SC Reptile and Amphibians

RECENT OBSERVATIONS

June 2006

Gene's Notes:

With June, summer arrived for real. We had a number of days with temperatures in the upper 90s. Also, we have received a reasonably good amount and frequency of rain. The rains brought forth the Eastern Box Turtles. One day I moved about a half dozen from roads. I found a yearling Box Turtle.

In May, we were surprised by the number of Kingsnakes, Eastern and Mole, which we saw and the relatively few Black Rat Snakes seen. June has been the month of the Black Rat Snake. DOR Black Rats were seen frequently.

The first week of June, Hope spotted a Black Rat Snake crossing our driveway. The snake was about 200 feet away. She trotted down the drive to capture it. When she got near, she reconsidered and called Win to come get it. The snake was a large, old specimen of 66 inches length. When I got home, Win pulled the snake out of a bag to show it. The snake was obviously old and had many scars. I have begun a series of photographs that I plan to make of snakes and signs. I wanted to make a picture of it with a sign, but we also wanted to release the snake right away. That day, Win had been assigned an brand new work truck. It still had dealer numbers on the windshield. I decided to photograph the snake against the agency emblem on its door. I think it made an interesting image.

The next week, I found a large, approximately 5 feet, AOR Black Rat Snake. Following my desire to make images of snakes on signs, I bagged this one. Unlike most rat snakes, this one very actively tried to crawl away. The weather was warm, so I decided to keep the snake overnight and make the photograph in cooler, morning temperatures. I even brought the snake into the house so the air conditioning would cool it. The next morning drove to a gate on the farm where we had a sign from the security service posted. I planned position the snake on the gate behind the sign. I parked my van about 15 feet passed the gate. I pulled the snake from the bag and laid it on the gate. The snake would have none of this and began crawling away as fast as it could. It was moving toward the first cover it saw, which was my van. I figured that I would divert it into the open yard where I could let it tire itself out. The Rat Snake would have none of this and out manuevered me. It crawled under the van. When I got on the ground to look, I saw its tail disappearing into the engine block. The engine compartment of a modern van is very densely packed. I could see no sign of the snake. Fortunately, I had parked far enough from the gate to allow passage by other vehicles. I had no choice but to leave the van and wait for the snake to crawl out, most probably after dark. Later, about noon I was driving with my elderly mother-in-law to my house for lunch. I stopped at the van and was telling her the story of my failed photography attempt. About 20 feet away, an adult Black Racer Snake crossed the driveway with a Mockingbird dive bombing it.

We saw other Black Rat Snakes during the month which we just urged off the roadway. Win and Hope each found Eastern Kingsnakes and I saw at least one DOR Mole King Snake. Win gave a talk on reptiles to a 4-H group. He kept one of the Kingsnakes for the talk, added a large Redbelly Water Snake that he caught near his house, and bagged a small Copperhead he found on the road the night before the talk. I found my first, and only so far, small snake species specimen on the road, an Eastern Worm Snake.

Win made an excellent photo of a a pair of mating anoles.

For Fathers' Day, I gave myself a new digital camera. It is a Sony with 12X optical zoom and 6 megapixels image density. My goal was to be able to take better distance images. I took the camera home on approval. When I saw I was able to make a good photograph of an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit in low light, the camera was sold.

During the first part of June, I was visited by Jerome Doolittle. Jerome is a well-credential professional writer who first contacted me over a year ago. Jerome is gathering material for a new book he plans to write about snake handlers and snakes. He contacted me about potential images for use in the book. Jerome was in SC researching material. Jerome, Win, Hope, and I were able to get together for an evening visit and meal. I will be looking forward to reading his new book.

Gene Ott

Win's Notes:

I work for the fisheries division of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. This is a great job for me as it gives me the opportunity to witness the wonders of nature in SC. I spend most of my time in and around some of the most beautiful lakes and rivers in the piedmont. If you wish to see ospreys in numbers in the piedmont Lake Russell in Abbeville County is the place to go.

Armadillos are closing in on us here in the piedmont. I spend much of my time on the Savannah River. This large river acts as a highway for many animals normally found on the coastal plain. Armadillos have been spreading into SC from the southeast counties. I have now seen several (AOR and DOR) in Elbert County, Georgia. The armadillos were just on the other side of the river from Abbeville and McCormick Counties in SC.

Tuesday (06-27-06) I gave a talk on reptiles and amphibians to a group of daycampers in the 4-H2O program. 4-H2O is part of the 4-H clubs run by Clemson Extension. Led by James Hodges, Darren Atkins, and Rhonda Matthews, this camp teaches kids to appreciate and value our water resources. There is also much swimming! I brought yellow bellied sliders, a box turtle, a cornsnake, pinesnake, kingsnake, red bellied watersnake, and a young copperhead for the show and tell. The kids were great and we were able to hold and touch these amazing animals. No, I didnít pass around the copperhead! 4-H2O is a neat program and may be held in your community. Check it out if youíre interested.

Wenesday night (06-28-06) was the night of the grey fox. Between the hours of midnight and 4am I counted three adult grey foxes crossing the road in front of me. The night before I spotted what I first mistook for a cat. It paused on the shoulder of the road, mesmerized by my headlights. It was a juvenile grey fox, cute as a stuffed toy.

Friday (06-29-06) I watched a meadowlark foraging for insects. The bird moved through the grass occaisionally picking up what appeared to be small beetles and eating them quickly. Then the meadowlark snatched a green grasshopper but did not eat it. The bird carried the grasshopper around and continued foraging. When it spotted a beetle it would put the grasshopper down and eat the beetle. Then it would pick up the grasshopper and move on. Soon it found a cricket. The meadowlark picked this up (still holding the grasshopper) and continued hunting. Every time it found one of these beetles it would set down grasshopper and cricket, eat the beetle, pick up its cargo and move on. I never saw the meadowlark eat the bugs it carried.

Win Ott

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July 07, 2006
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians


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