SC Reptiles and Amphibians


July 2009

Gene's Notes:

July has been hot and dry. Snakes have been lying low. Female Box Turtles moved about to lay eggs.

On July 8th, I made a day trip to the Sandhills of Aiken County and the Gopher Tortoise Heritage Preserve. I did not see any herps other than a Six-lined Racerunner lizard. However, I did visit one of the enclosures (see below) which the SC Department of Natural Resources are using to imprint home location on Gopher Tortoises that are being re-introduced to the preserve. I walked along a part of the enclosure fence searching for the tortoises. I saw three burrows (see below) but no turtles. The day was very hot and humid and the walk to the enclosure was farther than I expected. By the time I returned to my van, I was soaked with perspiration and feeling very tired. During a prescheduled visit to my doctor a few days later, I learned that my heart had gone out of rhythm again. I guess this accounted for my tiredness.

Gopher Tortoise enclosure

Gopher Tortoise burrow

On Friday, July 10th, the two oldest (ages 5 and 7 years) of our grandchildren were spending the weekend with us at home. The visit turned out to be one of those summertimes that we dream of. Weston was anxious to catch some toads that night. He said he wanted to catch 6 toads. Just at dark, my grandchildren and I search for toads on the garage patio. They captured 7 Fowlers Toads. I ask Greer if she wanted call the Coyotes. We both howled, but she was much better than I. At first, we did not get a response, but then a howl was heard in response. Greer would howl and the coyotes howled back. Their howls came closer, but not beyond the woods edge about 100 feet away.

The next morning, while weeding the flower beds, we caught a Fence Lizard, a Five-lined Skink, and 4 adult Brown Snakes, one of which appeared gravid. At dark, Greer talked with the Coyotes again.

On July 14th, Win stopped at our house to deliver Wolf. All three grandchildren were taking swimming lessons and we were taking Wolf and Weston, who had stayed over a couple of days, to their lessons. I was summoned to come out quickly. On our garage patio lay an adult Eastern Rat Snake. I do not know what possessed the snake to be about on a hot, sunny afternoon on white concrete.

On July 17th, a flock of maybe 60 Purple Martins visited the farm. Most of the birds were this year's fledglings.

Brown Snake and Five-lined Skink

On July 18th, Carolyn and I went on a bus trip sponsored by Continuing Education at Lander University to the the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. The aquarium was impressive, claimed to be the largest in the world. Two unusual exhibits were the Whale Sharks (see below) and Beluga Whales (see below). There also was a special exhibit of artifacts recovered from the Titanic.

Whale Shark

Beluga Whale

On July 23rd, I rode some local roads to see what I could see. I did not see anything particularly noteworthy until a Great Horned Owl flew across a bridge on the 4-lane highway that was using to get me to what I thought would be a more fruitful road. The owl lit on the guard rail on the opposite side of the highway. I drove to the next turn-around and found the owl still there. I stopped just past the bridge and snapped some pictures before it decided to leave. The bird appeared haggered and thin. I suspect it was one of this year's fledglings.

This incident goes to show that opportunities for nature observations happen in unexpected locations and times. You need to be ready all the time.

That evening I attended a meeting of the Laurens County Photo Club at the county library. At this meeting, my friend Joey Holmes brought some Hercules Beetles (right) and other insects for photographing.

Hercules Beetle, male

Visiting Pigeon

In the morning of July 25th, I visited Horseshoe Falls at the Musgrove Mill State Historic Site. It is a beautiful area; however, the only herps I saw were River Cooters basking on the rocks in the Enoree River.

At our farm pond I saw a fledgling Barn Swallow flitting about over the water. While attempting to catch an image of it in flight, it lit on the dock at my feet. A little later I saw a beautiful pigeon (see left) walking on the dam. Pigeons are common birds, but seeing one at our farm is uncommon. It has stayed around since then. I have given it some bird seed. Win named it "Compass," due to its unusual lack of direction.

August 07, 2009
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