SC REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
OBSERVATIONS: APRIL 1999
Week Ending April 25, 1999:
I did a little herping. On Friday night (4/23/99) I found an A.O.R. adult Eastern Smooth Earth Snake. I also found an adult Corn Snake (D.O.R.) and an adult Mole Kingsnake (D.O.R.). This was the first Mole Kingsnake I have found this year, although I did find one in my driveway last December.
Win, my son, did more herping and had better luck. On Thursday night (4/22/99) on his way home after work found a nice adult, gray-phase Corn Snake. He accompanied Joey Holmes on a trip to the Francis Marion National Forest on Friday (4/23/99). He captured, photographed, and released his first Cottonmouth. They also found a Southern Toad to photograph. A very special find was a "Blotched" Kingsnake. This snake's pattern and coloration was very different from the typical Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropelitis getula getula). It is best described as a white snake with dark chocolate blotches. I understand from Joey that kingsnakes of this color and pattern are not uncommon in the Francis Marion N.F. (Berkeley Co., SC). According to the Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians this coloration results from an intergrade of the Eastern Kingsnake and Florida Kingsnake (Lampropelitis g. floridana). However, the forest is very far from the range of the Florida Kingsnake. In some respects, it looks like an extreme form of the Outer Banks Kingsnake (Lampropelitis g. sticticeps). Peter May has a picture of a kingsnake found in the Alligator River Wildlife Management Refuge of North Carolina which shows some of the same pattern of this snake, but not as extremely developed.
On Saturday, Win's good fortune continued. He found a red-phase Midland Water Snake. This snake was even more belligerent than the green-phase Midland he found two weeks ago.
We've had a fairly busy week. Had revival at Church this week every evening til Friday, and had to do a snake/lizard/PWI talk at a local Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday but we still got some herping done.
Monday my pal Greg and I took a local hour or two and found 2 eastern worm snakes and a 34 inch black phase eastern hognose. We saw lots of river cooters (shell lenghts of over 12 inches on some), found 4 marbled salamanders, heard northern cricket frogs, saw killdeer, pearl cresent butterflies, spicebush swallowtails, E. tiger swallowstails. Whitetail dragonfies were very common, and Greg found a fragile forktail damselfly (Ischumra posita?), and lots of C. repanda tiger beetles. Now everyone please understand, Greg finds and can identify these insects much quicker and better than I can. I do well to ID giant stag beetles! (these will be out soon). I do have a soft spot in my heart for hercules beetles, cow killers, and dobson flies but after that I am often lost in entomology (been seeing good numbers of scorpions lately but arachnids give me the creeps; too many legs).
Friday we took a road trip to the National Forest outside Charleston. Win Ott and Mike from PWI went with 4 PWI students and myself. We found a southern toad for the Ott website, one of those big eastern kingsnakes with chocolate instead of black and a wide white chain pattern. One big (43 inch) cottonmouth and several smaller ones, we also saw banded water and redbelly water snakes, a black racer, cooters, sliders, eastern mud turtles, skinks and anoles. We heard the southern cricket frogs and saw great blue herons, green herons, American egrets, a red-shoulder hawk, an osprey and lots of osprey nests and had a pretty good time in general.
Locally we've seen anoles starting to display, ground, 5 line and southeastern 5 line skinks, slimy salamanders, and fowlers toads. The first snake find while on sabbatical: a worm snake in the back yard!
Week Ending April 18, 1999:
I started the week by finding a small (22 inch) Black Racer. My son found our first Corn Snake of the year, unfortunately D.O.R. On Saturday (4/17/99) while releasing the Midland Water Snake we caught and photographed last week, we found an adult Black Racer climbing in a small Red Cedar tree, probably looking for birds. We also heard two snakes slide into the wetland pond but did not see them. On Sunday I returned to the pond and saw a small water snake basking but could not get near enough to identify it. Later, while cooking out by the farm pond, we saw an adult Red Belly Water Snake. It exhibited mating behavior by boldly swimming around the pond's perimeter.
Slow week, the temps have been down. Have seen loads of anoles, ground skinks, and fence lizards. Have seen a few 5 line skinks and caught a female broad-head skink. Coolest lizard of the week has been the 6-line racerunners. Out a bit early and on cool days (surprised me!) I saw two. It may have had something to do with recent plowing in that area.
On Thursday evening I found a black racer, and black rat snake together, under a car hood on an abandoned farm nearby. Both were males.
May make a day trip to the Frances Marion National Forest at the end of the week with some students, hope for good weather, safe traveling and good herping. Let you know next week how it turns out.
By the time you get my next report, I'll be on my sabbatical!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Looking for the last 7 snake varieties native to SC that I have not yet caught (glossy crayfish, rainbow, southern hognose, northern pine, eastern milk, timber rattler, carolina pygmy rattler) ANYONE, with ANY INFORMATION about locations, time of day, habitat, micro-habitat, contact persons, anything, please let me know. I would prefer to stay in SC but may do some herping in East-central Tenn.
Week Ending April 11, 1999:
I did not get to do very much herping this week, just a little road cruising. The number of roadkills is increasing with the warm weather. Most D.O.R.s are Black Racers and Black Rats, but I did find a large Eastern Garter Snake (D.O.R., approx. 32 inches length). I found one live Black Rat (approx. 40 inches) on Friday. My son found a very good specimen Midland Water Snake (34 inches length) in our driveway Friday evening. On Saturday night while looking for Fowlers Toads at the pond, he found a pair of Mud Turtles mating in the water. Sunday I found a Mud Turtle in a branch near the house. I also photographed a Lunar Moth resting on the house siding.
We're rolling. This week was my son's spring break. I took some time off, and we went on a Father-Son trip (36-hour) to the herper's Mecca: Jasper County. We specifically wanted to get a rainbow snake and invested some time in looking for them, but none were to be found. We did find our first ever rough earth snakes (a species that was on my list of snakes to catch in 1999), We saw 4 racers (caught and released 2), 3 banded water snakes (caught 2, kept 1 to show the students at PWI), the 2 rough earths, 1 eastern king, 1 copperhead, 1 southern ringneck, and 1 redbelly water. We saw 2 brown water snakes but could not get a good approach at either. Road kills included peninsula ribbon, black racer, and copperhead. We also saw 4 armadillos, 4 opossums, 1 raccoon, glossy ibis, white ibis, snowy egret, American egret, blue heron, red-wing blackbird, and about 15 - 20 alligators. Saw some toads/frogs on the road but didn't stop for any close looks (we did see a leopard frog and some rather large tadpoles as we were looking for rainbow snakes at a pond near the salt marshes). At various stops we heard pig frogs, southern toads, bird-voice treefrogs, and squirrel treefrogs. Wild boar tracks/rootings were to be seen in several areas. We had a visit to the wildlife center and got so sit in on a surgery where biologists Steve and Wade (had a great time! Thanks guys!) implanted a radio telemetry tracking device (these things are now about the size of a AA battery) and PIT tag in a 60 inch male eastern diamondback rattler!
Thursday evening I went to the pond and found a redbelly watersnake and 2 midland watersnakes but had already showered and did not want to end up stinking from musk. The frogs/toads have slowed down a lot, but some peepers/fowler's toads were still calling.
Did some local herping on Saturday (4-10-99) with students and found a few fence lizards, anoles and ground skinks, baby yellowbelly slider turtle, baby musk turtle, some dusky and 3 line salamanders, plus an eastern king snake and southern ringneck.
I'm already looking foreward to next week.
Week Ending April 4, 1999:
Monday (3/29/99) I paid a short visit to the riverside park at Ware Shoals. Numerous River Cooters were basking on the rocks. I am always amazed that such large turtles prefer such swift waters. I was hoping to find a Soft-shelled Turtle to photograph but this was not to be.
On Tuesday (3/30/99) during lunch hour I visited Parris Mountain State Park. I found Five-Lined Skinks and Green Anoles at the picnic shelters basking in the sun.
On Wednesday (3/31/99) we received a needed spring rain. When I arrived home that evening I was greeted by a Fowlers Toad on my patio. The Fowlers Toads had made an early appearance during especially warm days in January, then disappeared for about 2 months.
Thursday (4/1/99) was absolutely beautiful and warm. I looked for herptiles as I traveled during the day but did not see any. That evening as the sun set, the frogs at the pond were in full chorus. As I pondered doing a short road cruise, I received a sign... a Spring Peeper came to my front door and began singing. I opened the screened door and picked the little frog up and showed him to my wife. A few moments later I was on the road. Within a half mile I found a Northern Brown Snake. Even though I did not find any other live herptiles, the drive was pleasant. The full moon rose like a true Clemson U. fan (orange). When I returned home, I heard the Barred Owls hooting and howling. Later a Whip-poor-will serenaded nearby.
My son and I decided to visit the Congaree Swamp National Monument on Friday (4/2/99). That morning while packing the truck for the trip, I saw a white Robin in the yard! I do not know if "albino" is a correct description for the bird. It had white feathers where a normal Robin has black or dark gray feathers. Its breast was faded orange.
By 10:30 A.M. we were walking the boardwalk in the park. Five-lined Skinks were almost everywhere. Green Anoles were also very numerous. On one tree trunk deadfall we saw a half-dozen or more Anoles. We heard a Great Horned hooting but never saw it. Our first snake sighting was a small Banded Watersnake. We spied a small swamp rabbit browsing in a shallow bog.
After leaving the boardwalk, we found 2 ratsnakes. Both appear to be crossbreeds between the Black Ratsnake and the Yellow Ratsnake. The first ratsnake exhibited pattern markings associated with each species. The head portion of its body bore the four lines of the Yellow Rat; while the rear portion showed the blotched patterns imbedded in the Black Rat. Its background color was a blend of yellow, green and gray. My son pronounced it to be a "Moss" Ratsnake. The other ratsnake was more typical of the Black Rat, but its blotched pattern more distinct. I believe this is a coloration which Joey Holmes calls "Mutt Ratsnake". Both snakes were sub-adults. The "Moss" was about 36 inches in length and the "Mutt" was about 30 inches.
We found several Brown Watersnakes basking on tree branches above Cedar Creek. One of our objectives for the day was to find a Cottonmouth. We finally found one basking on some deadwood in a side channel to Cedar Creek. We also found 3 Carpenter Frogs gathered about a water filled hole in a fallen tree. Unfortunately, they bolted before I could take pictures.
When we returned home we found that Fowlers Toads at the pond had started singing. The Fowlers call is similar to that of the American Toad but less melodic.
On Saturday (4/3/99) my son visited forests near the Lake Russell Dam. He found a nice Black Ratsnake and a male Fence Lizard in full mating colors.
During the week I found several D.O.R. Black Racers and Black Ratsnakes.
Things are getting going! Ground skinks, anoles, and fence lizards have been here to keep us company! On Tues Afternoon, a visit to the pond was a let-down. Very quiet, no action. I did pick up a worm snake in the back yard under a piece of tin. On Wed after lunch, I took a group of students to the local national forest, we found 2 racers and caught 1, and got our first copperhead of the year. All released unharmed where found. On Friday evening my son and I went to the pond and saw cricket frogs, spring peepers, pickerels, leopards, bullfrogs, american toads and for the first time in '99, fowler's toads (singing). Not all the others are singing yet. Hunter and I also found 2 adult red-belly water snakes out feeding. I picked one up and it regurgitated 4 toads and a leopard frog. The most remarkable find was on the road at 7:30 PM. A (still moving slightly) DOR mole kingsnake (I almost never see these before May 1). I have the snake frozen and complete data. I promise to keep better records this year. Saturday I took 8 students to Lake Marion (Santee Cooper) and we located 1 Eastern Cottonmouth (a '98 baby), 1 adult copperhead, and 1 black racer. Under logs by the lake edge was the biggest gathering of 3-line salamanders I have ever seen! Under one bit of pier, there were 7 still in sight after all the scrambling had ended and several had vanished! We also saw a pickerel frog and juvenile green treefrog. In a stump we found a (fishing?) spider and it had to be the biggest spider I've ever seen in the wild.
My brother had a slow week. Several days in the dry SC lowcountry forced him to migrate south to the Okeefenokee region, where the rains had things moving. He found 3 glossy crayfish snakes, a black swamp snake, 2 banded waters, a Peninsula ribbon, all alive on the roads. DOR's were 1 E. Diamondback, 1 rough greensnake, and 1 Fla Cottonmouth. Returning to SC, he found 1 canebrake (adult). He and the Wildlife Tech (mostly the wildlife tech) there at the wildlife center installed a PIT tag and the snake was to be released on Saturday.
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