SC Reptile and Amphibians


June 2005

Week Ending 07-03-05

Gene's notes

This week I saw more DOR snakes, but their number seems smaller. A DOR Eastern Kingsnake was added to the species list.

Thursday (06-30-05) evening after work, I assembled a new swingset in our backyard for the grandchildren. Coyotes began howling at the edge of the woods about 300 yards away. Then, another began howling very close behind me in the thicket. It could not have been more than a hundred feet away. Eerie.

Sunday (07-03-05) evening at dark, I made a round of local roads but did not see any snakes.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

A most unusual week indeed. One of the most unusual weeks of my life. The weather has been normal. Hot with storms. Tiger Beetles, Cicindela rufiventris and C. punctulata are everywere, C. sexguttata are still commonly seen. Treefrogs call daily, Cicadas sing from the trees, and lizards and toads are all over the place.

Monday (6-27-05), I left work at lunch. I had something to do. Something big. I have lived in lower Spartanburg County, way out in the country since 1983. But the time has come to make a change. The Holmes family has found a house in town. A house we all like, in a neighborhood we all like. We closed on the house today! Work must begin immediately! We must sell our existing home. (Anybody want to live on 25 acres of good Mole Kingsnake habitat?) We must do some minor remodeling and then patch/putty/paint this new house as we move in! MY MAJOR TIME-EATER IS HERE!!! I figure I will be quite busy for the next few-many months. This new house does have large back yard with room for a few sheets of tin, but not many. I will relocate most of my tin to new locations.

Tuesday (6-28-05), When I arrived at work I found 2 live female Stag Beetles, Lucanus elaphus, at work under the big light.

Wednesday (6-29-05), When I arrived at work I found a pair (male and female) of Stag Beetles, L. elaphus, at work and also some very pretty Ground Beetles, Calosoma scrutator, which are the largest and most colorful Ground Beetles around, and they smell HORRIBLE! The boys at work thought they were neat. After work, I pulled up the carpet in the hall of the new house and with work will have some nice hardwood restored to its full beauty.

Thursday (6-30-05), It was rather late in the evening, but I went to the airport. To pick up a visiting Entomologist. I have always appreciated those who have taken the time to show me around the natural world, and have also appreciated those who have welcomed me into their homes. So it comes naturally to me to do the same for others. I have hosted visitors from Canada, California, Pennsylvania, Ireland, and many other locations. This time my guest is Kenichi, and he is from Japan. We have corresponded for a while, mostly about Stag Beetles, and he wants to finally collect one by his own hand. So he comes here. His plane arrived (late) at Greenville-Spartanburg about 1:15 (Friday AM). We had waited several hours as he had some weather delays. We got home about 2:30 (Friday AM). It was well after that before I got to bed.

Friday (7-1-05), I had work as usual. Found a female Stag, under the big light at work. My wife kept our guest busy showing him around Laurens but she also took him to the waterfall so he could see some Tiger Beetles, Cicindela repanda. Finally it was time to come home. We took our new friend from Japan out to supper. BBQ at Henry's Smokehouse! Some of the best BBQ I know. At sundown we started hunting. We found many insects, Calosoma scrutator, Royal Walnut Moth, Longhorn Beetles, Scarabs and Carabids of many species. We even found a female Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus, but no live Stag Beetle. The heartbreak came with a dead Stag. A large male was crushed at one of our stops (we were visiting gas stations to hunt under the lights).

Saturday (7-2-05), The heat this week makes much day-time outdoor activity difficult. We did manage to visit a location with a lake and picnic tables. We had a large group of family and several canoes/kayaks. We swam, paddled, fished, and snacked heavily. My Japanese friend and I found a Redbelly Watersnake, Skinks, a Green Anole, Scorpions, a Green Treefrog, many emerging and adult Toads, a Box Turtle, several Tiger Beetles, Cicindela punctulata and C. rufiventris, as well as many interesting Ground Beetles. When evening came we had supper (American fast food at McDonalds!) and started the hunt. We visited five gas stations along 34 miles of interstate as well as three locations remote from the interstate. We found tons of stuff, including Tiger Beetles, Megacephala virginica, Bombarier Beetles, Click Beetles, and a super male Hercules Beetle. We even found another dead/dying Stag, but no live Stag Beetle, was to be seen.

Sunday (7-3-05), In celebration of Independence Day, we gathered to cook out/eat and visit at my in-laws for lunch. We also visited my sister briefly and hit the mall so Kenichi could buy some American souveniers, then it was time to get to business. With a good friend and my nephew , Hunter, Kenichi and I set out to find insects. Kenichi found a live female Giant Stag, Lucanus elaphus right away! We were all very happy with that, but we also found a huge male Hercules Beetle, and Tiger Beetles, Megachepahla virinica and M. carolina. They other, smaller stuff was just incidental. We had made it possible for our new friend Kenichi to collect the species that he had traveled so far to find.

Kenichi spoke little English when he arrived, but he quickly acquired a good use of the language and we got along very well and communicated pretty successfully.

What a week,

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 06-26-05

Gene's notes

This week, while commuting, I have seen the usual DOR Black Rat Snakes; however, I saw a few species DOR for the first time this year: Northern Water Snake, Mole King Snake, and Copperhead. This was the first Copperhead I have seen this year. Very unusual.

Saturday (06-25-05), while returning from an errand to town, I found AOR an adult Black Rat Snake. I had some free time in the afternoon, so I checked some coverboards that I placed last year. I found a juvenile Worm Snake under one. This was the first snake I have found under any of these boards. Later, I drove around the farm in my truck. I found a group of fledgling Barn Swallows at a brush pile. Then I spotted a Mourning Dove on its nest in a plum tree. The blackberries are plentiful, ripe and sweet.

Sunday (06-26-05), we had a family dinner at our home. When I went into Laurens to pickup my mother-in-law, I saw an active Yellow Jacket Wasp hole in the lawn just a few feet from the front door walk. Just the night or so before I had watched a TV program about dangerous, swarming insects. It had ended with a segment on Yellow Jackets, describing them as the most dangerous insects. What a coincidence!

After dinner, I watched, through binoculars, the two juvenile Redtailed Hawks. They were actively hunting and made a couple of drops to the ground. Each time they came up empty.

After dark, I returned to Laurens and dispatched the Yellow Jackets.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Another week passes. Time, interesting concept.

Monday (6-20-05), When I arrived at work, I checked under the big light and was delighted to find three Stag Beetles, Lucanus elaphus. Later in the day we found a Redbelly Snake on campus and during my drive home I stopped to pick up an AOR Black Ratsnake. I released him in my yard, where I hope he will be safe.

Tuesday (6-21-05), Happy Solstice to Everyone! After work, I took a little walk around the pond. Widow Skimmers, Whitetail Skimmers, Eastern Amberwings, Blue Dashers, and Eastern Pondhawks were all nice to see. A number of Wood Ducks flushed from the pond and nearby swamp. I saw small Southern Leopard Frogs and American Toads hop here and there. Cricket Frogs called and were seen by the water. Green Frogs and Bull Frogs called also, even though it was several hours till sunset. Under AC/debris near the pond I found several Scorpions. It was thoroughly pleasant to spend these special minutes at this special place.

Wednesday (6-22-05), A full moon will light the night sky. Herping and bugging should be slow.

Thursday (6-23-05), Stopping before work to get some coffee, I noticed a large beetle on the pavement of the gas station. It was a large female Hercules Beetle, Dynastes tityus. On the night of the full moon it had flown in to the lights of a store! At work I had a female Stag under my light!

Friday (6-24-05), No time outdoors.

Saturday (6-25-05), Holmes Photography works a local wedding. But there are some fringe benefits. On the sidewalk of the small rural church where the wedding was held, I found a huge dead male Stag Beetle! One of the largest of the season.

Sunday (6-26-05), Spent some time in the afternoon pinning insect specimens collected recently.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 06-19-05

Gene's notes

First, an observation from last Saturday (6-11-05)that I forgot to report. I am in the process of mowing all the fields on the farm. They have not been mowed in more than a year, so the grass, weeds, and seedlings are high and thick. Unfortunately, I ran over an adult Black Rat Snake, mortally injuring it. On my next round to the same area, I saw and larger Black Rat Snake scurrying away as fast as it could. It moved back into the grass yet to be mowed, so I chased it out toward a safe brush pile. From a skin-tab on its back, I was able to identify it as the same snake my granddaughter and I found the preceding Saturday. I continued mowing and about 15 minutes later, I found the same snake back in my path again. This time I chased it down, caught it, and released it further away at the edge of the forest.

Monday evening (6-13-05), I cruised local roads, finding an AOR adult Black Rat Snake. Win reported finding a Ringneck Snake in the driveway.

I did not get to do anymore herping this week. My wife and I spent a lot of our spare time getting our home ready for hosting a family reunion on Sunday (6-19-05). I took a vacation day on Friday (6-17-05)to work on getting ready. While making a trip to Laurens for flowers that morning, I found an adult AOR Garter Snake.

As an update on the Redtailed Hawks that nested in the forest behind our house, the young have now fledged. From the begging calls, it appears that two young were raised. One keeps mostly in the forest, but the other likes the pasture around our home. The parents have now left them to fend for themselves.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

My huge/major time-eater has not yet arrived, and believe me it is coming fast, yet I still have been very busy and had little time for outdoors activities this week. Too bad, as it has been quite nice.

Monday (6-13-05), My big light at work, the one that brings in lots of great bugs on warm nights, has been burned out and useless for my purposes. But someone, from somewhere, came to campus and repaired it. Let there be light.

Tuesday (6-14-05), We placed a canoe, under the big light on campus. I know many insects fly in, bump off the wall, land on the ground, and scurry away. Using a canoe as a container, we sometimes find hundreds of insects in a single morning. We also add a bucket of water, to slow down some of the insects. Time to catch some good bugs!

Wednesday (6-15-05), An early morning check of the canoe/light was in order. Even though it was the first quarter moon, and more moonlight equals poor bug-light collecting, I had my hopes up. A student, who has recently taken a liking to bug hunting, was up and dressed when I arrived on campus at 6:20 AM. Together we checked the light/canoe and found 5 Giant Stag Beetles! Five Lucanus elaphus in one morning! All males! We also found 1 dead male. Incredible! Never have I had a one day score of 6 Stags.

Thursday (6-16-05), No time outdoors.

Friday (6-17-05), I was off work, but no time to sit around. We had to go up to North Carolina to the College that Hunter will be attending this fall. He had orientation, and we had several meetings/sessions we had to attend. All interesting and helpful stuff. He registered, got his schedule, met his roommate, and spent the night in a dorm. Mrs. Holmes and I stayed in a B&B.

Saturday (6-18-05), More business on the campus, but we had the afternoon off, and strolled around town, napped at the B&B, had BBQ (HOG WILD BBQ in the town of Pisgah Forest is seriously good), and just generally relaxed.

Sunday (6-19-05), Happy Fathers? Day! We checked out of our room, drove around the mountains for a while, then came home.

Not much time for nature this week, and it might get worse before it gets better.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 06-12-05

Gene's notes

Many DOR Black Rat Snakes showing up.

This week I received an exciting email. A student at Erskine College in Due West, SC reported finding an adult Eastern Coachwhip on campus! Due West is only about 25 miles from my home. Coachwhips were common locally when I was in high school, but it has been about 15 years since I saw my last one in the Piedmont, and it was a DOR.

I had a busy week and did not get to do any herping.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Another week gone by and I am getting back into my routines at work but do have to do some catching up. The weather is all June, but it is wet. Storms visit almost every day, the ground is seldom dry, and the grass is growing almost faster than I can cut it. I have tried to run bug lights and visit store lights but the bugging has been limited this week. I have seen a lot of cool moths and a few beetles but not much to collect.

Monday (6-6-05), I visited a gas station near work early in the morning and found a Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus, but it had been stepped on and was dead. At work we dedicated some time to our outdoor Caiman pen. We applied new chicken wire to the frame. The old wire has been up since 1998 and was completely worn out.

Tuesday (6-7-05), We completed repairs to the Caiman pen, cleaned the pool, and got it ready to go. I also unplugged the heater in the Caiman Aquarium and lowered the thermostat in my room to about 65 degrees F. Tiger Beetles, Cicindela punctulata appeared on campus.

Wednesday (6-8-05), Planning ahead, I had manipulated the temps in the Caiman tank to slightly cooler than normal. I would rather move him cool than warm. A solid 4 footer and rather hefty, he has an attitude that matches his appetite! I removed the Caiman from his tank and gently put him in his outdoor pen. Later in the day he even took several pre-killed rats. We also took a few minutes to look under rocks/logs on campus and found a Brown Snake, and Redbellied Snake

Thursday (6-9-05), We spent the day cleaning out our biggest aquariums. Takes about a day. A friend stopped by campus for a visit. He had been in the area and decided to drop in. We had a nice talk and it was a good break in my day.

Friday (6-10-05), A co-worker brought me a small male Stag Beetle, Lucanus elaphus. First live one I have seen this year. I made an evening run to the store and found a female. It was a good day for Stag Beetles.

Saturday (6-11-05), Errands and duties kept me pretty busy most of the day. I did get a really good nap.

Sunday (6-12-05), I checked my tin later in the afternoon and found two Eastern Worm Snakes, a Southern Ringneck Snake, and a Redbelly Snake. Nice sampling of small local snake species.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 06-05-05

Gene's notes

A week of weather extremes. The first 2/3s of the week was rainy and cool. Temperatures dipped into the low 50s F on Tuesday. It felt like early Spring. The sun returned on Friday and temperatures began to rise. Saturday was warm and humid. Sunday was hot and humid.

The cool wet weather invigorated the frogs. The wetlands resounded. Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toads are very active now.

Friday (06-03-05) at twilight, a pair of White-tailed Deer eyed our flower bed beside the house. Juse before sunrise on Saturday (06-04-05), the same two deer were back again. I watched to see if they would enter the garden. They turned away. At the front of the house, I spotted another deer in the driveway. It heard me and froze in place, staring in my direction. The deer had a black face. It was very peculiar. It was as if someone had taken a picture of a regular deer and used a black marker to blot out its face. My camera was in the car outside and the light was low, so I did not get a picture. I hope I get a second chance. We had a small swarming of "Love Bug" flies. All of these were black with red thoraxes. In the earlier swarming we had in mid May, the males were all black and the females were black with read abdomens.

The warm weather prompted Black Rat Snakes and Box Turtles to begin moving, and getting killed on the roads.

Our granddaughter spent Saturday night with us. The temperatures held above 70 in the evening. At twilight, my granddaughter and I set out to cruise local roads. Halfway down the driveway, we found a large (5 feet +) Black Rat Snake. Unfortunately, this was the only snake we saw. Later, we moved a stranded Box Turtle from the road. There were many Fowlers Toads and Green Tree Frogs on the roads. A pair of Coyotes darted across the road. We returned home to find large flying red ants swarming the porch lights.

Sunday (06-05-05), Win showed me a large, gravid Eastern King Snake that a friend had captured and brought to him. We released it on the farm. We took our granddaughter to the Greenville Zoo. Always a lot of fun and educational. As we walked by the "duck" pond exhibit, our granddaughter spotted a large Black Rat Snake hunting in a grassy area within the fence. At twilight, I began to cruise local roads. Fairly soon, I found a young (28 inch) Redbelly Water Snake AOR. Again, this early find was the only (live) snake I saw. I removed a Mud Turtle from the road. Fowlers Toads were out again. I found a large Bullfrog AOR. Both the Redbelly and Bullfrog were on ridge roads, well away from permanent water. I saw another Coyote on the road.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Life gets back to normal. Normal?

Monday (5-30-05), A pleasant day. Not too hot or too cool. Back to work, after a one month sabbatical, I checked out all my animals, to see how they had fared without me. Cage cleanings, mouse feedings. It was good to get back into the swing of things and the students (most of them anyway) seemed glad to see me.

Tuesday (5-31-05), It was cool and rainy outdoors. At work we fed the snakes/herps in the classroom. We saw some good appetites. Cleaned an aquarium that had gotten sort of nasty while I was away.

Wednesday (6-1-05), Again, cool and rainy. Could it really be June? We worked hard, cleaning out a large aquarium. Glass, gravel, filters, pumps. A big job, it makes quite a mess in the classroom but is worth the effort.

Thursday (6-2-05), Cool and rainy! Work, and a lot of errands after work.

Friday (6-3-05), The clouds started breaking up and we saw some sunshine, but it never did really seem like June.

Saturday (6-4-05), It seems like June now! The rain is gone but it is still humid, and very hot! We (Holmes Photography) worked a local wedding and had to do the majority of the group shots indoors to spare those in fancy suits (this would include myself) and nice dresses from the heat/humidity. We got home early and I put out some bug lights (2 black light traps and a mercury vapor light) to see if I could get anything neat like Stag Beetles. Lots of stuff flew in, but nothing I wanted to collect. I was out on the roads around 10 PM and found 4 fresh DOR Black Ratsnakes.

Sunday (6-5-05), Lots to be done, here around the house. No time outdoors.

I flipped some tin, and skinks, anoles, and toads are abundant. Gray and Green Treefrogs can be heard at all hours of the day and evening, but I spent little time outside. I had a lot to do to get back into the routines at work and home after being off a month.

Joey Holmes

July 07, 2005
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