SC Reptile and Amphibians


May 2005

Week Ending 05-29-05

Gene's notes

The big day arrived this week. On Wednesday night (05-25-05), a pair of Coyotes howled in the pasture. Late Thursday night (05-26-05), Win and Hope headed to the hospital. At 6:27 am on Friday (05-27-05), my third grandson was born! Jakob Wolfgang Ott, 8 lbs. 10 ozs. Saturday afternoon (05-28-05), all three returned home. All are doing well.

Several times over the last week or so, I have seen Wild Turkeys with poults on the roads.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Not much time outdoors this week, but I have been quite busy.

Monday (5-23-05), We took some time to clean up after Hunter's party. I went to Spartanburg and picked up pottery clay.

Tuesday (5-24-05), I did some yard work, and helped with the business details of HOLMES PHOTOGRAPHY.

Wednesday (5-25-05), More photography work. A PWI student lost his father in an automobile accident, so I went to the mortuary to express my sympathy to the family.

Thursday (5-26-05), There was a funeral for the student's dad. Then came a happier time, as my son graduated from high school! It was hot in the gym, but the ceremony was not too long. Mrs. Holmes and I are very proud of him, and enjoyed this moment very much!

Friday (5-27-05), Back to Spartanburg, where I picked up a kiln for the art gallery where HOLMES PHOTOGRAPHY is located. Then I had lunch with siblings (my brother is in SC for a few days). He (a fine singer/songwriter) is doing a benefit concert for the art gallery, so we spent some time planning the concert. On my evening drive home, I stopped by some debris/AC and found a Black Racer and checked my tin when I got home, finding only a Southern Ringneck Snake.

Saturday (5-28-05), Much of the day was spent setting up for the art gallery's (Jeff Holmes) benefit concert. It went well, and we raised some much-needed funds.

Sunday (5-29-05), House work/spring cleaning. I visited the BARNES AND NOBLE in Spartaburg and bought a copy of GRAIL BIRD, the true story of the re-discovery of Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers. Interesting stuff!

Back to work now. My sabbatical is over. I get another one in 2012! I will come up with another plan (just hope I have caught a Timber/Southern Hognose/Rainbow by then)!

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 05-22-05

Gene's notes

During the week, I saw several DOR and AOR Box Turtles.

Wednesday (5-18-05) evening, I cruised local roads but did not see any snakes.

Thursday (5-19-05) before sunset, I drove to the sand deposits beside the river at the farm. A Fowler's Toad, a large Redbelly Watersnake, and I spotted each other at the same time. The Redbelly must have been stalking the toad. After a couple seconds, the toad went one way and the snake the other.

Saturday (5-21-05), Win found the first Worm Snake of this year under one of the Worm Snake boards.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

I had been bummed out, as the weather caused me to cancel my trip to Pennsylvania to hunt for Timber Rattlesnakes and Eastern Milksnakes. My "Plan B" had been a visit to the SC mountains on 5-15-05 but I missed out on my target species.

Monday (5-16-05), Photography work. I also made ten bowls on the pottery wheel. I pondered the maps and weather channel. It is almost time for "Plan C" to begin!

Tuesday (5-17-05), I mostly laid around the house, wishing I were in the mountains of (you can pick the state) catching Timber Rattlesnakes and Eastern Milksnakes. Later, I went to the gas station to fill up the tank and get some drinks/ice for the cooler. About 200 yards from my mailbox I found a DOR Mole Kingsnake. It was a big female, over 30 inches. I checked its belly pattern with my records and found it to be a snake I had caught here in the yard on 10-22-03, 9-20-04, and 9-29-04. Sad to see her lost but it is interesting to know exactly what happened to her. It was also VERY interesting to see that there was hair in her gut. The hair appeared to be that of a Hispid Cotton Rat! Not an animal I think of as being a major prey item for Mole Kings. Interesting indeed. As far as "plan C" is concerned, I set the alarm clock for 3:50 AM and go to bed early as possible.

Wednesday (5-18-05), At 3:50 AM the clock buzzed and I got up. I dressed and got in the already loaded Jeep. I was on the road by 4 AM. Up I-26 to Spartanburg where I got on I-85. I made a brief stop in NC for coffee, and in Charlotte I turned onto I-77. By 7:08 AM I was in Virginia and the mountains. I had not been in Virginia in 19 years. Due time. Today it was another attempt to find Milks and Timbers (as well as montane Tiger Beetles). I made a few stops along the interstate/exits but came up with little more than wet feet as the morning haze was still hanging on, and the grass was very wet with dew. I pushed north. Between Wytheville and the West Virginia line there is an area of National Forest. I got off the interstate and within minutes had found a small dirt road with a little debris/AC. In a pile of shingles I found my first snake in Virginia. A Northern Ringneck Snake. On up the mountain I found a series of small stores/buildings, long since abandoned, and behind that there was a lot more debris/AC and three more Northern Ringnecks. Farther up the mountain still, on a sunny southern slope, I found a talus-boulder slide that ran several hundred yards uphill from the road. I walked it, carefully looking for Timbers. Nothing, but the area looked great. Perhaps it was an afternoon den. I would try to come back. I drove and rambled some more and in an open meadow there were several old sheds and log piles. I stopped, found another Ringneck, and a Black Rat Snake. Nice, but not what I wanted. I moved on and before long I had punched into West Virginia. Okay, I have never caught anything in WV, so any snake or Tiger Beetle scored would be neat. Didn't take long, and in Oakvale, near Princeton, I found a little debris/AC and a huge Northern Ringneck. I mean I thought this guy was a baby Black Racer until I saw the neck! Soon came a Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, and with that, I figured my business in WV was over. I went back to that National Forest area in Virginia. It was afternoon, and I hoped the rocky area on that southern slope would be more productive. I climbed and walked, peered and poked, crept and stared, but nothing. Up the road I had seen a little store earlier. I went for a drink, snack, and possibly debris/AC or information. The lady who ran the store had little information but did suggest I look around outside the store. There was an old store/ restaurant that had burned a couple of years earlier, a pile of debris out back from where the new store was built, and a shed/barn behind that. Looked promising. I flipped and turned and soon was rewarded with three Red-Back Salamanders (my first Red-Backs) and, under a little scrap of metal, in a grassy area, an EASTERN MILK SNAKE!!!!!!!!! He was laying in an oval coil, and shifted just a little when exposed! SO COOL! He was about 30 inches, pre-shed, nubby -tailed, crusty, and generally ugly, but he was EXACTLY what I had been looking for. So many days, so many miles. I held him less than 5 minutes before watching him slide into the grass beside his piece of tin/metal (which was already put back in place). INCREDIBLE!!!!!! AWESOME!!!!!! I was through for the day, little could top that. I went down to Wytheville, got a room at the Sleep Inn, supper, and sleep. What a day it had been!

Thursday (5-19-05), A map I picked up in the hotel lobby influenced me. I decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway from I-77 to Asheville, NC. Might find some places to look if it would stay sunny. It did not. But I did see Groundhogs, Deer, Turkeys, Ravens, and Red Squirrels. There were incredible high vistas, and green and pleasant valleys. I did make stops and found a Spotted Salamander and three more Northern Ringneck Snakes. I had to get off the Parkway at Linville Falls and head towards Marion. From Marion I headed to Asheville, where I had a late lunch at Bono's Pit Cooked BBQ. Very tasty! From Asheville it is a quick and easy ride home. I had traveled 722 miles this time on this trip, but had caught snakes and Tiger Beetles in Virginia and in West Virginia, and best of all, I had caught an EASTERN MILK SNAKE!

Friday (5-20-05), Business in Laurens/Spartanburg kept me pretty busy.

Saturday (5-21-05), In celebration of my son, Hunter, graduating from high school, we had a party for him. It took a lot to set it up, and we enjoyed to company of friends and family for several hours. The weather was perfect and the food was tasty. We even put the drinks (can sodas) in a kayak filled with ice (befitting a party for Hunter)! Later the guitars came out and they played song after song, having such fun. It was great to have a nice party for my son.

Sunday (5-22-05), Church had a service that honored the graduates. That was nice. Then, my brother-in-law and I took our boys to see STAR WARS. Good movie, it ties in the old stuff and the new episodes quite well. Later I stole a few minutes to check my tin and found two Southern Ringneck Snakes.

It has been quite a week for Ringnecks! But best of all was catching an Eastern Milk Snake on a mountain in Virginia!

Got one more week of sabbatical and a busy week it will be!

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 05-15-05

Gene's notes

Herp sightings have increased locally. DORs have included Painted Turtles, Box Turtles, Black Ratsnake, Redbelly Watersnake, and Rough Green Snake.

Driving home from work on Thursday evening (05-12-05), I spotted a small (approximately 20 inch) snake AOR at the pavement edge. I looked like a Northern Water Snake. When I was able to backtrack, it had disappeared. The location was on an upland road. Although my first impression was a Northern Water Snake, I began to think it might have been a dark Copperhead.

Friday evening (05-13-05) at twilight, I cruised local roads for snakes. I found a DOR adult Redbelly Water Snake. I was about to quit when I spotted an AOR juvenile Northern Water Snake (about 20 inches). This one was also on an upland road. I believe my first impression of the snake Thursday was correct.

One thing I noticed while at Hellhole last weekend was the low level of scavenger activity. I saw a DOR Corn Snake and a DOR Star-nosed Mole that lay unmolested for over 24 hours. In the Piedmont, dead animals seldom remain for more than a few hours before scavengers like vultures, crows, and opossums have at them. Sunday (05-15-05), I noticed some urban scavengers hanging out behind a restaurant. Also, this weekend I noticed a plague of small black flies. This is the first time I have seen these flies locally. I looked them up. They are called Lovebugs(Plecia) and are an invasive species from Central America.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

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.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 05-08-05

Gene's notes

Tuesday morning (5-03-05), when I pulled into the parking lot at my office in Greenville, I found a family of Canada Geese taking a stroll.

Friday morning (5-06-05), Win, Hope's brother, and I headed to Francis Marion National Forest in Berkeley County, SC, for the 2005 Holmes' herping in Hellhole gathering. For 3 days, we enjoyed great fellowship, good herping, and nature. I will be posting an article on the gathering later, maybe by month's end.

My most exciting find was an Eastern Glass Lizard. This was a first live find for me.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Been on sabbatical, and quite busy.

Monday (5-2-05), Sunny and warm. We spend much of the day on photography business, errands around Laurens (bank/studio/etc) and work at home on spring pictures for a local elementary school. I do take a few minutes to prowl around locally and find a Southern Ringneck Snake in Spartanburg County, and two Eastern Kingsnakes in Laurens County.

Tuesday (5-3-05), Another pretty day. Sunny and warm. I worked on the pottery wheel a bit in the morning and made 10 bowls by 11 AM. I found a Southern Ringneck Snake under tin at home, and set out some funnel traps at the pond. Much of the remainder day was spent on the elementary school order. We worked late into the night.

Wednesday (5-4-05), A beautiful spring day. Sunny and warm. I checked my tin, found the expected Southern Ringneck Snake. I checked my traps at the pond, and had scores of tadpoles, quite a few Red-Spotted Newts, and a baby Eastern Painted Turtle. I did not stay long, but enjoyed being outside with the fresh air and Dragonflies. I mowed part of the lawn later on, and then once again we worked until very late to get the school’s order ready for delivery.

Thursday (5-5-05), It was cool and rainy. Mrs. Holmes delivered the elementary school order. I went rambling a little and in Laurens County found a Black Racer and Eastern Kingsnake. I picked up and delivered a load (a one-month supply) of food and shavings for the PWI MOUSE HOUSE, so they would not have to worry about supplies. I fed a couple of small snakes while on campus. At home I found a Southern Ringneck Snake and a variety of neat Ground Beetles under the backyard tin. Lastly, we did some work on a wedding video.

Friday (5-6-05), Photography work and errands, much of the day. I did go to the pond to check and pull out my traps. Found the expected tadpoles, Red-Spotted Newts, baby Eastern Painted Turtle and baby Eastern Mud Turtle inside. All released. On the way home from the pond, I found a writhing, dying Mole Kingsnake. It was not there when I went to the pond, so I must have missed it by a matter of minutes. Bummer! It was a male, young and with a beautiful pattern. I saved it in the freezer for a specimen.

Saturday (5-7-05), More work. Pictures. Pictures. Pictures. We did location shoots with a family of 3, and then a bride. We also attended Hunter’s last performance with his high school orchestra.

Sunday (5-8-05), Church. Then we did a Mother's Day cookout-picnic with my in-laws, then a Mother's Day light supper at my mother's. On the way from the cookout to my mom's I noticed a DOR Mole Kingsnake. Things are really starting to move!

Hope you are all getting to spend some time enjoying spring in the great outdoors,

Joey Holmes

May 31, 2005
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