I have tried this week, I really have, and found a lot of snakes (etc) just not my goal species.
Monday (5-9-05), I made a quick, early morning check of my tin, and found two Southern Ringneck Snakes and a sleepy Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata. Later, while mowing, I noticed a nice female Broad-Head Skink. After an evening run to Laurens, I took the scenic route home, and was lucky enough to see my first Coyote in Laurens County! It ran (fast) across the road and through a field. It had something in its mouth, perhaps a rabbit or some other prey, but maybe it was a female moving a litter of pups, one at a time and that is what I saw. Still getting used to seeing these “western” animals in SC.
Tuesday (5-10-05), I left home about 6:20 AM. Destination? Lots of places in particular, but generally speaking South Carolina's lower Coastal Plain. The goals? Southern Hognose Snakes and Rainbow Snakes (but every snake/herp is fun to find) and Tiger Beetles. The plan? Trap and cruise for Rainbows by night, and search roads and debris/AC for Southern Hogs by day.
My first noteworthy find was in Orangeburg County at a gas station, it was a neat Scarab, an ornate dung eater named Phanaeus vindex.
On to Colleton County, where I flipped debris/AC but came up empty handed sans a Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata.
Down into Beaufort County. I visited a small bait shop and purchased 21 live Eels, the preferred food of Rainbow Snakes! At $1.50 each, I hoped this would work! On the way out of town, I made a quick detour down a pretty dirt road and drove slowly, bug net held out the driver's window, low to the ground. In a matter of minutes I had a Tiger Beetle, C. sexguttata. A few miles later, I stopped at a fallen billboard and under the first piece I saw a little section of Corn Snake, about as big around as my little finger. I grabbed it and realized it was just the tail of a big male! A solid four-footer with nice orange color! I released it, and optimistically moved to the next piece of plywood. No snake, but the fresh shed of a Canebrake Rattler was underneath. Cool!
In Jasper County, I visited a remote boat landing in the northern part of the county and put out a couple of traps (three eels each) and even put some sections of PVC pipe out in edge of the water (snakes may crawl in and hide). At a set of bridges nearby I put out the remaining five traps (three eels each) and hoped for the best. I went back over to the KOA on the interstate and set up camp. Then I went up US 17 across Beaufort County (where I found two DOR Banded Watersnakes) and into lower Colleton.
Lower Colleton has some nice roads to cruise, and some debris/AC to flip. I was delighted to find a nice Corn Snake AOR almost right away. A few minutes later I saw a strange shape in the road. It was a small Alligator, walking down the center line! The poor little thing (about 40 inches) was lean and dry, and I assume he was looking for water (as his may have dried up). I hope he found it. A few minutes later, a DOR Corn Snake. A few minutes after that, a sleepy Black Racer under some tin. By the time it was almost dark, I checked a last little bit of tin and found a small Copperhead and two Black Racers. Soon I was driving through an area of marsh I had noticed on the map and even scouted some years ago. A storm approached and it really looked prime. I would cruise and shine around ditches and water edges. I saw tons of deer, lots of Alligators, a few frogs (I could hear Green Treefrogs, Pig Frogs, Bull Frogs, and Cricket Frogs) a DOR Black Racer and an AOR Banded Watersnake.
Wednesday (5-11-05), I woke up, broke camp, and headed straight for the traps. I was horrified to see that the swamp level was up several inches. The traps would be underwater, and any snakes would likely be dead. I checked trap after trap, and all but one were indeed underwater, and most of those expensive eels had escaped! Luckily, there were no snakes dead inside. For once I was glad I had not caught a Rainbow Snake, as it surely would have been dead, and that would have been tragic. Oh well. Maybe something will be under tin or on the roads. Indeed it was. At the B & C Landing, I found a scrap of debris/AC I found two small Copperheads under some trash and several large female River Cooters up on shore laying digging nests. On another road there was a small DOR Copperhead, and a DOR Racer. I spent some time on foot, and driving, but found nothing else except a Corn Snake's shed skin. Time to head north.
In Hampton County, I walked, drove, and flipped. Found a Black Racer under cover in one spot, and in another place there were two Corn Snakes together under a piece of tin. One was BEAUTIFUL, one of the prettiest I have seen in years. Two snakes at once! A few miles later, at a small bridge I noticed a "Greenish" Ratsnake basking on the jumbled rocks beneath the bridge. I walked wide to approach it and just when I was about three steps away I looked down an noticed a very pretty Copperhead, stretched out among the rocks at my feet. His head was not visible and he had did not seem to know I was there, so I just stepped by him and picked up the Ratsnake, then went back to the Copperhead. I tailed it out of the rocks and into my bug net. Two snakes in just a few seconds. Of course both were released immediately. Hampton County also had several DOR snakes: a Rough Green Snake and a "Greenish" Ratsnake, both on 321.
Allendale County was uneventful, but in Bamburg County I stopped at several sites and hunted Tiger Beetles, and finally found a C. sexguttata. I saw a snake, swimming across the Edisto River and a Musk Turtle I wanted to have a look at got away also. At one upland/sandy spot that looked particularly good (caught two Coachwhips there a few weeks back) I saw a Black Racer, and chased him into the open, but somehow he found a hole in the ground and made his escape. A Brown Water Snake and Corn Snake were the DORs that I remember in Bamburg.
I was getting hungry and tired, so I spent very little time in Orangeburg County and it was unproductive time at that. So went all the other counties I had to pass in order to get home, where I unpacked the car, and set up the tent to dry (it had been wet when packed early in the morning). Shower, food, laundry, and sleep were my next goals (all successful). I had driven 783 miles (the lowest gas I saw was $1.97 per gal. and it was two miles from home) and fed a LOT of mosquitoes and spent some quality time with Lone-Star Ticks. I found good snakes but NO Rainbow and NO Southern Hognose!
Thursday (5-12-05), Business as usual here at home. I worked editing a wedding reception video. Time consuming work.
Friday (5-13-05), I went to work for a few hours. Fed some of the animals. We have a nice looking local Corn Snake laying eggs and another ready to go. Several Kings appear gravid as do both female Bairds Ratsnakes. Lots of errands in town also.
Saturday (5-14-05), Holmes Photography worked a local wedding. I needed to get home early and get some rest. I had plans for the next few days. Travel to Pennsylvania on Sunday and herp with my friend Tom Diez Monday and Tuesday, then spend Wednesday traveling home. I had high hopes for Timber Rattlesnakes and Eastern Milksnakes and Tom is just the man who can help. It took a lot to coordinate my PWI schedule, with the Holmes Photography schedule, AND Tom's schedule. But there was nothing I could do with the WEATHER schedule! It looked bad. Cool/cold and cloudy for the days I would be there. I talked to Tom by phone and it seemed wise to call off the trip. The cost of the trip in time and money and the odds for success just did not work. BUMMER!
Sunday (5-15-05), "Plan B" was to hunt here in SC for Milks and Timbers. It was cool and rainy so I thought snakes might by hunkered down under cover. I drove to the mountains of upper Greenville County. No stops made (other than for Coffee) but I did stop and flip some good debris/AC in Pickens County. Unfortunately there was nothing underneath. On into upper Oconee County where my efforts started showing results. First I found an Eastern Worm Snake. Then just a few yards away there was a Black Racer under a piece of tin. Digging a little deeper in that same stack of debris/AC there was a small Eastern Kingsnake (right genus, wrong species). Not long after that (but a few miles away) I found a Copperhead, then a Brown Snake, then another Copperhead (all under tin). Just a few yard farther down the road was another site, and it yielded a rather hefty Eastern Garter Snake. Other than that, I saw a few Voles, Shrews, Cotton Rats, a Racerunner, a couple of Box Turtles, and some Toads. Time to head for hom
Two weeks of Sabbatical are used up, and I have not found the snakes I am looking for. I hope the next two weeks will have better results.