SC Reptile and Amphibians


May 2000

Gene's notes from May 22 - 28

Win and I, separately, have seen a number of DOR Black Rats and Black Racers, one Black Rat was still in its birth pattern. We saw a couple DOR Eastern King Snakes. Neither of us have seen a Mole King this year.

The drought seemed to have the local snakes in retreat. Fortunately, late Thursday afternoon a quickly passing thunderstorm left a quarter inch of rain which really helped freshen the surface. The electricity went out, so I decided to go out myself...road cruising. The moisture definitely helped. I found an adult Black Rat which I captured for photographing. It was nearly dark. While putting it in a container I kept in the pickup's bed, I evidently stood with one foot on a Fire Ant nest. When I started back down the road, the ants launched a biting campaign. I had to stop, get out of the truck, and counter-attack. Surviving, I went on to find an adult Corn Snake. These were the first live snakes I have found at night on the roads this year!

The next day (Friday) I found a live neonate-patterned Black Rat Snake. It had a lot of red in its colors.

On Saturday morning I found an adult female River Cooter in my drive. It was searching for a place to lay its eggs. It had come out of the river (Rabon Creek), followed the branch a short way and then headed upland. I usually see one or two each year.

I answered a lot of letters from people who had seen Black Rat Snakes in their yards and porches. A birder friend identified the mystery call for me. It was the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (a.k.a. Rain Bird).

Gene Ott


Joey's notes from May 22 - 28

Greetings to All,

Been outside a good bit this week. Lots of animals are moving. Daily I see DOR Black Ratsnakes. Other DORs are popping up as well. I seldom make a note of any except the Mole Kingsnakes. Seeing the birds and bugs of the season as expected.

Monday (5-22-00): Very little herping, I did find a (very) DOR Mole King (large adult) in Laurens, right at the Hardees!

Tuesday (5-23-00): Female Mole King that laid eggs last Tuesday started feeding again.

Wednesday (5-24-00): Took a class out walking in the river pasture, found a nice male Black Ratsnake. Mole King in the lab took another small meal. After work, a couple of colleagues stopped by. After some pictures and visiting we "went around the block". Found an adult Black Ratsnake. A *##@%* behind us ran over it and then proceeded to tell us, "It was a Copperhead." We were not pleased.). We next found a Brown Snake and an Eastern Garter. We ate "rubbish" at the big truck/auto plaza up by the interstate and finally found a DOR Mole King.

Thursday (5-25-00): I found 6 Sinaloan Milk eggs today at work. Stopped in the local National Forest for an AOR Black Ratsnake. Helped him get off the road before he became just another DOR.

Friday (5-26-00): Decided to herp some over in Union County (never have caught a snake in Union, have seen AOR and DOR, just never caught one...thought I should) and found nothing but a DOR Mole King (adult male) that had been killed earlier in the evening.

Saturday (5-27-00): Got a single African House Snake egg at work. Later, neighbors killed a snake in their yard. Wanted me to ID it. Black Ratsnake. I thought by now most folks recognized black snakes as harmless and left them alone. Not the case around here (obviously). Coming home from that, I turned a AOR baby Midland Watersnake into a DOR Midland Watersnake. It was very small...I didn't see it soon enough...I tried to swerve...SORRY!

Sunday (5-28-00): Family Day at the lake. Blue Jays showed us a nice male Black Ratsnake and we enjoyed watching him climb down a tree. Walked about a bit and found an Eastern Kingsnake under plywood scraps in a trashed area. In the lake, I found 3 "Northern looking" sipedons (Browns have turned up in Lake Greenwood, I was wanting one, but no luck).

Joey Holmes


Gene's notes from May 15 - 21

I noticed a few more DORs this week. Mostly Black Racers and Black Rats, and one Eastern King Snake. Thursday, I found AOR a Rough Green Snake and a Yellow-Bellied Slider. Despite the warm weather, I still have not found a live snake on the roads at night this year.

Win and I visited the Savannah River Site (SRS) on Saturday with the Southeastern Hot Herps Society. We were all guests of the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecological Laboratory (SREL) which is located there. The renown herpetologist, Whit Gibbons, was our host and guide. SRS is a very special place, because being a large, secure government facility, its habitats and wildlife have been protected since the 1950s. Data on herps at the site have been gathered and analyzed for many decades.

Before going to the field we offered a road-killed squirrel to "Stumpy," a large alligator kept in a pen behind the main lab building. Whit gave us a good look at a large Alligator Snapping Turtle also kept on-site.

Temperatures reached into the 90s and we did not start herping until about 11 a.m. We were searching primarily for snakes. We first flipped some tin (pieces of galvanized-steel roofing which were numbered and placed about the forest floor). There were 11 of us plus our guide. The group's first find was a Southeastern Crowned Snake. It was gray due to moulting. The next find was a Black Racer. Finished with the tin, we went to a pine forest known to have a population of Carolina Pigmy Rattlesnakes. Although we all we hoping to find a Pigmy, we did not see any. Another Black Racer was found basking on a log.

After a quick lunch, we visited a wetlands habitat along Upper Three Runs Creek. Because of the continuing drought, the only standing water was in the creek itself. Four Cottonmouths were found (2 were caught). The group split, with some of us visiting man-made pond and the others hiked to an artisian spring. At the pond, we found a Redbelly Water Snake foraging along the pond's edge. I also saw a Great Horned Owl. We saw a couple of large alligators in the pond. The other group found a Brown Water Snake. Whit, who in the meantime had taken a canoe ride down the creek with another group of visitors, returned with a small Rainbow Snake (about 2 foot). Before he boarded, he had jokingly asked for the loan of a bag so he could bring us back a Rainbow if he saw one! Unfortunately, this Rainbow was preparing to moult and was very gray.

At the end of the day, we were shown some of the outstanding specimens in the SREL's live collections. There were hypo-melanistic specimens of the Cottonmouth and Canebrake Rattlesnake. The Canebrake had been caught in the wild and the Cottonmouth had been in a litter from two wild captured snakes. These snakes were unusual and beautiful. For photographing, the snakes were placed in box with pine straw and leaves. I could not help but think that if I caught a glimpse of either of these snakes in the wild fleeing through straw and leaves, I would grasp it thinking it was a Florida Pine Snake. We also photographed a beautiful Carolina Pigmy Rattlesnake specimen. Win and I also took pictures of their Southern Hognose Snake and an immature Eastern Indigo Snake. Win and I also considered it to be a special treat to see 3 large Two-Toed Amphiumas in the SREL collection. Despite the admonition about their "vicious bites," Win picked up each one and held if for photographing.

The day was great fun and we thank Whit Gibbons for giving up his Saturday to be such a fine host. Also, many thanks Chris Harper, president of SHHS, for arranging and coordinating the trip.

I need help from other herpers to identify a call that I been hearing from the trees the last couple weeks. It sounds amphibian but could be avian. Any ideas?

Gene Ott


Joey's notes from May 15 - 21

Had a beautiful week, been outside a lot, caught some nice things, seen great dragonflies and butterflies but nothing new. Same lizards (have been seeing more Broadhead Skinks this year than most years, but then I have been hanging around the local Sumter National Forest where there are a lot of old dead pines with loose bark). The expected mammals, turtles, frogs and toads were seen.

Monday (5-15-00): Got called in to work the 2nd shift. At work, the dog had a Black Ratsnake cornered, an adult female. Later with a class out herping, we found a AOR Rough Green Snake. We also saw a Fox Squirrel (hard to find in Laurens Co).

Tuesday (5-16-00): Got our Mole King eggs! 12 of them, but 1 is a dud. I'll try to get weights and measurements weekly until hatching time. Saw a Summer Tanager at work. Herped after work and interrupted a romantic-redneck-rendezvous out in the National Forest. I did find some more worthwhile things like a Redbelly Snake and Red-Shoulder Hawk.

Wednesday (5-17-00): Found a Black Ratsnake on campus, lots of Ebony Jewelwings, and Indigo Buntings. Out in the National Forest after work, I found a huge shed skin. I had Pine Snakes on my mind, so I grabbed up the skin and looked closely; keeled scales! and on the head only 2 prefrontals. It was a ratsnake. I'll find a Laurens County Pine someday! That area looks great, sandy soil, mature open pine forest, loads of rodent holes. Super area, he's there. I just have to find him!

Thursday (5-18-00): A friend in NY shipped me some Speckled Kings, 2 nice males. I will only need 1 for breeding next year, so I have a spare. Anyone interested? We had another set of Corn eggs laid, and on the way home, I found my first Mole Kingsnake of the year! a small female AOR, maybe a '98 hatchling, with good colors.

Friday (5-19-00): Herping locally with students, we found a Southeastern Crowned Snake and Eastern Worm Snake. At one big dead pine, I peeled some loose bark and suddenly bark started sliding down the tree. Lots of bark. 35 feet or so worth of bark. There was bark everywhere. Then we realized that in the bark were Bats (likely Evening Bats). There were bats everywhere! 20-30 hopping, squeaking, crawling through the bark on the ground. There were some babies, and some were injured, but many climbed into bushes and vines and then flew away. I'm very sorry I destroyed their home. I'm not much of a bark-peeler. I may try to stick with smaller trees or stuff on the ground from now on.

Saturday (5-20-00): On campus we found a Southern Ringneck Snake and Brown Snake. After work, a friend from Charlotte came down for a few hours of herping. We road-cruised, flipped cover, and walked 'till around 11 PM. We found a Copperhead, 4 Redbelly Watersnakes, and 1 Northern Watersnake. We also found Eastern Mud Turtles, Leopard Frogs, Cricket Frogs, Bullfrogs, Gray Treefrogs, Green Treefrogs, and Fowler's Toads.

Sunday (5-21-00): My friend and I continued to look/herp. We found Shrews, Northern Red Salamanders and Marbled Salamanders, Eastern Narrowmouth Toads, several varieties of Skink, and 2 Black Racers, in addition to the expected frogs/toads/lizards/turtles. Several of these animals were first timers for my friend. My favorite animal of the day? Under the log that holds Spotted Salamanders in the winter and Marbleds in the spring/summer, there was a hole, and in that hole, I saw mandibles, the mandibles of a GIANT STAG BEETLE! My favorite insect! (I usually find these on store fronts in the mornings or on sandbars and log jams in rivers. This was the first time for me finding one in a hole under a log. I do hope to herp more with this friend. Hopefully, he'll come back here and we could also get to other parts of the state as well. He's still keen to catch his first Kingsnake (until recently he lived up north). After he left, we had to run up to Spartanburg and I spotted a DOR Longtail Weasel on I-26.

Indoors herping/breeding is going well. Outside the animals are moving (although it is quite dry this spring). Good bugs, birds, and mammals are active. It's a nice spring.

Joey Holmes


Notes from May 8 - 14

The week started out with a increase in DOR snakes, including Black Racers, Black Rat, Corn, and Copperhead. I did find a Black Racer AOR and Win turned up a Brown Snake while mowing the lawn. He also picked up an immature Mud Turtle for his terrarium. I cruised for about an hour on several nights but found no live snakes on the road. Although the days have been warm, the temperature has been dropping quickly after sundown. Saturday evening though, the temperature remained high after dark and I thought surely I would find a snake on the road but did not. That's about the extent of herping this week.

I have enjoyed watching all the birds. Most have nests, some with hatchlings: Bluebird, Mockingbird, Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Redheaded and Redbelly Woodpeckers, Barn Swallows, Indigo Bunting, Summer Tangers, and Carolina Wrens. A pair of Redtailed Hawks keep vigil each day in a dead oak tree at the far end of the pasture. In an attempt to get a good picture, I set my camera up about 100 feet from the tree one afternoon and kept the camera running for 4 hours until dark. They did not come to the tree; I guess the "big eye" spooked them. The Softshell Turtles in the pond are just as skidish. They will bask on the rock all afternoon, but if I set the camera out, even partially hidden behind some bushes, they will not come to the rock.

Win and I hope to have more to report next week. We are planning to join members of the Southeastern Hot Herps Society on their annual visit to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL).

Gene Ott


It has been quite warm this week. Herps have been active and many DOR's have been found. Mostly Ratsnakes and Racers, but Copperheads and Eastern Kings have been there also. Seeing lots of Question Mark Butterflies and great dragonflies this week.

Sunday,5-7-00: Around Sunset, after sending out last week's report, I went to the pond with a friend to get some feeder toads. We didn't even get to the pond before finding a AOR Redbelly Watersnake and AOR Brown Snake. We kept riding. Found a DOR Copperhead. Pretty quick little evening run.

Monday, (5-8-00): Under tin, I found an Eastern Worm Snake. Around and about I saw Red-Shoulder Hawk. In the nearby cemetery I saw Racerunners. At work we got a clutch of Okeetee Corn Snake eggs and one of our "Hybrid" Corns (Great Plains Ratsnake mother and Okeetee father) dropped a set of eggs after being mated with an Okeetee Corn (not many eggs, but big eggs; should have nice color). Still waiting for more Corn eggs, Everglades Ratsnakes, Florida Kings, and Mole Kings. I'm going to need a lot of those little plastic containers!

Tuesday, (5-9-00): Up early, at work we loaded a van with snorkeling gear, butterfly net, and snake hooks. We went to the national forest near Charleston. Caught a nice adult female Eastern Kingsnake right away and no more snakes were seen. We found dragonflies and butterflies above the ground; under water, in the clear-water pond, we found Bream and Bass. There were tadpoles, also, and the Southern Toads were coming out on land starting their new lives. We saw the usual/expected birds and heard the calls of Southern Cricket Frogs.

Wednesday, (5-10-00): The kids at work found a Black Ratsnake early in the morning. Later that evening, I went to the pond for feeder frogs/toads. The little Leopard Frogs were emerging, and in places the grass shaked because so many were jumping through. Also found Cricket Frogs, Green and Gray Treefrogs, Bullfrogs, Fowler's Toads and more of the tiny (rice-sized) froglets were emerging. On the way back home I found a nice (34-36 inch) Copperhead (AOR).

Thursday, (5-11-00): Mostly inside, at work and at home. A colleague stopped by, picked up some feeder frogs, and dropped off a SPLENDID BISON SKULL! It was an extra. I suppose if I had two Bison skulls I would want to share also. THANKS!

Friday, (5-12-00): It was very hot with tons of pollen. Went out with kids in the morning. We found a black phase Eastern Hognose (the kids all walked right by), and we went to the cemetery to show them the Racerunners.

Saturday, (5-13-00): Nothing under the tin.

Early Sunday, (5-14-00): Found a DOR Eastern Worm Snake (never seen this before!).

Hope that this week is warm. We also need rains badly. Breeding is underway with most reptiles and many Amphibs. This is the greatest season. It's beautiful outside. DO NOT MISS IT!

Joey Holmes

Notes from May 1 - 7

Neither Win nor I did much herping this week. The days were warm but the nights cooled quickly. I road cruised locally several evenings just after sundown but did not find any live herps, other than toads. Most of the snake DORs seem to have been killed during daylight so far. The DORs which I took time to note were 3 Rough Green Snakes, 2 Corn Snakes, and a Redbelly Water Snake. Win caught a Midland Brown Snake in the pasture one afternoon and reported seeing several DOR Black Racers.

The 3 Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtles which we released into the fish pond seem to be doing well. We see them most every day basking on the rock in the middle of the pond; usually the females, but the male makes ocassional appearances. Locally, the Fowlers Toads and Gray Tree Frogs are still singing, but the Cricket Frogs are the most vocal.

E-mails from website visitors seeking to ID snakes have been increasing each week. Several people have encountered black-phased Eastern Hognose Snakes this Spring.

Gene Ott


It has been a warm week; the usual Skinks, Anoles, Fence Lizards, basking Cooters/Sliders/Softshells were common. No new dragonflies, butterflies, or Tiger Beetles were seen. Just lots of the same old stuff. The month of May usually means (to me) that the Mole Kingsnakes and Giant Stag Beetles come out around here. Didn't get them yet but will keep trying. I have been off work this week, but stayed local and had limited outdoors time. Really enjoyed it though.

Monday (5-1-00): Still sick but must get outside. Visiting around the local National Forest and other spots here and there, I found 2 Black Racers (didn't catch either; okay, so I fell down chasing one and didn't even get the truck stopped for the other, but I did see them!), 1 Black Rat Snake, 1 Southern Ringneck, 1 Rough Green Snake, 1 Redbelly Snake and 1 Eastern Worm Snake (these were here at home under the tin).

Tuesday (5-2-00): My wife was not feeling well, so I spent the day with her.

Wednesday (5-3-00): Under tin here and at the pond, I saw (briefly) what appeared to be 2 Longtail Shrews, an Upland Chorus Frog, Redbelly Snake, and an Eastern Worm Snake. I got a call from work that one of the Cornsnakes had dropped her eggs (23, as I would later count). I checked my funnel trap by the river. I had 2 crayfish. One was odd, with a lot of red on the underside and red bumps on the pinchers. I also saw some Painted and Mud Turtles, a Chipmunk, Red-Shouldered Hawk, 2 pair of Wood Ducks and a Mallard hen. Nice afternoon for a walk.

I went to the pond that evening and found Bull Frogs, Cricket Frogs, Fowlers Toads, Gray and Green Treefrogs (all singing) as well as 1 Green Frog and a Southern Leopard Frog. There were also some small froglets coming out of the water. They were still tailed and were about the size of a grain of cooked rice. I guess they were little Chorus Frogs or Peepers. I also found a Mud Turtle, 2 Northern/Midland Watersnakes and 2 Redbelly Watersnakes.

Thursday (5-4-00): Up and out very early that morning I hit a small Gray Fox with my wife's new car (no damage to the car; the fox was totaled). I later went by work and checked on the animals. I fed the venomous snakes at home (all eating but the old black Timber; she'll start soon). I went across the road here at home, and found 1 Racerunner out basking in the cemetery.

Friday (5-5-00): I took my son and nephew up to the Tyger River. We saw the expected turtles and found 4 Northern/Midlands Watersnakes. Two of the snakes were breeding as we watched from about 5 yards away. Neat. Later I went to the Enoree River and checked the trap. It had caught 3 watersnakes: 2 adult Redbellies and 1 Northern/Midland. We also saw 2 Black Racers AOR but didn't catch either one.

Saturday (5-6-00): My 9 year anniversary of working at Piedmont Wilderness Institute! Checked my tin and found an Eastern Worm Snake and a Southern Ringneck. Went by the pond and found a herd of very small American Toads marching up the hillside, going out to start their new lives. Road cruised the evening in the local National Forest. Found a small Black Ratsnake and two Whip-Poor-Wills.

Sunday (5-7-00): I went up to the Tiger River and looked for Tiger Beetles. I found 6-Spots and C. repandas and thought I had another type but lost it. I saw the usual turtles, lizards, plus a Redbelly Watersnake. Stopping by the pond, I got a Violet Masked Glider for my (very small) collection of dragonflies.

Joey Holmes

May 30, 2000
Gene Ott

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