SC Reptile and Amphibians


March 2005

Week Ending 04-03-05

Gene's notes

This has been an aggravating week. I have been trying for a month to arrange a time to get my driveway graded and graveled. Tuesday (3-29-05), the drive was graded. Then it poured rain for two days. My drive is about 1300 linear feet, so the rain caused a real inconvenience. Knowing the rain was coming, my wife and I moved our commuting cars to the end of the drive nearest the public road. Then we had to travel back and forth to our house in my 4-wheel drive pickup. In order not to destroy the graded drive, we traveled across the fields.

Friday (4-1-05), was cool with drizzle. My contractor returned and repacked a brush pile that I plan to burn.

Saturday (4-2-05), the rain went away and was replaced by high winds. I believe they gusted many times above 50 mph. The shingles on the roof of my wellhouse began lifting. I had to nail boards onto the roof to stop the shingles from being ripped off. The winds caused a 4-hour power outage to the house.

Sunday (4-3-05), was a beautiful warm day with mild winds. Unfortunately, I had things to do which kept me from getting outside. I did identify some White-throated Sparrows at the feeder behind the house. This was the first time I have seen them around the farm. Probably because the new house is located in a different habitat. There is a dense briar and bramble patch behind the house.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Been a lot going on. Last week, I sent out this report early Sunday morning, as I knew I had a big day ahead. Turned out to be true, so it is time to catch up.

Sunday (3-27-05), The Holmes family wishes all a very happy Easter! Not normal for us to miss church on such an occasion, we had to travel. Before we left I checked the tin in the back yard and despite the cool and drizzle I found the little Copperhead laying out near the piece of tin he is usually under. Back to traveling. It is almost always good to put wheels on pavement and head south, especially this time of year! I was due at a conference for work on Monday in Live Oak, Florida (near I-10 and I-75 in north Fla) and we planned to spend the night in the Okefenokee region of south Georgia. Intending to have some fun, I packed no pants, only shorts, T-shirts, and sneakers to wear! It was a bad day for driving and we had several hours of rain to endure. Along I-95 in South Carolina I missed several spots with tin and plywood that I normally check, because it was raining so hard. There were also six wrecks on I-95 in the course of about 100 miles of SC-Ga! We crept along, and all the nature we noticed were a few Storks and Ibis here and there near the highway. We got off the interstate at Woodbine, Ga and made out way towards Folkston. Made a brief stop (the weather calmed for just a minute) and checked tin around an old house site but only found one small Black Racer. The rain hit again, hard for about 45 minutes more then let us be. We swung around the east and south of Okefenokee and began to see butterflies and dragonflies as we drove. Even found a fresh DOR Cornsnake. We arrived in Fargo and checked into the “Gator Motel”. It is a fine establishment. Four rooms. No office. You make reservations by phone (they are unlisted, so you kind of have to get referred) and your name is on a door, the room is unlocked, and the key is inside. When you leave, you leave a check on the dresser, and leave the key there also, and lock the door behind you. SO cool! After checking in, I rode around and put some minnow traps out in the roadside ditches. After sunset I did some road cruising. Found 2 AOR Banded Watersnakes. Saw two Gray Foxes, and an opossum. It was a bit chilly so I went back to the Gator and hit the sack.

Monday (3-28-05), my son, Hunter, and I checked the traps and pulled them in while Mrs. Holmes walked around "downtown" Fargo and took pictures. We had one Bullfrog, a Giant Water Bug, and some small fish/crayfish/tadpoles. Breakfast at the Suwannee River Cafe in Fargo and on the road towards Live Oak. We arrived at the location (Cerveny Conference Center at Camp Weed) and checked in. Hunter and I explored the camp and set out the traps. The camp is beautiful (I had been there several time before and I had caught a Corns, Cottonmouth, Racers, and a Coral Snake there back in ’97) and crawling with herps. We saw tons of Anoles, Skinks, and Cricket Frogs. We saw a huge Black Racer but he was very fast and escaped. We looked at Gopher Tortoise burrows and Tiger Beetles, Cicindela scutellaris. Dragonflies and butterflies were EVERYWHERE! It was still cool in the evening,

Tuesday (3-29-05), Classes went well. We had a great group of staff to train in OUTDOORS skills and working with them was a pleasure. In spare time, I collected some Land Snails for a colleague and checked the traps. Along the way I saw 3 Black Racers (got one of them to show the class) and some Tiger Beetles (scutellaris was the only species there). The traps held minnows, crayfish, diving beetles, a Bronze Frog, and a Banded Water Snake. It was warmer so by evening Green Treefrogs were singing with the Cricket Frogs and Leopard Frogs.

Wednesday (3-30-05), I took the staff in our group on an outdoor nature walk. We looked at plants, animals, and fossils. We checked the traps and found a Two-toed Amphiuma (fun, and the group found it quite interesting), another Banded Watersnake, and loads of beetles/fish/crayfish. Along the way we saw a Black Racer, a Banded Watersnake and caught a baby Peninsula Ribbon Snake. We looked at the Tiger Beetles and Gopher holes. We caught dragonflies and butterflies. It was a good outing. That evening I rambled and heard Gray Treefrogs, Green Treefrogs, Cricket Frogs, Leopard Frogs, and Pig Frogs.

Thursday (3-31-05), We took a break from our group and joined the aquatics class for a float trip down the Suwannee River. The river was up, and currents and winds made paddling a bit difficult. Several boats flipped, and the 3 hour float took over 6 hours. Early on I stalked the Brown Watersnakes and caught some to show the group (I saw 12, caught 3) but the difficulty of paddling back up-stream soon convinced me to leave them alone. On a sandbar I saw some Tiger Beetles (likely Cicindela trifasciata). The best bird of the day was a Swallow-Tail Kite. Heavy rain started about the time we approached the take-out, and after 20 miles of hard paddling, Mrs. Holmes and I were very sore. Very tired. Very sore. We took some aspirin, and treated ourselves to a BBQ supper in town. (Ken's BBQ in Live Oak, FL. Pretty good stuff)

Friday (4-1-05), We finished our sessions, packed and loaded the car, and were on the road by 11 AM. We made the routine stops a family makes as we traveled. We even made a side trip over to Georgia’s Jekyll Island. It is a very pretty place and we hope to return someday. Then the rain hit. And the traffic crawled. It rained hard for about the next 100 miles, and for the next 60 miles the traffic crept on I-95. Never over 40 mph, many times we stopped altogether! Misery. Finally we started moving normally, and arrived home at 11 PM. It has been a long day, and from the heat of Florida (where we had the air conditioner on in our room) to the cool of South Carolina (where we had to turn the heat on in the house when we got here). Quite a day.

Saturday (4-2-05), Cool and very windy. I checked my tin. I found 3 Southern Ringneck Snakes, 3 Redbelly Snakes, and a MOLE KINGSNAKE! This one was an old friend and I recognized him at once due to some broken ribs that caused a dent in his side! I also have photocopies of his belly pattern. I have caught this snake 4 times before! October 30, 2003 June 8, 2004 June 13, 2004 June 20, 2004

He has always been in an area of about 40 yards squared, and has shown up three seasons now. I hope this will continue for many years to come. I seldom see these before May so this was a nice treat.

(The TV series filmed in Laurens (TLC's TOWN HAUL) aired an episode that featured a lot of the local art gallery and had Hunter (playing mandolin and guitar) and several good friends/various family members. I even showed up in the background a time or two, but not intentionally.)

Sunday (4-3-05), Trying to get back into a family routine, I did not spend much time outdoors but did see turtles basking around noon as we crossed the river. Later I checked my tin and found the expected Ground Skinks, Southeastern Five-Lined Skinks, Slimy Salamanders, two Redbelly Snakes, and the little Copperhead. He was not under his usual piece of tin but was about 15 feet away, under a different sheet (of tin).

Been a busy week. Spring is upon us now, and I am really enjoying it so far!

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 03-27-05

Gene's notes

I still have not found a snake this year. My son, Win, found a DOR Black Racer near home.

Last week, I spotted a large, bird nest in a tall pine tree. I can see it from home but it is over a quarter mile away. I bought myself a 45 power spotting scope to see it. I was able to identify the owner as a Red-tailed Hawk.

Saturday (3-26-05), Win set out through the woods to get a closer look at the hawk nest. With a little direction from me by walkie-talkie, he located the tree and saw the hawk.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Spring now. Time to get down to business!

Monday (3-21-05), I had my students spend a few minutes outside and we flipped tin finding a small Redbellied Snake. We also visited the creek on campus and collected some small items to offer the Striped Crayfish Snake. We got a crayfish, hellgramite (Dobsonfly larva), Cranefly larva, and Dusky Salamander. We offered these to the snake.

Tuesday (3-22-05), 24 hours with the opportunity to take food, and the Crayfish Snake still had not fed. Oh well. On another note, we dropped a Chorus Frog in the cage with a small Checkered Garter Snake and noticed something odd. There was a certain amount of hopping and darting about the cage, then the snake began to do some serious tongue flicking, as if he had noticed the smell of food. Nothing odd at all. But then it began to do a slow tongue motion. Slowly rolling it in a way that in NO way resembled routine “tongue flicking”. I am reasonably sure it was lingual luring. Gibbons/Dorcus mention this in Mangrove Salt Marsh Snakes in their new book and even feature a photo of the act. The curling, shown in the photo is exactly what my little garter was doing. Neat! I will look into this a little more.

Wednesday (3-23-05), We offered a spare Dusky Salamander to the other baby Checkereds and watched closely for five minutes but saw no odd behavior.

Thursday (3-24-05), We offered a spare Chorus Frog to the other baby Checkereds and watched closely for five minutes but noticed nothing. Perhaps they are not hungry. Most did tank up on earthworms on Monday.

Friday (3-25-05), Beautiful spring day! Some of the boys found an Eastern Worm Snake on campus about the time I was leaving. Inspired, I checked my tin when I got home. Loads of Ground Skinks and Slimy Salamanders were found. Then came my first Southern Ringneck Snake of 2005. Then I checked a good piece of tin. The one where I kept finding that little Copperhead last fall. I lifted it and there he was! The same little Copperhead (has a distinct look) that I had not seen since 11-8-04. Great to see him. He looked like a good shed and a few meals would do him some good, but that is to be expected.

Saturday (3-26-05), I checked the tin, but today, the little Copperhead is not there. I went to the pond. Frogs and Eastern Painted Turtles splashed in as I walked around. American Toads trilled slowly from concealed locations. A lone male Ringneck Duck patrolled the pond and I flushed a pair of Wood Ducks from the little swampy area by the pond. My best sight of the day was my first Dragonfly of 2005. It was a Green Darner, which is a respectable animal in both size and color. Neat.

Sunday (3-27-05), We have a busy day ahead.

It is starting!

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 03-20-05

Gene's notes

Tuesday (3-15-05), upon leaving a medical appointment I noticed a gentle tapping. A pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches were searching the crevices of the roof edge for insects.

Saturday (3-19-05), I went to Columbia to help with the herpetology booth at the Palmetto Sportsmen Classic. It was a real treat that my son, Win, was able to go with me. The event was very well-attended and we had a steady stream of visitors to the booth.Steve Bennett, of SC DNR, organized the booth and the Savannah River Ecology Lab supplied most of the live animals on display. There were ten of us volunteers helping with the booth and we were all busy showing the animals and speaking with visitors. Denise and Erik Billings, of the Turtle and Tortoise Society of Charleston, were at the booth with several of their rescued (repaired) turtles. All the animals exhibited were native to SC, except the male Alligator Snapping Turtle. The Alligator Snapper was a small male, approximately 85 pounds. Erik frequently picked the big turtle up to display it and always drew a crowd of onlookers. I believe this kind of exhibit does much good in helping educate the public.

Sunday (3-20-05), was a beautiful Spring day. My granddaughter and I walked a woodland trail. We saw tracks of deer, rabbits, opposum, turkey, and coyote. We checked some coverboards and found two Fence Lizards. Later, I found ten Red-spotted Newts and two medium-large tadpoles in a minnow trap in the farm pond. After releasing them, I removed the trap. I still have not found my first snake for the year. It cannot be too much longer.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Monday (3-14-05), A normal day. Not too warm. Not too cool. Bland. Blah. Blah.

Tuesday (3-15-05), A better day. It seemed a bit warmer and while going about routine business my class and I noticed a Tiger Beetle! A Cicindela tranquebarica. Cool! My students stalked it, but it eluded them. We decided to spend a bit more time outside and found another Tiger Beetle. This time it was a Cicindela sexguttata. Beautifully green, we got this one in hand and the boys were duly impressed. Later, after work, errands sent me to nearby Spartanburg and while there, I decided to drop in on my friend at Wofford College. We had a pleasant visit and he offered to let me take some super animals back to keep in my classroom at PWI. First was a red-phase Eastern Garter Snake, an adult female from the lowcountry of South Carolina. The other snake may be a bigger challenge. It is a male, Striped Crayfish Snake, Regina alleni. It will be neat to see if it will eat the local species of crayfish and crane-fly larva (as did a Glossy Crayfish Snake I kept for 29 months).

Wednesday (3-16-05), Cold and rainy. Not my idea of fun. Work as usual. No time outdoors. We did meet and set up the new snakes.

Thursday (3-17-05), Cold and rainy. Not my idea of fun. Work as usual. No time outdoors.

Friday (3-18-05), A normal day at work, we feed our classroom animas and had good success. Seems all have taken food since they came out of hibernation.

Saturday (3-19-05), I have a horrible cold. Misery heaped on misery. Not so sick as to be incapacitated, just sick enough to not want to do anything, and be miserable. I did putter around the house and made some bowls on the pottery wheel. The TV series filmed in Laurens, TOWN HAUL, aired and even though we tried to avoid the cameras, Mrs. Holmes and I did get caught in a crowd-scene briefly. Our son got into three little scenes (crowd-scenes) but worked hard on the projects so he may get some attention next week.

Sunday (3-20-05), Still feeling pretty cruddy with my cold, I did have one important thing to do. I spoke at an Eagle Scout Ceremony for my nephew, Stephen. Stephen is close in age to my son, and has been like a brother to him. He has joined us in the field on many herping or bugging adventures, and seeing him make EAGLE was great. Congratulations Stephen!

Spring yet?

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 03-13-05

Gene's notes

This was a very windy week. Temperatures up and down. American Toads have joined the Spring chorus.

Wednesday (3-9-05), my son, Win, brought to me for photographing a dead, but unmarked, Northern Flicker he found on the side of a road.

Sunday (3-13-05), was a beautiful warm day. My granddaughter and I looked around the farm for animals. We found the usual Anoles. The Worm Snake boards did not have any residents. We found masses of frogs eggs in the spring drainage. We checked a minnow trap in the pond. I was surprised to find only 2 fish. Later, Win told me he had checked it earlier, found 9 Red-spotted Newts it the trap, and released them.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Another week of winter over. Another week of March enjoyed (mostly).

Monday (3-7-05), A BEAUTIFUL day! It was warm and sunny! While at work, we spent a few minutes outside and found Anoles and Fence Lizards, Chorus Frogs, Slimy Salamanders, and an Eastern Worm Snake. After work, I checked my tin at home and found another Eastern Worm Snake, more Slimy Salamanders, and tons of Ground Skinks. This was a great day for spring Butterflies! I noticed Azures, Falcate Orangetips, a Sulphur, and a Mourning Cloak! All a nice indicator of the beauty the coming weeks will share.

Tuesday (3-8-05), After a rainy night, we had a cooler day. Work as usual and no time to get outdoors.

Wednesday (3-9-05), Another cool day. Work as usual and no time to get outdoors.

Thursday (3-10-05), Normal winter day. Work as usual and no time to get outdoors.

Friday (3-11-05), Normal winter day Work as usual. We did feeding in the classroom and had good success getting snakes to eat. Even those fresh out of hibernation did pretty well.

Saturday (3-12-05), The forecast told me to expect 48 degrees and windy. I planned a day of inside work. It turned out to be sunny, in the mid-sixties and windy. I wish I had spent the day outside! The TV series, Town Haul, filmed in Laurens aired episode two at 10 PM. I wasn’t featured, nor were any close family, but I did see a lot of people I knew.

Sunday (3-13-05), Another splendid day. I took a quick stroll around the pond to see what was going on there. I chased away the Ringneck Ducks, about 50, as I arrived. I heard lots of frogs, mostly Spring Peepers but there were a few Upland Chorus Frogs calling and I did hear at least one American Toad. On one side of the pond there was a little pocket of water that was teeming with tadpoles. Big Bullfrog tadpoles. They seemed to be stuck in there so I used my bug net to scoop some out. Must have moved about 75-100 out into the open water but I am sure more were in there. I also cut a little trench so more could escape into the pond. Farther along I noticed an Eastern Mud Turtle basking on a little tuft of grass. No Dragonflies and No Tiger Beetles were seen but I did find loads of Whirlygig Beetles and a neat Ground Beetle called Galerita bicolor. First of these I have seen this year.

Could have been better, could have been worse.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 03-06-05

Gene's notes

It is beginning to feel like Spring. March winds are roaring; the sunlight is brighter; and the days are longer.

During the week, my son and daughter-in-law moved into the farmhouse which my wife and I left last October. It will be nice to have family close, but strange to have neighbors that we can see.

On Saturday (03-05-05) and Sunday (03-06-05) the Green Anoles were out in full force. I saw my first Fence Lizard for the year.

My family was over for a mid-day Sunday dinner. While relaxing after the meal, my son noticed a hawk flying near the house. We confirmed that it was a female Harrier Hawk. After a few minutes, the hawk lit on the ground in the front yard. My camera was in my van parked at the rear of the house. I got my camera, but the hawk had resumed its hunting. We watched it hunt the entire field in front of the house. On several ocassions, the hawk made quick backward flips to the ground. We figured the hawk was attacking a field rat or mouse. We could never confirm that it actually caught anything.

My son, daughter, granddaughter (4 yrs), and I went for a walk in the woods on Sunday afternoon. We flipped a few coverboards I had put out last year. Found a Ground Skink and a large Slug. The ground is still cold. We achieved one of our goals: the location of an old house site. We found an old soft drink bottle. The neck was broken off. It was a Chero-Cola. Later, I learned from the Internet that Chero-Cola was a very early product of the company which is now known as RC Cola.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

February is over, and we are well on the way to Spring!

Monday (2-28-05), A cold and soggy day.

Tuesday (3-1-05), Another cold and soggy day. We moved our classroom snakes out of a storage room where they had been kept cool and dark for the winter. For many of my students, it was the first time they saw and met these snakes.

Wednesday (3-2-05), Clear, but cool and windy.

Thursday (3-3-05), A decent day, I noticed a very pretty sunrise.

Friday (3-4-05), A pretty day. We offered food to the snakes we had moved back into the classroom. We had about 50% success. The others will feed soon enough. I took a few minutes after work and checked the tin on campus. Found the same old Eastern Worm Snake, in the same old spot, under the same old piece of tin. Good to see this old friend. I had another visit with a friend. My friend Joe stopped by and bought some mice. It is always nice to see him and we had a good visit.

Saturday (3-5-05), A pretty day, but I had things to do and spent a lot of it inside. The TLC show “TOWN HAUL” began to air the episodes shot in Laurens a few months ago. I was pleased the way that Laurens and its people were portrayed. I even saw my wife (in the art gallery), my son (playing guitar at an event in town), and myself (I had tried to avoid the cameras, but did get caught in a crowd-scene). I look forward to the next episode, next Saturday night, 10 PM, on TLC.

Sunday (3-6-05), Warmed by the sun, I ventured outside. I visited the pond, where I saw about 50 ducks. Most were Ringnecks, but at least one pair of Wood Ducks and one pair of Mallards were in the mix. Some Geese, Herons, and Plovers were there too. Leopard Frog eggs filled the little side swamp and splashes I heard told me turtles were basking, but could not be seen. Anoles and Slimy Salamanders were in the debris pile near the pond. Inspired, I went to the pasture. More Mallards in the backswamp, I saw two flocks of Wild Turkey. There were several River Cooters I saw, as they basked on the logs in the river. I also met my first Tiger Beetle of the year, a Cicindela repanda! On to town to get some groceries. In Laurens, I saw a flock of 15 Wild Turkeys, as I left the Winn Dixie parking lot! Third time I have seen a flock there. Urbanization of wildlife.

I have one thing I need to mention. Chad Minter of Georgia is running a special on his new book , “VENOMOUS SNAKES OF THE SOUTHEAST”. Chad has generously offered to donate books to PWI based on the success of this promotion! How VERY thoughtful and kind! If you have not already scored a copy of this book, get one now. Your purchase will help me help kids! The offer applies to copies purschased directly from him during the period from March 6, 2005 to March 13, 2005. Information about the book and the offer can be found by clicking HERE.

Joey Holmes

April 3, 2005
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