SC REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
OBSERVATIONS: MARCH 1999
Week Ending March 28, 1999:
This first full week of "official" spring undoubtedly stimulated the reptiles further, but I had little luck with my sightings. The Painted Turtles continued to bask on the rock in the middle of my pond. I saw a large River Cooter floating. Under debris, I found a juvenile Five-Lined Skink. Oh well, there's always compensation to be found, for example, the azaelas have burst into bloom.
Welcome spring! We've had a fair week. The American Toads have bred successfully. I went to the pond on Tuesday evening and saw a few out actively looking for mates. On Thursday after lunch I found them (many pairs) breeding, on the bottom in the shallows. There were a few leeches swimming in the shallows, and many, many eggs. A couple of leopard frogs were out also. Ground skinks, Anoles, a few fence lizards, and a few 5-line skinks have been out. A couple of days we saw turtles basking around local ponds. As always, slimy salamanders have been under the cover boards in the woods.
I had plans to go on a road trip on Friday (3-26-99). That was the worst weather day possible, rainy and in the 40's! Sunday (3-28-99) was to be warmer, so I planned a family nature outing to CONGAREE SWAMP NATIONAL MONUMENT. We did about 1.75 miles on the boardwalks and another 3 to 3.5 on the trails. We saw a number of birds (Brown thrashers, kinglets, warblers of different sorts, and several kinds of woodpeckers come to mind), Gray squirrels, anoles, any of the 3 local blue-tail skinks species were out to be seen. We saw absolutely no snakes.
In past trips, I have seen in the monument: Eastern ribbon snakes, banded water snakes, brown water snakes, redbelly water snakes, southern ringneck snakes, eastern king snakes, rough green snakes, eastern cottonmouths, and peculiar rat snakes; a combination of gray, black, and yellow rat snakes that I can describe only as "mud" or "mutt" rat snakes. (someday I would like to see a photo series of SC's rat snakes, county by county).
Week Ending March 21, 1999:
Spring weather finally returned. Great! The pear blossoms are waning, while the redbuds are waxing. Thursday, I visited Joey Holmes for a very pleasant evening trip to his favorite frog pond. We saw American Toads, Upland Chorus Frogs, Spring Peepers, Southern Leopard Frogs, Pickerel Frogs, and even a Northern Cricket Frog. The American Toads ( voice) were very active, although Joey said the action was far less than last year. Joey's son also caught a juvenile Redbelly Water Snake. A fellow herper on the trip demonstrated an interesting observation.. whirlygig bettles smell like grapes! Really! Well, more precisely to me, they smelled like grape soda.
On Saturday, I visited a beaver pond. The Painted Turtles were basking enmasse. I found my first snake of the year, an adult Worm Snake, under a piece of metal. I also found ground skinks and a Slimy Salamander under debris.
This week has been great! Well, at least better. We had a cold rainy Sunday but since then things have taken off! We've had temps up to 81 degrees F, The anoles and ground skinks have been everywhere. Fence lizards have come out in several locations we've checked. We've even seen a few painted turtles.
The frog breeding has started. On Wed (3-17-99) I checked the pond after dark and the American Toads, Leopards, Pickerals, Peepers and Chorus frogs were really at it. Gene Ott came up on Thurs evening and we went back to the pond for photography and fun. It was good (we saw 200-300 frogs/toads), but I've seen better. We also found newts, and my son grabbed a baby red-belly watersnake.
The climax of the week came on Friday afternoon when my son came in from the backyard with a 5-Line Skink, a normal size adult with an abnormal pattern. About midway between the front and rear legs the normal pattern goes blank! (it's as if he broke off his body and re-grew it! We know better, but that is what it looks like). About 15-20 mm below the rear legs, the pattern returns! The un-patterned area is just blue-ish/gray! Coolest lizard I've seen come out of the wild! Earlier in the day, my students and I found a Southeastern 5-Line Skink, in the Sumter National Forest in Laurens County (Not one I find very often).
Week Ending March 14, 1999:
The temperatures around home this week have continued to be too cool for much herptile activity and my work has kept me close. The frogs have only sung intermittently. Saturday I found a ground skink under a board. I did not see it and was using a stick to scrape away the leaves. I must have hit its tail, for it broke off. The lizard disappeared, but left its tail vigorously writhing on the ground. Sunday was cold and rainy; that night I visited a roadside area which has been productive for frogs and salamanders, but no luck. Spring is officially a week away; warmer temperatures are forecast!
Very little to report this week. The winter weather has still got a grip on us. Have heard a few chorus frogs and even caught one away from water on Fri. (3-12-99) Also found some anoles and ground skinks. Under rocks in a small creek we (my students and I) found dusky salamanders and several Two-line salamanders. Not much else.
We are later in the year now than we were in 96, 97, and 98 for the American Toad breeding "festival." I am beginning to think that it may not come this year at all if the weather doesn't get right for it. I recall picking up 82 in 10 minutes back in 96 and it was Feb (no doubt about the month). In 98 the breeding "festival" was like I've never seen. (in early March) one night we must have seen 500 or more; "breeding balls" of 10-15 toads were every few yards! The sound was deafening! The toads have been a little active but not like other years.
Week Ending March 7, 1999:
Work and travel took nearly all my time this week. I walked about a little Sunday afternoon. A few frogs were still calling, but the lowering air temperature was sending them into retreat. Joey Holmes sent me several Pickerel Frogs for photographing. Thanks!Gene Ott
This week, we had some interesting herping going on. Monday (3-1-99) was sunny and warm, and after picking my son up at school we stopped by the pond to see the frog eggs and found a half grown eastern painted turtle. On Tues (3-2-99) I went back to the pond after dark. The peepers were the dominate frog voice to be heard but the leopards, pickerels, and just one or two upland chorus frogs could be heard as well. I watched a few male leopards but they were un-approachable. There were a few females out and they could be approached easily and grabbed without much fuss Later in the week were the standard anoles and ground skinks.
On Saturday, (3-6-99) the mail came in and included was my 1958 Conant Field Guide, autographed by DR ROGER CONANT himself! It says, "Inscribed for Joey P. Holmes with the best wishes of ROGER CONANT 3 March 1999" This is just so great!!!!!!!!
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