SC REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
Week Ending October 31, 1999
Week Ending October 31, 1999:
It's not often that you see a truly newsworthy "herp" story in the local newspaper. However, one did appear at the end of last week. Hickory Tavern is a little crossroads community in Laurens County about 10 miles from my home. It was reported that on the night of October 18th a deer hunter found a 5-foot Alligator crossing a road in Hickory Tavern. For those who are not familiar with the geography of South Carolina, Laurens County is in the middle of the Piedmont. This is a long way from the natural range of alligators. Wildlife officers were called and they captured the gator. They tentatively identified it as an Alligator, and not a Caiman, but will verify its species before releasing it into its natural habitat. It is speculated that it was someone's illegal pet. It was also reported that an alligator was taken from Lake Greenwood last year. Lake Greenwood is about a mile from my house. My first thought upon reading the story was "With all the cruising I do, why couldn't I have been lucky enough to find it!"
I am about 90 percent recovered now. On Tuesday I was able to walk around the farm and do a little herping. I saw an Anole and found a Slimy Salamander under a piece of sheet metal. I walked to one of the springs to check on the Three-Lined Salamanders. This spring is vertically encased with a 30-inch diameter concrete pipe. Last October Three-Lined Salamanders used the spring well as a spawning pool. I saw one salamander in the well. There were a number of the white spermatophores floating and attached to the walls of the casing.
Each day I forced myself to drive the truck. It had been too painful to sit in the truck before, but this week the pain was lessening. By Thursday I was able to drive to Greenville and back. On Friday, I saw a DOR adult Black Rat Snake.
On Saturday I was able to look for snakes on the road as I ran errands. I found 1 AOR Northern Redbelly Snake and DOR: 1 adult Southern Copperhead and 1 neonate Black Rat. That evening, just after dark, I visited the encased spring again. There were 19 Three-Lined Salamanders in the well! The top of the well casing is sealed by a concrete pad and covered with a housing. The bottom of the casing is about 6 feet below ground. The salamanders must be entering from below the casing.
Sunday was a warm and beautiful day. After being restricted to home for the larger part of nearly 2 weeks, I was anxious to do some herping. I decided to drive to McCormick County. Unfortunately, all I saw was a neonate lizard scurrying across the road and a Box Turtle. Back home that evening, I drove my favorite local road after dark but found nothing of interest.
The local reptiles have definitely slowed down now. Rather than report a lot of unproductive herping, I have decided to post notes monthly for the period November through February. I think Joey, Win, and I will make some interesting amphibian observations during this period so please check back at least once a month. Additionally, I expect to continue to make additions to the web site as a whole. Joey and I are working on a snake hunting story right now. I have been offered the opportunity to make pictures of a captive Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake and I hope to receive pictures of a Mud Snake and her eggs. I still plan to get the "Cruising for Snakes" model/game on the web and expect to make some formatting changes to the site as a whole. Also, if you haven't yet done so, check out the language translation utility link I added this week. You get to it by the hyperlink below the pictures on the home page.
This week I had to spend much time in SC's Clarendon County at meetings for work. Took every possible opportunity to enjoy nature. I saw Green Anoles, floating/basking turtles, and Ground Skinks, an Otter, a Hispid Cotton Rat, a large assassin bug of some sort, dragonflies (at least one was a saddlebag, others were "hawking" along), tons of Sulfur butterflies and even a DOR Coyote near Orangeburg. The birds were great!: Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Egrets, Herons, Cormorants, Anhingas, many gulls and Bald Eagles! I saw more Eagles this week than I've seen in the rest of my life combined! Of course, it was likely the same 2 over and over, but I do know there were 2 because I saw 2 together on several occasions. I saw eagles soar and glide, catch fish, and eat fish while perched on a pine limb. SUPER COOL!
Snakes on the trip? Found a shed skin of a coachwhip (judging by the size/length of the tail and the size of the scales on the tail.
Back at work, the lizards are everywhere; as are the ladybugs. I did see a Ground Skink AOR and was quite surprised to have spotted that! Almost stepped on a Redbellied Snake as I was getting in the truck to go home on Friday. Not much else though. Some late eggs hatchings; we had let a male Black Rat Snake have his way with our Female Everglades Rat. Got about 14 babies, good snakes for the kids to take home- obsoleta: hearty, indestructible, and big. But, as adults will be ugly as sin and cannot be released or allowed to escape.
I am in awe of the beauty of the fall leaves. DO NOT miss the chance to appreciate their splendor! We must soon face the bleak gray of winter (and I plan to whine unceasingly).
Flashback: In the early part of '97, I had the good luck to catch all three Cottonmouth subspecies: Western in Cheatham County, TN; Eastern in the Congaree of SC; and the Florida down in Live Oak (near the junction of I-10 and I-75). I also caught a Canebrake in Fargo, GA; a Copperhead locally; and a Coral in Live Oak. This was all 4 of the American venomous snakes as described by the Boy Scouts and first aid books within a month! In Big Game hunting circles they would call this some sort of SLAM. Perhaps I should refer to it as a Hot Herp Slam! Reckon a name like that would stick?
Week Ending October 24, 1999
Week Ending October 24, 1999:
Woe is me! I am still lame and unable to ride in a vehicle, so I did not get to do any herping this week. I was able to prod my web site host into correcting the problem which prevented the index page from loading correctly.
Win did not get to do much herping either. Saturday he did see AOR 1 adult Black Racer. Later, while looking for stones to place into a terrarium he found an adult Southern Ringneck Snake under one. This find prompted him to look under some pieces of metal strategically place around the farm. He found a Slimy Salamander. These two finds are encouraging, indicating the small snakes and salamanders are responding to the recent rains.
It was 24 deg F at home Sunday morning. Warmer weather is forecast for the latter part of the week. I hope I can do some local herping for reptiles before they go into hibernation. Then it will be on to the amphibians until Spring (unless we get into another warm spell like we had last year).
Try as I might, I can't seem to get much herping done. The season of hibernation is rapidly approaching, and soon we will be robbed of evening daylight. But not quite yet:
Monday: On my way to a meeting for work, I stopped and checked a car hood
at an abandoned farm. Underneath was a nice male Black Ratsnake. Hope he
finds a good hole to sleep in soon. After the meeting, I chased a few
Cricket Frogs and got 2 into the bag.
Tuesday: I do not recall anything exciting happening.
Wednesday: On the way to get crickets, worms, and minnows from the local
bait farm/distributor (How can others get away with keeping herps without a
bait farm a half mile from their home?), we saw a DOR Coyote in Laurens
County. It was one of those sooty-gray ones. Pretty neat.
Thursday: I think we did a lot of cleanup, then class work in the lab. Anoles and Ground Skinks are still very easy to find on sunny days.
Friday: Frost on the windshield of the truck in the AM! Skinned a 38"
Puff Adder (DOR E. Hognose) for tanning. Saved the skull to clean later.
Saturday: Collected about 15 cricket Frogs (Northern or Southern, I didn't look), 1 super nice Upland Chorus Frog, and 1 Spring Peeper. Saw Anoles and Ground Skinks also.
Fuzzy Memories: The last Saturday of September, 1979, some friends and I had the chance to herp Jasper County a few days after Hurricane David. We had precious few hours but did rather well I think. We caught a Canebrake Rattlesnake on the way to get breakfast in Ridgeland. Later, we found Black Racers, a large Cottonmouth up north of town, several watersnakes, an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake on the Tilman Road, and to cap off the evening, a Southern Copperhead. I'll always remember catching 2 species of rattlesnake, copperhead, and cottonmouth in the same day and in the same county. Not bad for a 17 year old and his friends. I also fell off the tailgate of the truck and got scuffed up a bit (good thing we were not going too fast).
Good herping (what's left of it).
Week Ending October 17, 1999
Week Ending October 17, 1999:
I was able to do very little herping this week. Early in the week I saw DOR: 1 Mole King Snake and 1 Black Rat Snake. Then an illness confined me to home for the remainder of the week.
Win and students found a neonate Eastern King Snake and a Northern Redbelly Snake near the Institute. He had a friend bring him a neonate Northern Water Snake for identification. Friday night he saw DOR: 1 Southern Copperhead.
The host for this web site, Geocities-Yahoo, has been having problems with handling picture files this week. I have corresponded several times with them to correct the problem. Some have cleared, but now there are problems downloading the index page graphics. Hopefully all will be resolved soon. Please bear with us on this. If anyone notes any continuing problems this coming week, please drop me an email.
Fall is definitely here. Some herp actions have picked up, some have slowed down. We have seen Green Anoles a'plenty. They seem to be everywhere. Where were they in the summer? In the canopy? Too well camouflaged? Well, plenty around now on a sunny day. Ground moisture is back and so are Slimy Salamanders. Several have been seen this week under ground cover. We found a few toads and a Ground Skink also.
Last Sunday, we had rains. I stayed in most of the day. On Monday the clouds broke away and the sun came out, The Enoree River was swollen and out of the banks in some areas. I thought I'd walk by the river. I saw an AOR Eastern Box Turtle on the way to the river. Maybe animals that had been in the tangles of vegetation on the banks had been displaced by rising water. I saw an N. sipedon, quite a few Ranadae frogs jumped in as I walked. A Muskrat and Wood Ducks were also noted. The coolest thing was in a flooded area where Fire Ants were evacuating due to the water. Where they could, they went on floating limbs and sticks. In two areas, they bridged the water and escaped by linking legs and making a "floating bridge" of their own bodies! This was no little thing! One section was about 15 inches long and an inch wide! I do not think they broke the surface tension of the water. They really were neat and I regretted not bringing along the camera.
On Campus Tuesday we found a small (and I do mean small) Southern Ringneck Snake, and we found 2 DOR racers Saturday near the Institute.
Went on a family walk back by the river this afternoon (Sunday, Oct 17). We saw a few cooters basking and found 3 Marbled Salamanders together under a log. Some frogs. Lots of grasshoppers (Grigs) and a few dragonflies or damselflies.
Things are slowing down.
Week Ending October 10, 1999
Week Ending October 10, 1999:
The rains and cooler temperatures have worked their magic and spurred snakes into activity. Most seem to be moving during daylight. Locally I found AOR an Eastern Garter and a Rough Green Snake. Local DORs were 5 Rough Greens, 1 neonate Black Rat; 1 Black Racer; and 1 Eastern King.
Saturday, I received an email from Jerry Henshaw, manager of Aiken State Park. He had captured another Eastern Coral Snake on the park roads. I made plans to drive down Sunday to make pictures. In the meantime, Jerry found a DOR adult Rainbow Snake. On my trip to the park I found AOR 1 neonate Black Racer and saw DOR 1 Copperhead. After leaving the park, I decided to cruise a little since I was in prime Pine Snake country. I found a DOR neonate Pine Snake about 17 inches long. This makes 2 DOR pines for me but no live ones. On the remainder of my travels I found DOR: 1 Eastern Hognose, black-phase; 1 adult and 1 neonate Black Rat; and 1 Black Racer.
Fall is surely upon us; nights are cooler; Orb-Weavers are every few yards! Leaves are turning on some tree species. Herping is slowing down. My other activities are picking up, and it seems I am almost never on the roads or in the woods. Seasons change.
We returned some of the "temporary" animals to the wilds. Released a pair of Redbelly Watersnakes and a litter of 10 local Copperheads were released in an area where they could live without people giving them trouble.
I flipped a good bit of tin this week, but nothing was to be caught. We still see tons of Green Anoles and some Fence Lizards around campus. I did catch a Black Racer on Campus Tuesday. In the creek behind my classroom we found a small Northern Red Salamander one day.
Seen some fair birds here and there this week. Yellow-Shafted Flickers and Eastern Meadowlarks come to mind. Monarch Butterflies are migrating through on their way to Mexico.
Week Ending October 3, 1999:
We received some decent rain on Monday and Tuesday. Hoping the rain would spur some snakes into movement (maybe even a Pine Snake), I cruised areas from Laurens and Aiken Counties during the day. I found a live Rough Greensnake. I also saw DOR 1 Copperhead, 1 Black Rat, and 1 Eastern King. While in the area I paid a short visit to the Aiken Gopher Tortoise Heritage Preserve. This site is claimed to be the northern most natural range of the Gopher Tortoise. I walked a some of the trails available. I found a burrow which may have been made by a neonate Gopher Tortoise. I have no experience with Gophers; however, some literature says that juveniles do make minature burrows. This burrow hole was about 1.5 inches in diameter. The thing which makes me think it could be a Gopher burrow is how the excavated soil is spread so far in front of the burrow. If anyone has input as what kind of burrow is it, I would like to hear from you.
The rains did help. During the rest of the week I found another AOR Rough Greensnake and 1 AOR Southern Copperhead; DORs were 1 Copperhead, 1 Eastern Smooth Earth Snake, and another Rough Greensnake.
On Thursday night on my way home from a school function, I saw a Bobcat kitten on the road. The first I have ever seen. Every few years I catch a glimpse of an adult. There are more DOR mammals now. This week I have seen several DOR skunks, raccoons, grey squirrels, and oppossums. I also found a DOR Gray Fox.
Win and friends traveled to the Congaree Swamp National Monument on Sunday. They saw a DOR Copperhead on the trip. At the park, they saw an adult Black/Yellow intergrade Rat Snake. Most of the swamp was still dry. They did a lot of bird watching.
This year's crop of lizards and snakes have been much in evidence during the last few weeks. I have seen quite a few neonate lizards. I have received several emails from persons who have found newborn Black Rat Snakes in their homes. A fellow herp enthusiast wrote me of an extraordinary evening of cruising he had last Sunday (9/26/99). At dusk he began cruising a 2 to 3 mile stretch of road in the Piedmont where he had previously found DOR, neonate: 1 Eastern King, 1 Mole King, and 1 Black Rat. In about 2 hours he found AOR: 4 neonates and 1 adult Black Rats, 1 neonate Mole King, 1 neonate Copperhead, 1 Eastern Garter, and 1 Brown Snake. He also found DOR: 1 neonate Black Rat and 1 adult Copperhead.
I went back to work, following surgery, on Tuesday, 9-28-99. A long day, but made it through. Very tired by sunset, I just had to go out a bit as it was warm and rainy. I found a Redbelly Watersnake AOR, plus a Copperhead. There was also a small snake AOR that evaded me. Frogs were plentiful: Fowler's toads, Bullfrogs, Southern Leopard Frogs, and an Upland Chorus Frog. I even found an eft crossing the road. I had been tired, but it was worth getting out.
In the lab, we skinned a 12-foot "green" Burmese Python in the Taxidermy class I am teaching right now. We tanned some watersnakes also.
I had the unique chance to work with a mammalogist on Friday evening working with BATS! The fellow is a 3rd year grad student from Wake Forest University. He is working with BIG BROWN BATS, such as the bats in our church's attic. We (he) collected 2 bats and said we have a summer population of around 700! But most were gone for the season/evening when we were there. The guy is from Bulgaria but lived in Germany and Italy. Interesting. It was fun to spend the evening working with bats.
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