SC Reptile and Amphibians


July 2000

Gene's notes from July 24 - 30

I spent most of this week at the beach near Garden City. I had hopes of photographing a lot of herps, but stormy weather and other activities limited my herping time. However, I did find many interesting things to do and had a great time anyway.

Sunday evening, about 8:15 pm, we all had an adrenaline charge. My son-in-law called from the porch saying there was a tornado. I took a quick look and saw a funnel stretching down from the clouds. It looked to be a mile or so away. All five of us rushed downstairs to a small bedroom which had good structure and only a small window. Having a safe place to hide, I fetched my video camera and went back out. I was able to tape for less than a minute before heavy rains obscured the view and forced me to retreat. In the meantime, my son-in-law called 911. The funnel developed over water so it was a waterspout, but it looked like a classic tornado. It veered away from us and hit the mainland near Hunnington Beach State Park. Apparently, water spouts do not have the energy of land formed tornados. It quickly dissipated. I later heard it broke some limbs and blew gravel damaging some car windows; nevertheless, I'm glad it did not hit us.

On Tuesday, I visited the new South Carolina Aquarium at Charleston. It is a outstanding facility. I understand it has been having large attendance since opening in May. I thought it was crowded during my visit, but I did not have to wait in any lines. I experimented with my camera settings while making pictures. I made a number of other pictures which I plan post one of these days in a special fish collection.

On the beach I additional video of birds and crabs. I was especially pleased to tape a pair of Ringed-billed Gulls catching small fish in the surf. To my SC Birds site, I also added pictures of the Brown Pelican, Osprey, Green Heron, Semipalmated Plover, and Rock Dove (City Pigeon). I was also able to get close to what I think was a large Sand Crab.

Thursday was a beautiful day. I set out toward the Francis Marion National Forest about 5:30 am. I spent most of the day visiting numerous locations looking for herps. I did not see a single live snake and only one DOR, a Black Racer. I did find a few lizards and turtles. In some locations, the Carpenter Frogs sounded like they were constructing a new subdivision! I stopped at the Park Service/USFWS Red Wolf exhibit and was able photo one of the wolves

With regards to local herps, a colleague reports having found a Scarlet King Snake in McCormick County. Win found a raided turtle egg nest on the dam of our farm pond. On Sunday, I walked around the farm a little and found a Five-Lined Skink under a board. It appeared to be feeding on ants nesting under the board. I also saw an immature Black Racer. It was the same one I had found a few weeks ago accidentally caught in a stored minnow trap (I recognized it because it still showed the nose-scale damage it had suffered while in the trap.)

Gene Ott


Joey's notes from July 24 - 30

This week I've had my classes out trapping for turtles on a farm where several ponds have been un-trapped for many years. In past years we've caught some real whoppers. We had good luck this week also. In addition to the turtles we've seen some great dragonflies (collected some) and a few Tiger Beetles (too fast for us!). I also found out this week that it's time to order goodies from the educational funds we have available each year. I've scoured the BioQuip and Carolina Biological Supply catalogs for fun books, videos, nets, etc. (I'll be sure and get some of those great Acorn the Nature Nut videos from BioQuip!!!). I'll turn in my wish list soon.

Monday (7-24-00): Went for a walk by the river. The usual birds, bugs, a shrew, Black Widow Spider, and turtles. No other items of interest.

Tuesday (7-25-00): Taking care of cages, feeding baby corns. Evening road cruise produces just a small Leopard Frog.

Wednesday (7-26-00): Setting turtle and funnel traps.

Thursday (7-27-00): Checking the traps, we find a very pretty Midland Watersnake in the funnel trap, and in the turtle basket: 2 old, dark, large Sliders and a Snapper (about 8 lbs). We moved the traps to another pond on the farm.

Friday (7-28-00): We checked the traps and the funnel trap was empty. The turtle basket had 2 snappers. One was about 10-15 lbs. The other seems to be 25-30, although this is an estimate. I've weighed a lot of these guys in the past and never gone over 35 lbs. We reset in yet another pond on the same farm.

Saturday (7-29-00): We didn't do as well, only getting one Yellow Bellied Slider, but it was a very pretty male.

Sunday (7-30-00), We sadly had to take our Irish visitor for the summer back to the airport. Seems like 5 weeks went by in the bat of an eye. We had the opportunity to show him a lot of neat American wildlife. Had a lot of fun.

Joey Holmes


Win's notes from July 17 - 23

Sorry for the delay in posting. It has been a busy week. Gene is on vacation. He is relaxing and living it up down at the beach. I, his good and faithful son, am writing the notes for this week.

I wish I had some great herping news to report but it has been hot with very little rain and not much was on the move. Here at the farm we are still incubating the small clutch of box turtle eggs and the larger clutch of cornsnake eggs.

Both litters of baby herps will be released upon hatching. We do not breed animals very much. This is mainly an experiment to see if we can improve the animals' chance of surviving. It seems to me that the invasion of the fire ant has got to be hurting the populations of egg-laying herptiles.

And now, an anecdote that is neat but a bit off-topic: On Sunday evening, Gene phoned from the beach. He said that while watching thunderheads roll in off the coast, they spotted a waterspout! This is a tornado that has formed over water. The waterspout appeared to be moving straight toward the house.

Gene bundled his wife, mother-in-law, my sister, and her husband into a small downstairs bathroom. Then he went out into the storm and filmed the tornado! He says hes got some great pictures before the rain became too heavy and obscured it. The storm passed and everyone's okay. Check back with us next week and we should have some pictures to show you.

This week we've started out with some rain and there is more precipitation in the forecast. I hope we shall have some good field notes for you next week. I am still stalking the elusive Carolina Pygmy Rattlesnake; stay tuned!

Win Ott


Joey's notes from July 17 - 23

I've been off work this week. Had a lot of family obligations, but did get out some for some nature.

Monday (7-17-00) Took the boys to a Baseball game, I watched the Dragonflies zoom over the field in addition to the game.

Tuesday (7-18-00) I did a Snake/Lizard talk to some children vsiting from Ireland. They were very attentive and nobody missed the opportunity to have their picture made holding a Black Kingsnake!

Wednesday (7-19-00) Took the boys to the Carowinds Amusement Park. I saw a Black Tiger Swallowtail, Some Catbirds (I almost never see these), a few Dragonflies, and lots of the Cicada Killers.

Thursday (7-20-00) No outdoors/nature fun. I did feed the hots in the shop.

Friday (7-21-00) My son went off on a church trip, my wife and I took our Irish visitor to the SC State Museum and had a quick visit with Jim Knight while there.

Saturday (7-22-00) The young cornsnakes are doing very well. We had 23 corns shed so far, and 6 or so accepted their first food. Our visitor and I road cruised after dark (we did 40 miles) and only found some Toads and a large Brown Snake.

Sunday (7-23-00) A colleague and some friends stopped by. Swapped some critters, found a RedBellied Snake in the back under tin, and had a nice visit. It rained a bit, and our visitor and I road cruised (very locally) but all we found was a large female Bullfrog AOR. Not much by my standards, but they ain't got frogs like that in Belfast and our visitor was impressed!

I have seen an increase in the numbers of DOR snakes this week. The activity levels must be picking up. The weather has been more acceptable anyway. I've also noted loads of dragonflies everywhere (including those beautiful golden "Wandering Gliders?").

I hope this week with my classes to be able to spend some time outdoors herping and turtle trapping. The location I have in mind has always been productive for turtles, snakes, a great Green Frog population, wonderful Dragonflies and other invertebrates. I look forward to going!

Must go now, I feel like its a good time to go for a walk by the river!

Joey Holmes


Gene's notes from July 10 - 16

The good news locally (southwestern Laurens County) is that we finally had some soaking rains. In each of the preceding weeks we had received about one inch of rain which greatly helped the surface flora and fauna. But this week, after being teased with light sprinkles for several days, on Wednesday evening we received 4 inches of rain. Although the rain came from thunderstorms, for the most part it was slow enough to soak into the ground. There is water flowing in the branches again.

Taking advantage of the wet evenings, I road cruised several nights. On Tuesday, while it was sprinkling rain, I found an AOR Southern Coppperhead (about 24 inches). On Friday evening, I found only DORs: a Southern Copperhead (about 24 inches), a Black Ratsnake (about 42 inches), and a Smooth Earth Snake (about 8 inches). Each night on the roads there were many Fowlers Toads, Green Tree Frogs, and a few Green Frogs.

Win also did some road cruising this week. On Tuesday, he and a friend cruised in the Greenwood/Abbeville areas of the Sumter National Forest. Scattered thunderstorms had caused many frogs and toads to get onto the road. They found two Southern Copperheads: one in Greenwood County and one in Abbeville County. Both were juveniles less than 24 inches. Many Green Treefrogs were spotted. They saw a good size snake jet across the road. It might have been a Corn or a Mole King, but they were unable to locate it once it got into the grass.

On Thursday night, Win and two friends cruised areas a litttle further west. The night was muggy and warm and the moon was full. The Green Treefrog chorus at a beaver pond was almost deafening. On the road they found Fowlers Toads, Green Tree Frogs and even Leopard Frogs. They spotted a snake near the edge of the asphalt. All three of them leaped out to discover a Carolina Pygmy Rattlesnake! Unfortunately, it was on its way to becoming DOR. It had apparently just recently been hit by another vehicle. It was the first pygmy rattler that Win had ever found on the road. They drove the same road for another hour but no other snake was seen. Ahh, the frustration!

Gene Ott


Joey's notes from July 10 - 16

This week we've had a bit more outdoors fun. Some cool herps and invertebrates.

Monday (7-10-00): Went to the nearby Enoree River (some park land at a historic site) and we found a Tiger Beetle, Fishing Spider, Northern Watersnake, some cool dragonflies and my son saw, but could not catch, a Softshell Turtle. Then some prisoners, in SCDC uniforms, strolled up. I didn't see a van, guard, or anything. Although they may have been on some sort of cleanup detail for the Park, we decided to come on back home. Having a major prison about 7 miles away sort of raises a kind of concern and I've never been out in a remote area and had them just walk up.

Tuesday (7-11-00): We set up some of the Cornsnake babies that have hatched, in their individual containers with labels and such. Should shed soon (we'll record on the labels when that happens) and should eat soon after that (we'll record that also) and after that we'll see about selling some. There are 2 that have very cool motley/zig-zag-zipper type patterns that I intend to keep. Also noticed that both of the male Speckled Kings recently shipped to me have not fed well in the last week or so. I looked closely. Both are thin with a bulge just a few cm above the vent; their bowels are blocked up. I know that to put a snake into water sometimes encourages it to have a BM. So we did that. We also have given daily enemas of about 10 cc of plain water. I know that when this happens that surgery is not a good option. My sister, a DVM, and I opened up a Corn with a similar problem a couple of years ago but when the time came to stitch the bowel closed it was like sewing wet Kleenex. I'll keep trying with the enemas and if I get them loose will immediately worm both snakes (which were wild caught as adults and likely have a gut full of parasites). We also found some Cow Killers (first this year) at work. Had some other sort of wasp walk by us dragging a big green caterpillar as we cleaned the outdoor Caiman pen.

Wednesday (7-12-00): More baby Corns to set up. More enemas. Had a kid at work bring me a little Rough Green Snake he found while mowing.

Thursday (7-13-00): Setting traps (turtle basket and funnel trap) with my class. We picked up an Eastern Box Turtle on the road (it had been raining and overcast) and found a lot of Cow Killers; I saw one female on the ground with at least 8-10 males flying around a small area. I know they are not social insects so this seemed really interesting. Never seen but a couple of males before.

Inside the classroom the Hognose we found a couple of weeks back laid a handful of infertile eggs. I swear, I'm surprised, she's big enough to be mature. On the way home, I found an AOR Rough Green Snake.

Friday (7-14-00): In the traps I had 3 small bream and a baby Eastern Mud Turtle (funnel trap) and an old male Yellow Belly Slider in the turtle basket. We caught a Halloween Pennant, and saw more Cow Killers in the same place they had been on Thursday. That evening I road cruised a bit over into southern Union County. I found Southern Leopard Frogs, Fowlers Toads, a huge Gray Treefrog (biggest I've ever seen), a DOR Mole Kingsnake, a DOR Brown Snake, 2 AOR Copperheads, and stopping for what looked like a toad, found an AOR Walking Stick (big plump female with a tiny little male on her back).

Saturday (7-15-00): After work was just family time. No herping

Had a pretty fair week. Our Irish visitor got to smell his first Skunk when we passed a DOR on the way to Mass last Sunday. I am becoming more and more aware of and thankful for the beauty and diversity of our American wildlife.

Joey Holmes


Gene's notes from July 3 - 9

Herping and herps have been scarce this week. We enjoyed a nice BBQ with the family on the 4th. There were scattered rain sprinkles; I saw plenty of Box Turtles on the roads in the wetted areas. While adding water for a Cornsnake I am keeping in an outdoor cage, I found a Black Racer (approx. 36 inches) in a minnow trap (funnel trap) which I had stored on the ground under the cage. I really doubt that I could have caught a snake in the trap if I had actually set it!

A colleague has found 2 Carolina Pigmy Rattlesnakes during the last 2 weeks. He also found a small Northern Scarlet Snake. Is he lucky or perhaps just more industrious than I?

Gene Ott


Joey's notes from July 3 - 9

Been very hot and very dry this week. Has not been much of a week for outside herping, but I have found some things of interest. I've checked the tin a couple of times, at various times of day with no luck. Seems most breeding and egging has already taken place. There is no rush to or from hibernation, and the local flora provides ample hiding places. Summer slumber.

Monday (7-3-00): I was able to show our Irish visitor some cool moths on a storefront as well as some Wild Turkeys. Later, when checking the traps we had a large (and to me personally a very creepy) Fishing Spider and a nice female Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtle.

Tuesday (7-4-00): We went to a friend's house for a "4rth" cookout by their pool. I really enjoyed watching the dragonflies. Dragonflies are everywhere now and I see them from the truck, kitchen window, and just about anyplace I go, I notice them. Great animals! (Where's that darn Field Guide!?!?!?!?)

Wednesday (7-5-00): Checked tin, nothing.

Thursday (7-6-00): My Cornsnake eggs (mother from northeast FL; dad from Hardeeville) that were laid on 5-2-00 began to slit. This was on day 65 for that clutch.

Friday (7-7-00): No herpng.

Saturday (7-8-00): No herping, but I did try to catch some dragonflies that were in the yard. No Luck with the net so I tried to knock them down by spraying them with the hose. No luck.

Sunday (7-9-00): As of 6 PM I have 18 baby Cornsnakes from 2 different litters. One is very cool with lots of connecting on the dorsal blotches (I'll be keeping that one!) and 3 have plain/unpatterned bellies! Also got some slitting started on some "hybrid" corns.

Better Yet...The MOLE KINGS are HATCHING!!!!!!!!! This is day #54. I had a set in '93 that started slitting on day #50. I have pretty good data on these eggs (and the cycling of the parents) and hope to write up an article/paper of some sort (any suggestions?)

Best of luck to you all this week and have fun outdoors!

Joey Holmes


Gene's notes from June 25 - July 2

I spent most of the week working in an office. On Tuesday we had a 1-inch rain! This rain and the similar one we had the week before have helped green up the landscape. The rain has also allowed the local turtles to lay eggs. I have seen a number of trial dig holes.

I found a couple of Box Turtles on the roads after the rain. I have seen a couple of DOR Cornsnakes. Thursday, checking under some tin I found a Worm Snake. I cruised the local roads a couple evenings but did not see any snakes, but did see plenty of Fowlers Toads and a few Green Tree Frogs.

Gene Ott


Joey's notes from June 26 - July 2

Monday (6-26-00): My son and I went to the pond and collected some dragonflies. We then went up to the Tyger River, where we got to watch a beautiful Northern Watersnake try to catch a small catfish. He prowled and hunted and grabbed but came up missing each time and the fish eventually got into deeper water. At home, we received the new Bioquip Catalog with supplies for entomology and related sciences. It has a lot of Nature Nut Videos.

Tuesday (6-27-00): We had rain during the night. At work I found my 2-tailed Anole (looking rough when caught last week) had died. I did see my first newborn Anoles of 2000 (have also seen new-hatched skinks this week). We picked up our Irish visitor at the airport. He's great. Nice Kid.

Wednesday (6-28-00): We felt that it would be great to take our visitor out to my favorite pond and show him some of SC's herps. They have very few herps in Ireland (1 lizard and just a few amphibians) We had rains for the first time in weeks, and it seemed like a good evening to go out. We found loads of small Southern Leopard Frogs, Fowlers Toads, Eastern Narrowmouth Toads, Northern Cricket Frogs, and Green Treefrogs were calling loudly (as were katydids and cicadas). In the water, the Green Treefrogs were showing up, and we found 1 smallish Redbelly Watersnake. This is always fun for me and my son, and my wife and our Irish visitor had fun also!

Thursday (6-29-00): Busy with nonherping activities.

Friday (6-30-00): My son took our visitor out and about and showed him Racerunners over in the cemetary. I found a Southern Ringneck Snake in the woods under some tin that evening.

Saturday (7-1-00): I took the boys out and we set a trap for turtles, and a funnel trap (for whatever). Our visitor was also able to see his first Whitetail Deer and Bats.

Sunday (7-2-00): Saw a very nice AOR Black Ratsnake on the way to church. Horrible place to stop for a rescue. I hope he made it. There was traffic, but on the way back home the road was empty. Later on, when we checked the turtle trap, we found it holding 15 (!) Eastern Painted Turtles! The funnel trap was empty.

Been quite a week. We've been able to show our visitor deer, squirrels, bats, rabbits; and he's met 4 species of frogs, Redbelly Watersnakes, Southern Ringneck Snake, the Corn and venomous stuff here at the shop, and he's seen some nice birds and bugs. I hope he's having a nice trip.

Gotta' go now,

Joey Holmes


July 31, 2000
Gene Ott

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