SC Reptile and Amphibians


August 2005

Week Ending 08-28-05

Gene's notes

First, a general observation. In the last couple of weeks, the Win and I have made a half-dozen or so sightings of Snapping Turtles on the roads. Most were alive. The largest one I saw was on Monday of this week and was probably in the 15 to 20 pound size range. Also, my wife reported seeing a large River Cooter crossing the road this week.

This week I have also seen an increase in the number of DOR snakes, including a large Corn Snake and a juvenile Copperhead. This was only the second Copperhead I have seen all summer. This is extremely unusual, since in past years I could almost always count of finding a Copperhead on the roads at night when I would go cruising. This summer, the number of snakes of any species that I have seen on local roads, alive or dead, has been very low. On the other hand, this summer has been a banner year for my receiving emails from website visitors who have encountered Copperheads elsewhere. A couple of people have written about bites to humans, more about bites to pets, and many more about wishing to get them out of their yards. This is a strange summer.

Monday (08-22-05), Win and Hope found a young Black Racer in their bedroom. It probably crawled in under a loose fitting door sill.

Friday (08-26-05), I found a large Robber Fly clining to my van's radio antenna.

After work, my wife and I were in the garden looking for Tomato Hornworms to pluck from our tomato vine. Earlier, she had broken off an entire branch of the vine to remove a couple of the caterpillars. It was twilight. An adult Tomato Hornworm moth flew into the garden to feed on the nector from the flowers. I got my camera and may have had a chance to get a good image if our puppy had not kept chasing it.

Friday night Win caught a Barking Tree Frog at the boat landing below the Lake Russell Dam in northwestern Abbeville County. This location is about the most northwesternly extent of the range provided in the Peterson Field Guide. He brought it to me for photographing.

Saturday (08-27-05) mid-morning, I saw a Garter Snake poking its head onto our garden walk. I thought it was just sunning. I got my camera and snapped a couple pictures. Noticing me, it decided to move on. I followed its progress as unobtrusively as a big man as I can. The walk is poured concrete. The snake moved along the edge of the walk, investigating each small cavity in the soil beneath the walk. I figured it was trying to find a hole to escape from me. Near the end of the walk, it came to a larger cavity. The Garter crawled partially into the cavity. An adult Fowlers Toad hopped from the cavity. The snake bite the toad's right hind leg and held on. This Garter was fairly small, only about 20 inches. The toad was large and made itself larger by inflating its body. I gave the snake little chance to be able to actually eat the toad. The snake continued to swallow the toad's leg. The toad stopped struggling and seemed to accept its fate. The Garter was relentless and gained purchase on the toad's body. Some blood began to leak. I do not know if were the toad's or the snake's. The snake continued to struggle to swallow the toad. Perseverance rewarded, the snake succeeded in swallowing the toad. The snake forced the toad down its throat into to its stomach. To my surprise, the snake returned to the cavity where it had found the toad. Looking for more food or a hiding place? When I left, the snake had only its forebody in the cavity.

Sunday (08-28-05) late morning, I saw an AOR Rough Green Snake and a couple of DOR snakes. In late afternoon, I saw a DOR Rough Greensnake.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Time is limited by the demands of fixing our new house and moving in, and also emptying our old home (and shop). But it having two yards, in two counties, is another factor to consider. Then again, there is the photography business that is another priority.

At work, we see tons of lizards and toads. Butterflies are everywhere. Our baby snakes are feeding well and we have a few more expecting to hatch or birth soon. As the days go by, we have found a small Southern Ringneck Snake, but that is about it.

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 08-21-05

Gene's notes

I attended a second round working session on Wednesday (08-17-05) of the South Carolina Next Energy Initiative.

As stated on the Next Energy website, "The South Carolina Next Energy Initiative is a working group made up of business, higher education and political leaders from accross the Palmetto State that have come together to chart a course for the future. Our goal is to develop a 20 year strategic plan to capitalize on this economic development opportunity and to make South Carolina to alternative fuel sources, what Houston is to the petroleum industry."

Meetings are being held at several locations throughout SC. The final round of working sessions are to be held on August 31 and September 1. More information about the meeting schedule and the SC Next Energy Initiative can be found on the website.

Wednesday evening, I drove some local roads after dark. I found AOR a Northern Brown Snake. I believe this was the first AOR snake I have found locally since May.

Thursday (08-18-08) Win gave me a large Garter Snake he had found below their dogs' outside water bowl. It was the largest one I have seen in the wild in sometime, greater than 30 inches. It may have been gravid. I planned to examine it later but ran out of time, so I released it.

During the week, Win had assisted in his first stream fish sampling. On Sunday (08-21-05), I accompanied him as he seined a small area of one of the creeks on the farm. He caught a few bream, a fish we have not identified, and a Northern Hogsucker. This was the first Hogsucker I have seen.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Monday (8-15-05), At work, we were greeted by a new litter of Yellow Ratsnakes hatching. We already had 2 litters of Corns, some of which have now shed and we began offering food (pinky mice) to good results. Many little Corns fed right away. A good sign. On the way home I passed a small pond/watering hole and there was a Blue Heron there, not unusual at all, but what was unusual was the large frog hanging from its beak! Had to be a Bullfrog as I noticed it dangling as I drove by at 50 mph! Quite a sight and made me wish I were there with a camera!

Tuesday (8-16-05), We tend the baby snakes, and this takes a good bit of time. We did gather some small crayfish and fed our Striped Crayfish Snake. I do not think my students truly appreciate the rare opportunity to observe this odd little snake as it feeds. Later our evening was a little different. Friends and family had planned a surprise “housewarming” party. We were shocked and honored by this gesture and received many great gifts, accompanied by sweet smiles and warm hugs.

Wednesday (8-17-05), On campus we found a small Southern Ringneck Snake but inside we found more snakes. Inside the cage of a burgundy-red Eastern Garter Snake we had 29 new babies! Several normal, several stripeless, and several that may turn out red like their mother! Cool stuff. We now have close to 100 baby snakes with more eggs due to hatch soon.

Thursday (8-18-05), No time outdoors.

Friday (8-19-05), Hot, but no time outdoors. Holmes Photography works an evening wedding at a local Church.

Saturday (8-20-05), Holmes photography booked a local wedding many months ago. An obligation we had to fulfill. But, there was other important business to tend, for this was the day our son Hunter, leaves for college. The wedding was set for the evening. Mrs. Holmes would get everything ready, and I would go with Hunter to Brevard and get him settled in. I would then return (clean up & put on a suit) and meet her at the wedding. If I got held up or ran late her assistant would be there to keep things running smoothly. The plan worked. Hunter got settled in. I left him there in his room, amid an avalanche of bittersweet emotions on my part, and came home. Clean and well dressed I made it to the wedding (outdoors on a very warm evening) and worked through the ceremony but did not stay for the reception. Holmes Photography already had everything under control, so I came back home.

Sunday (8-21-05), Another hot day. At 4 PM I passed a sign in town that read “102” degrees (F). I need a creek to lie down in!

I still have so much to do,

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 08-14-05

Gene's notes

I am writing these notes late. Unfortunately, I have no recorded images or memories of having seen any herps this week.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

Not much to report this week. Moving takes a lot of time. We are still not totally unpacked in our new home, nor have we completely cleaned our old home (in preparation for the real estate people). I have two lawns to deal with, and the demands for my time/attention never seem to relent. Yet I have still taken moments to notice the legions of Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies that seem to be everywhere. I have seen good numbers of Tiger Beetles, Cicindela rufiventris, on campus, Dragonflies of various species are abundant, and there have been plenty of neat Moths to enjoy this week. On top of all that, baby lizards (Skinks/Fence Lizards/Anoles) are everywhere. Not bad.

Monday (8-8-05), No time outdoors.

Tuesday (8-9-05), No time outdoors.

Wednesday (8-10-05), No time outdoors. It was a big day anyway. My son turned 18! There has seldom been a father, who was more proud of his son than I am. We had a little gathering, some cake and ice cream, and celebrated this step forward in his life. Thanks to the friends and family who made this day special, but of course my memories spanned the 18 + years that he has been at the very center of my life. Sentimental again, but it is hard for me not to be proud of the man he has become. HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUNTER J. HOLMES! Your Dad loves you!

Thursday (8-11-05), No time outdoors.

Friday (8-12-05), Off work. It is time again to head into North Carolina. Mrs. Holmes was born there, has lots of family still there, and they have a big reunion this time of year, every year, in Clemmons (just outside Winston-Salem). We decided to build in some time to our trip and visit Mount Airy, the hometown of Andy Griffith, and the inspiration for “MAYBERRY.” Not really very far out of our way, we found the town to be friendly and fairly serious about its tourism appeal, based on “Mayberry” themes. We had a good lunch at “Goobers” and browsed main street, then back on the road (passing the odd looking Pilot Mountain) and arrived in Clemmons in time for a great BBQ supper at the home of a cousin. My visit with nature was in the form of a large female Chinese Mantid in the hotel parking lot after we made all the rounds.

Saturday (8-13-05), Family stuff, but we did visit a local bookstore and I bought a copy of Scott Shupe’s “U.S. Guide to Venomous Snakes and Their Mimics”. Later on the way to the reunion, I noticed a DOR Black Ratsnake. At the reunion, the talkers talked, those who strum and pick, well they strummed and picked, Me? I ate too much.

Sunday (8-14-05), A drive home with little of interest sans a DOR Black Ratsnake on I-40.

Another week closer to spring of 06,

Joey Holmes

Week Ending 08-07-05

Gene's notes

Tuesday (08-02-05), Win found a Scarlet Snake under a coverboard along a woodland path on the farm. It was molting and waiting for time to shed. After couple of days it shed and showed its beautiful coloration.

Saturday (08-06-05), when I arrived home from picking up our granddaughter who was to spend the night with us, my wife told me that a hummingbird had flown into the garage and she could not make it fly out. My granddaughter and I found two birds in the garage when we looked, a male and a female. I caught the male in a butterfly net. When I pulled it from the net it folded its wings and legs tightly to its body and lay still in my hand. I showed my granddaughter how to hold it cupped in her hands. She took the little bird to the flower garden and let it fly from her hands. I caught the female and she behaved the same. My granddaughter released her in the garden also.

Sunday (08-07-05), Win joined us for Sunday dinner after he finished a morning creel survey. In late afternoon, I headed out with my mother-in-law to take her home. At the end of the driveway, I saw an animal that at first glance I thought was a Snapping Turtle. As I got closer, I realized it was dead and was an Armadillo. From its location, it could have been an animal on the road that was hit by a passing vehicle. However, I figured the odds of this were extremely small, especially since Armadillos do not seem to have yet migrated into my locality. Returning from a mid-day creel, Hope drove up as I was viewing the Armadillo. I asked her if she knew anything about it. She could not keep a straight face and had to admit that Win had found it DOR in Gerogia just across the lake from Calhoun Falls. He had brought it back to give me a thrill.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes

This moving sure keeps a fellow busy.

Monday (8-1-05), It was a good morning for moths when I arrived at work. Under the big light on campus I was impressed to see a dazzling array featuring 4 Imperial Moths, 2 Luna Moths, and 5 royal Walnut Moths. All huge and All beautiful!

Tuesday (8-2-05), My light at work again drew in some nice moths, but it was the beetles I noticed. A pair (male and female) Reddish-brown Stag Beetles, Pseudolucanus capreolus, and a female Antelope Stag Beetle, Dorcus parallelus. After work I spent some quality time with the lawn mower.

Wednesday (8-3-05), More nice moths in the morning, but our focus was elsewhere. Time to do a major cleaning in the outdoor Caiman pen. We moved the Caiman inside, then we drained, scrubbed, dried, filled, and bleached the pool. After work, more mowing. I did glance around and noticed a female Broad-Head Skink on the pecan tree, and several Southeastern Five-line Skinks under tin.

Thursday (8-4-05), My morning take under the light was just a Giant Water Bug (lethocerus) and a Caterpillar Hunter. Big, pretty, smelly Ground Beetle. Later we drained the chlorine water from the Caiman pool, rinsed the pool, air dried it, filled it, and took the Caiman back outside. We also took a few minutes to gather small crayfish in the creek and offered them to the Striped Crayfish Snake, R. alleni, and we were lucky enough to see him feed on one (I really should film stuff like that!).

Friday (8-5-05), New moon, no time to enjoy it.

Saturday (8-6-05), Holmes Photography worked a local outdoor wedding, but it was cloudy with a gentle breeze so we did not die from heat. Suffered, but did not die. Home from the wedding I tinkered around in my basement (I love having a basement). At one point I noticed a squished "bug" in the floor. Upon close examination I found it to be a Tiger Beetle, Megacephala virginica! How about that! At this new house, they come INSIDE to be found!

Sunday (8-7-05), I have NEVER kept venomous snakes inside a "dwelling house." I also have never kept venomous snakes anywhere that I could not lock. At our new house, I have no out-building that I can lock. I have a basement, but it is part of the house (dwelling house). I refuse to keep (just my personal policy) venomous snakes under these circumstances, even with locking cages. Just not going to do it. So I had to make a decision. What to do with my Timber Rattler? I have had her since August of 1981. I remember the day she was born. But, too bad, she has to go. I called a friend, an excellent "hot" keeper who lives near Greenville, and he agreed to give her a new home. I loaded her up and took her to him. I was excited to see his collection (lots of beautiful animals, all well-cared for) and left her in his skilled care. For the first time since the late 70s, I have no venomous snakes under my care. Maybe I can get a place set up here for "hots" but it is no big deal right now.

"Hot-free" but enjoying the moths,

Joey Holmes

September 27, 2005
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