green Snake in some brush/vines, at the edge of the yard. Neat little snakes. After I finished mowing, I checked my tin and found a Southern Ringneck Snake, resting right beside a Mole Kingsnake. I checked the belly pattern on the Mole King (a female) and it turned out to be a snake I had caught (and released) last October! Neat! I love re-captures.

Tuesday (9-21-04), I took my Mole King to work, and made a new copy of her belly pattern on the copier. I released her as soon as I got home.

Wednesday (9-22-04), Things to do. Unfortunately they were not outdoors.

Thursday (9-23-04), More things.

Friday (9-24-04), I was off, but had to work (at Holmes’ Photography, my wife’s business). We had a wedding to shoot in Chattanooga, TN. From here we go to Atlanta, and then north on I-75. It takes about five hours and some of the traffic is horrible. Comfortable hotel for the night.

Saturday (9-25-04), We had some time before the wedding, and a trip to Chattanooga is not complete without a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium. Wonderful place! We had lunch downtown at Sticky Fingers BBQ, and then met a street musician. An old man, singing and playing the blues on an old Silvertone Arch-top guitar. He was very good, and Hunter, my son, was totally thrilled to see him, hear him play, and meet him. The wedding went well, and we were in bed around midnight. Elsewhere, trouble was brewing as Hurricane Jeanne approaches the Florida coast.

Sunday (9-26-04), In the wee hours of the AM, Jeanne came ashore on the Atlantic Coast of Florida and slowly turned north. Toward us. As unpleasant as it will be here, the folks in Florida have taken FOUR serious hurricanes this year! That has got to be hard. We made the drive back from Chattanooga in good time, and before the weather deteriorated.

Got a lot coming up on the calendar. I am also going to try to spend some time outdooors as best I can.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 09-19-04

Gene's notes

We have weathered the remnants of another hurricane, Ivan. Most of South Carolina was spared the worst of the storm, but some got really hit. At home, we were without power for a few hours.

The Garter Snake which I found in my home a couple weeks ago is now on display in the school library where my wife works. Early in the week, it ate a small toad a student found at the school. The next day my wife told me that they had feed a small frog to it. She described the frog as being white. Not being sure what species it had been, I asked her save the next white frog for me to look at. Thursday (09-16-04) she brought me one. It turned out to be an immature Gray Tree Frog. It was very pale.

I did not see anything particularly noteworthy until Friday (09-17-04) morning. While driving to work a Weasel scurried across the road. After dark, while still running errands, I saw an immature Copperhead crawl off the road near home.

Saturday (09-18-04)night, my granddaughter and I found a Carolina Sphinx Moth.

Sunday (09-19-04) morning my wife, granddaughter and I visited my mother-in-law. We had not been there very long before a next-door neighbor, who lives alone, asked me to check her house. She had been hearing something that sounded like an animal moving around in the basement. My granddaughter insisted upon accompanying me. She later said she had been a little afraid when we entered the dark basement. We did hear the pitty-patter of some small animal. We did not see anything. I expect it was a squirrel running along the top of the suspended heating ducts. However, while checking out a vent pipe on the outside of the house, we did find an immature Garter Snake foraging in the flower bed.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Not much time outdoors this week but I did enjoy some fresh air here and there.

Monday (9-13-04), Not much time outdoors. I checked my traps at the pond and only had a few aquatic bugs and beetles. I did get a treat when I checked the mail. I got my CICINDELA Journal (Magazine about Tiger Beetles, no centerfold) and was happy to see an article I had written was published. It was about Tiger Beetles and their abilities to defend themselves against lizards (as predators). Pretty neat stuff, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday (9-14-04), Caught a Black Racer under tin at work. At the pond, the traps held only a few bugs and beetles. Again. I pulled the traps out as bad weather seems to be approaching.

Wednesday (9-15-04), Hurricane Ivan approaches the Gulf Coast. Big, bad, dangerous storm.

Thursday (9-16-04), Ivan made landfall about 3:15 AM between Mobile and Pensacola. Lives were lost. By lunch we has brief but intense rains with wind. By supper time we had several tornadoes in Laurens County. Light rain (at times) and breezy the rest of the evening.

Friday (9-17-04), Rains ended here by lunch (we had very little locally) but the stiff breeze continued. The sun was out by the time I left work at 4 PM.

Saturday (9-18-04), I rambled a bit. Found an AOR Eastern Box Turtle in Union County. Found a few Six-lined Racerunners in York County. In Cherokee County I caught a few Tiger Beetles, Cicindela tranquebarica; that would be county records. Then I drifted on home and cut some grass (I fought the lawn and, the lawn won!). Why do we spend money, sometimes in large amounts, in this country, making our grass grow. And then spend more money, sometimes in large amounts, cutting our grass down? Makes NO sense to me. Then, what about the TONS of grass that have been cut by mowers? Mulch? Food for humans, livestock, or wildlife? Total waste? Enough ranting for now, I have to get back to my lawn-mower!

No storms for the next few days. Autumn arrives soon! Nights are cooler and it almost feels like CAMPING WEATHER!

Sunday (9-19-04), Church day, family day. Afternoon nap on the sofa, burgers on the grill. Nice way to spend the day.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 09-12-04

Gene's notes

Fall is just around the corner. Flowers of gold abound. Persimmon Trees are heavy with fruit. The Dogwood's leaves are beginning to turn. Along the roadsides, pickup trucks of every color are parked. In the woods, the hammering of deer hunters repairing their stands resounds.

Heavy rain from the remnants of Hurricane Frances fell Monday (09-06-04) and Tuesday (09-06-04).

Wednesday night (09-08-04), I drove around locally looking for herps. My only find was two large Leopard Frogs. From a distance, I thought they were toads because they took such little hops.

My daughter-in-law, Hope, reported seeing 67 Green Tree Frogs on the windows of a school building when she did a nighttime property check. Most were immature. She also saw a couple of Gray Tree Frogs and a Narrowmouth Toad.

Thursday night (09-09-04) and Friday night (09-10-04), I cruised again locally but saw only a few frogs. I could hardly believe I did not see a snake. Night cruises have been very unproductive this summer.

I did see one snake this week, an immature Black Racer crossing the road in Greenville. I was happy to see it complete the journey OK.

Sunday morning (09-12-04), I caught a young Eastern Painted Turtle at the pond.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Still “Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season” and it is not over yet. Not even close!

Monday (9-6-04), Warm, humid, low pressure, and overcast as Frances approaches the up-state. I walked by the pond after work and saw a Black Racer, Redbelly Watersnake, Green Treefrogs, and Southern Leopard Frogs. By bedtime, the rains had arrived. Some winds. Tornado activity was common across SC.

Tuesday (9-7-04), Warm and humid, but conditions were improving. Rain totals locally were around 6 inches.

Wednesday (9-8-04), The weather seemed quite normal. At work, I had a Giant Water Bug (Toe-Biter) in my canoe (light-trap).

Thursday (9-9-04), Herper David comes down from Asheville for a bit of outdoor fun. We walked the river pasture as it was flooding (all that rain). At one point, my leg brushed a small plant and started to sting/burn sharply! No snake, no yellowjackets, no fire ants! What gives? This was really stinging! I inspected the plant and found a Saddleback Caterpillar! Beautiful but stings like crazy! Oh well, we press on. No snakes at the pasture but we did see a Carp swimming across the pasture and lots of fire ants escaping the floods by rafting or bridging the water. We went to the pond and saw legions of frogs. Green Treefrogs, Leopard Frogs, Toads, Cricket Frogs, but no snakes. We did have fun and it was nice to meet David and spend some time with him.

Friday (9-10-04), I had been looking at this date (and its moon phase) as a good time to go back to Edgefield County to herp around a little. I had to come home briefly after work and as I drove into the yard I surprised myself by spotting a Rough Green Snake in a shrub! Good Eyes? At least a good sign for herping! I headed towards Edgefield but made a stop in Greenwood and picked up my old friend Win Ott. Win was willing to ride along and help me waste gasoline and it was good to see him. We drove to our target area, a series of country roads that would make a 8-10 mile loop through a nice mix of farms and forests. Before we even got started we were stopping to move a pretty little Eastern Painted Turtle off the road. Another good sign. We did two loops around our route before dark. We even took a look at the only patch of wild Palmetto that I know of in the SC Piedmont. The third loop pays off. Copperhead! BIG Copperhead! This was one of the most impressive I have seen. It was 40-43 inches long, very beefy, and had a wonderfully vivid pattern. We escorted him off the road. A mile or two later, Eastern Garter Snake! We made a forth cruise on our loop and were surprised to find our very large Copperhead BACK on the road! We moved him off again. A mile or three later, Win spotted a small snake that I did not see. We went back and found a small DOR Copperhead. My DOR Copperhead. I did it. Not paying attention to my driving (likely telling a joke or story) I had killed a very pretty little snake. Bummer. We made another cruise (five times around the route/loop) but it was cooling so we headed home. The only other herps were the numerous frogs/toads and a DOR Eastern Kingsnake (not MY fault this time). We also saw a Striped Skunk and the obligatory deer and rabbits.

Saturday (9-11-04), I walked by the pond and set out some funnel traps. A day for reflecting.

Sunday (9-12-04), O checked my traps and found only a few frogs and a Giant Waterbug. An Eastern Box Turtle was in the brush/debris near the pond. Neat animal.

Hurricane IVAN is in the Gulf of Mexico now and expected to come ashore around Mobile, Alabama as a major storm and then may come this way (as a tropical storm/depression) and we even have Tropical Storm “Jeanne” stewing out in the ocean! This storm season is not over! On another note, I am VERY excited to have caught those Edgefield snakes! Now the ONLY county in SC where I have never caught a snake is Barnwell. 45 down and one to go! Barnwell, here I come!

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 09-05-04

Gene's notes

While commuting this week, I saw DOR several Black Rat Snakes, a Corn Snake, a Rough Green Snake, and a Copperhead. Also, several AOR and DOR Box Turtles.

Monday (08-30-04) evening, I cruised local roads Just at the end of twilight I spotted a small snake on the road which slithered into the grass before I could get to it. Excited, I continued for another hour but saw no more.

I received some very interesting images from Morehead City, NC of a solid black Eastern Coachwhip eating a legless lizard.

Friday (09-03-04), I had the day off from work and was able to visit Joey Holmes at the Piedmont Wilderness Institute. He had a nice Flordia Green Water Snake which I wanted to photo for the website. While there, I was able to get some nice pictures of other specimens. I still have more images to post.

In the evening, my wife and I traveled to Abbeville to join in the celebration of the 1st Year Birthday of my grandson.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Life in the south is still being dominated by weather. Tropical storms/hurricanes to be exact. Throughout the week we tracked Hurricane Frances, and wondered when and where she would strike. Other than that, I had some shipping issues going on.

Monday (8-30-04), Cathy in north Georgia had asked for 200 frozen mice. I packed them in a small foam cooler and taped it shut very tight. I packed the cooler in a cardboard box, insulated it well with newspaper, and sealed the box shut. I shipped it UPS next day air. I emailed Cathy to let her know to be on the lookout. I also got an email from a friend in Lafayette, La. A live Stag Beetle I had shipped him (Priority Mail) on Wednesday (8-25-04) had arrived, dead. The US Mail had let me down, at least the mice were going UPS.

Tuesday (8-31-04), Cathy did not get her mice.

Wednesday (9-1-04), Cathy still did not get her mice.

Thursday (9-2-04). UPS called. They had pulled the box off the line and opened it! Why? I had used an old bleach box for shipping (first thing I found on campus) and they were afraid of HAZARDOUS material! No bleach, just 200 decomposing mice! I had never thought they would have a problem with the BOX! The guy at the store (where UPS picks up in Clinton) did not say anything! Super! Great! Wonderful! 200 mice wasted! I hope UPS will pay up on the insurance I had on that box. Oh, the reason they called? To ask if we wanted them to deliver it after they packed it back up! Oh my!

Friday (9-3-04), Cathy got her box of mice. She refused to accept it. Rejected delivery. She and I later made arrangements by phone for her to pick up 200 mice and just avoid shipping altogether. I made apologies. Something nice did happen. I had a nice visit at work. Gene Ott came by to shoot some pictures of some animals I had. We did not get to spend much time together, but it was good to see him.

Saturday (9-4-04), The Holmes family is up, loads the car, and departs for Helen, GA to see some of the Georgia relatives. We had arranged to meet in Helen and go tubing on the Chattahoochee River. We ate BBQ (quite nice) and hit the river. There were hundreds, if not thousands of people on the river. They were up on you ALL the time. NO peace and NO wilderness experience! Wildlife? I saw a big rat and a dead opossum! The only saving grace was the small Northern Watersnake I scared into the water and a big Queen Snake I caught (and released) under a bridge in downtown Helen! As for the town of Helen, not my style at all. It is totally geared to tourists. Oh well, it was good to see the Georgia relatives. On to Unicoi State Park. Very nice. Nice park. Nice rooms at the lodge. Good food. I went to sleep with the Weather Channel on. Hurricane Frances was coming ashore in Florida around Palm Beach.

Sunday (9-5-04), Unicoi is well known as a Tiger Beetle location. Cicindela splendida lives there and is known as a September species. I found very little appropriate habitat and no splendida. So we rambled a bit. A deer here, a groundhog there and eventually we were home.

In the up-coming days we are going to get some of Hurricane Frances here. It will by a tropical storm or tropical depression by the time it reaches us. We will just get some light wind and rain. May last a day or two as the storm is traveling very slowly. Maybe the herps will be moving!

Good luck with all your shipping efforts,

Joey Holmes

October 13, 2004
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