SC REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
OBSERVATIONS: MAY 1999
Week Ending May 30, 1999:
Have not been able to do much herping this week. Found a juvenile Southern Ringneck Snake early in the week. Still see DOR black snakes on roads. Overall the number of DORs has been less this week. Cruised a little on Saturday night. Found a DOR juvenile Southern Copperhead and a DOR fledgling Screech Owl.
I wonder if other herpers find fake snakes on the roads. In the past couple of years I have found a few. Found another one this week, a fake rattlesnake.
The weather is getting drier. The springs and branches are suffering and the pond is dropping. Looks like a worse summer than last year is in store.
An oppossum has been raiding our cats' food bowl at night. I decided that I would capture it and transport it to a distance place the next time I heard it feeding. I heard a noise on Thursday night, grabbed my flashlight, and went to catch the oppossum. What I found was a raccoon. The next night Win said he saw the opposum and racoon both trying to raid the food at the same time!
Friday, I snapped a picture of the timberland next door being fertilized. I guess an air conditioned John Deere is just not good enough these days.
The report is early and brief this week. Not much going on here. We're seeing the usual lizards, hearing the usual frogs, seeing the usual turtles. Have found 2 redbelly watersnakes, 2 midlands watersnakes, a smooth earth snake, and 2 black racers. Spent much of the week in the classroom, doing cleanups, etc.
Week Ending May 23, 1999:
D.O.R. snakes are still plentiful. Black Rat and Black Racers continue to show up high in the numbers. Additionally, I found D.O.R.: 2 Rough Green Snakes, 2 Redbelly Watersnakes, and 1 Eastern Kingsnake.
On Monday I visited Paris Mountain State Park during lunchtime. I found a Queen Snake but was not able to get photos.
The most interesting observation I made was on Saturday. In a visit to the Saluda River shoals at Ware Shoals City Park I found a Brown Watersnake basking on a limb. This is the farthest upland I have ever seen one. I also saw the usual multitudes of River Cooters and at least one Yellowbelly Slider. I found an Eastern Spiny Softshell basking on a rock in the middle of the river. My experience with softshells has been they are much more wary than the cooters. It is very hard to get close enough for a good photo. Hopefully I can get a more powerful telephoto lens sometime. It would have helped with the Brown Watersnake photo, also. The Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese were out with their young.
Been a bit busy this week:
Monday/Tuesday: Traveled to the Frances Marion National Forest to look for the southern hognose, rainbow snake, and glossy crayfish snake. All three have been documented in that area. I found none of these. I did see 5 of the "greenish" ratsnakes (either AOR or DOR), a banded watersnake, a DOR eastern ribbon, 11 eastern kingsnakes, 2 eastern cottonmouths, legions of yellowbelly sliders and eastern mud turtles, a common snapper, cooters, and the expected lizards. Saw many frogs/treefrogs/toads on the road and singled out the calls of green treefrogs, gray treefrogs, pine woods treefrogs, squirrel treefrogs, southern cricket frogs, little grass frogs, southern toads, bronze frogs, and carpenter frogs.
The mammals included the expected deer, coon, fox squirrel, and a xxlg wild boar (jet black, at first I thought it was a bear but the profile was larger over the shoulders/neck/head and not in the torso/hips.) I have caught many wild hogs, but this guy was big: 200-300 lbs!.
The birds included osprey on the nest, tons of barred owls, reddish egret, La. Heron, great blue heron, American and snowy egret, anhinga, pileated & redhead woodpecker, flicker, and yellow billed cuckoo. I saw wood ducks and turkeys leading their broods across the road. There were many other birds I failed to pay much attention.
I enjoyed camping alone and working my own schedule. Certain freedoms exist only when alone. I tried for the 3 goal species in specific locations but this just didn't happen. Oh well. Please keep in mind that without permits the National Forests' wildlife is protected. No collecting! I would like to think my great grandchildren will be able to go see the same forms of wildlife that we enjoy today. Let's leave it there, share with generations to come.
Wednesday: Stayed local, saw the new STAR WARS movie. It was okay.
Thursday: Got a tune-up on the car and had the brakes looked at (snake hunters need good brakes don't they?!).
Friday: With Win Ott, searched by the Enoree River for the gulf coast spiny softshell turtle. Didn't find any. We went to the nearby Tiger River to look for queen snakes. Didn't find any. Saw a softshell, some anoles, skinks, and 6 midland watersnakes. Went to the local pond after dark, found 5 redbelly watersnakes, 4 midland watersnakes, eastern mud turtles, and lots of fowlers toads. There were also green and gray treefrogs calling. Nothing was on the roads.
Saturday; Didn't get any herping done, did tape a Discovery Channel show about mamba hunting.
I go back to work on Tuesday. Sabbatical over. I have found 3 of the 8 snakes I've been searching for. I suppose it stands to reason that the reason I have not found them yet because they are hard to find. I've had some weather problems, but have taken 8 "out-of-town" trips (2,373 miles of traveling), caught or located 65 varieties of reptiles/amphibians (10 were 1st time encounters for me with these types), caught 48 snakes, and have some good new information/ideas on the species not yet acquired. It's been fun, and I really appreciate my company for allowing this time, and my co-workers for covering for me.
I intend to keep looking for the last 5.
Week Ending May 16, 1999:
Win and I did only a little herping this week. During a long lunch on Monday, we visited the Saluda River Park at Ware Shoals. We were hoping to find softshell turtles. The River Cooters were basking in their usual plenitude. After a lot of searching with binoculars we spotted 2 softshells. Unfortunately they were too far away to get pictures.
On Tuesday I found AOR: a juvenile Common Snapping Turtle and a Northern Brown Snake.
On Thursday morning I briefly visited Greenwood State Park. I found 4 Northern Water Snakes and 1 Midland Water Snake.
During the week we found many DOR snakes: 5 Northern Black Racers, 3 Black Ratsnakes, 3 Corn Snakes, 3 Southern Copperheads, 1 Eastern Garter Snake, 1 Eastern Hognose (black phase), and 1 Redbelly Water Snake. So far this year, I have seen more Black Racers than any other species. The number of Copperheads is increasing each week.
On the farm pond, the Northern Cricket Frogs are singing the loudest. Fowlers Toads continue to sing also. The Bullfrogs are beginning to rumble.
In 1999, my goal species have been: Northern Pine Snake, Carolina Pygmy Rattlesnake, Rainbow Snake, Glossy Crayfish Snake, Southern Hognose Snake, Rough Earth Snake, Eastern Milk Snake, and Timber Rattlesnake. So far this year, I have only found the Rough Earth. I've been on sabbatical from the Piedmont Wilderness Institute for three weeks, looking all over SC. Not much luck. This week's been different!
Monday: with another staff and 4 kids from the Institute, we took a road trip to Jasper County. We were looking in particular in a couple of locations for rainbow snakes but no luck. 520 miles and all we found was an AOR Banded Water Snake. A 520-mile Banded Water! We did see DOR Copperhead, Redbelly Water, Garter Snake, and Racer. Also saw good gators, lots of deer, and 10-12 armadillos. We did have fun and I think the kids enjoyed it. They especially enjoyed shining the gators. We herped til midnight and then drove back home. Got in my bed around 4:30 AM.
Tuesday: Slept late.
Wednesday: Herping the local SUMTER NATIONAL FOREST. Found a Black Ratsnake, Racer, Rough green, and Eastern Kingsnake. Saw a 6-Spot Tiger Beetle, Cricket Frogs, and Eastern Mud Turtle. Saw basking turtles here and there in wetlands.
Thursday/Friday: Traveled 136 miles to the eastern sandhills area of the South Carolina. There I herped in the company of a herpetologist doing studies for the USGS. We found Musk Turtles, Carpenter Frogs, heard and saw a number of Cricket Frogs, assorted Rana frogs, the expected lizards, birds, and basking turtles. We heard what may have been H. andersonii (Pine Barrens Treefrog) but got no looks and were both rusty on that call. Found DOR Coachwhip, Corn, and Redbelly Water. The most exciting of all were the AOR's: Eastern Cottonmouth, Corn, Scarlet King (never seen this one on the road before), and best of all a NORTHERN PINE SNAKE AND CAROLINA PYGMY RATTLER!!!
I stayed the night and herped again Friday, but little could top what was on the road Thursday night: 2 of my goal animals within 7 minutes. The Pine was a young one (30") and I was surprised to find him out after dark, I thought them diurnal. The Pygmy was a '98 young pinkish/lavender with small dorsal blotches-brick red. The lateral pattern was reduced, and of course the tail was yellow. A totally beautiful animal!
It has been a good week!
Next week, back to the FRANCES MARION NATIONAL FOREST, to look for Glossy Crayfish, Rainbows, and Southern Hognose. 3 down, 5 to go!
Week Ending May 9, 1999:
On Monday, my son, Win, and Joey Holmes went to McCormick County in hopes of finding the Pine Snake and Pigmy Rattlesnake. They did not achieve their objective but had other finds. See Joey's notes below.
We did not get to do any more specific herping. Win and I both saw several dead Black Racers on the roads. Win also found a D.O.R. Eastern Kingsnake and caught a small Eastern Garter Snake. My most interesting find of the week was a D.O.R. Eastern Hognose Snake, non-black phase. This was the first non-black hognose I have found in many years.
A couple of correspondents have written me about finding Queen Snakes in Greenville County recently. This is a species which I have not yet found. I hope to have time to search for one in the coming week.
This week has had it's share of miles and herping, but without giving up any of the 7 species I've been seeking in particular. (Northern Pine Snake, Eastern Milksnake, Glossy Crayfish Snake, Rainbow Snake, Southern Hognose Snake, Timber Rattlesnake, and Carolina Pygmy Rattlesnake are the 7 species, but the C. Pygmy and N. Pine are the only ones in the areas I've been hunting).
Sunday PM; After last week's report went out, I went out for a bit of local herping and found a racer and enjoyed hearing the Northern Cricket frogs and Gray Treefrogs.
Monday; With Win Ott, went to McCormick Co to seek the Pines and Pygmies. We found pine/hardwood mixed forests with ground cover, loads of skinks, anoles, cricket frogs. We caught a Brown Snake and saw a racer.
Tuesday: Back to McCormick solo. Saw tons of lizards & Mega-tons of cricket frogs. Saw 2 racers, caught a rat snake (black, but definately not as black as one from here in Spartanburg County). At 4.5 feet it retained much pattern and reminded me of those from The Aiken area although a bit darker). Did see 2 fox squirrels and 6-spot tiger beetles.
Wednesday; Went to the Institute and fed my animals (a co-worker has been doing daily care). Went out locally that evening found 2 redbelly watersnakes, 2 midland watersnakes, an AOR Eastern Gartersnake, mud turtles, gray treefrogs, and the dominate voice was fowlers toad with a few gray treefrogs and cricket frogs mixed in.
Thursday; Stayed local, weather cooler. Found slimy salamanders, southeastern 5-line skink, and a shrew under my tin.
Friday; Along the local river found a racer, watersnakes (dove in too quick to ID), lots of cooters, mud, and painted turtles, 4 gulf coast spiny softshell turtles (all females, one XXLG), muskrat, C.repanda tiger beetles, and even saw a wood duck hen do the broken-wing-routine to lure me away from her nearby babies. I've seen quail, killdeer, and turkeys do this but not ducks. At the pond I saw a watersnake, Blue-wing teal, painted turtles, tons of dragon/damselflies, 6-spot tiger beetles, and heard (Mid-afternoon) gray treefrogs and cricket frogs. That evening I road cruised locally. Got an AOR and DOR copperheads, ignored the toads, and at the pond found 5 redbelly watersnakes and 3 midlands, mud turtles, and saw and heard the first green treefrogs of the year. The dominate frog voice was gray treefrogs.
Saturday: In the Lake Greenwood area, Saw midland watersnakes, a racer, an osprey, and a beautiful old skink. Obviously by size not a broadhead, but very uniformly brown (almost chocolate) with a very red face.
Monday of next week, planning a night run to Jasper with some kids from the Institute. Should be fun. May make it to the Carolina Sandhills area later in the week.
Week Ending May 2, 1999:
Weather-wise the week was up and down. It started out warm with some much needed rain (approx. 1 inch) on Tuesday. On Wednesday (4/28/99) temperatures dropped from the 70s to the 50s during the day. Thursday and Friday were cold and rainy (approx. 2 inches additional). The water level in my farm pond rose about 6 inches, leaving the pond about 8 inches below full. Sunday was sunny and in the 70s again.
On Monday, my son Win found 2 Black Racers, catching one for photographing. He found adult Bullfrog on Tuesday. Come home from work Tuesday I found 2 Black Racers and 1 Mole King Snake, all D.O.R. I did some road cruising Wednesday morning before the temperatures plummeted. I found 3 Black Racers and a Corn Snake, all D.O.R. Box Turtles were out in force, I found 6 A.O.R., plus a Painted Turtle A.O.R.
Despite the cold temperatures on Thursday ( in the high 40s), Win found a Copperhead (approx. 24 inches) huddled under a piece of sheet metal. This was our first Copperhead sighting of the year. Win also found a beautiful beetle specimen. I first thought this specimen was an Ornate Rhinoceros Beetle; however, I found a spitting image of it in the Peterson Field Guide to Insects which identified it as a Dung Beetle (subfamily Scarabaeinae), species Phanaeus vindex. It was found in a cow pasture, where dung is plentiful.
On Sunday, Win and I visited areas of the Sumter National Forest in McCormick and Edgefield Counties. We found 5 Black Racers; an adult water snake, probably a Red-Belly; 2 Fence Lizards, including an adult female for photographing; a Box Turtle; numerous basking turtles; plus Cricket Frogs and a Spring Peeper.
Rough week. Monday I herped locally. Found fence lizards, 5-line and ground skinks, anoles, box turtles, Dusky and 3-line salamanders, northern cricket frogs, 6-spot tiger beetles, indigo bunting, and northern parula warblers. I was in some areas of national forest in Laurens county that should hold a pine snake or Carolina pygmy but no such luck.
On Tuesday I traveled to North Greenville/Pickens counties, to seek the Timber rattler/eastern milksnake. I drove about 198 miles and found 1 eastern worm snake. Other notables were eastern box turtles, skinks (5-line and ground) fence lizards, American toads, 6-spot tiger beetles, heard gray treefrogs, and found a DOR racer.
Wednesday: weather cold and rainy I stayed in and researched texts, maps, and internet for my target species. Later that evening my brother called to say that he had found a northern pine snake AOR in Tenn between Nashville and Chattanooga at a site he monitors for the Nature Conservancy. He also found a L. calligaster (mole/prairie king intergrade) around 48 inches long and looking purely like a pairie king.
Thursday: My son and I went to Western NC with our good friend to meet with another friend and one of his students. We visited over supper and looked for salamanders. Temps were in the high 30's and it was raining pretty good but we found 5 green salamanders, blackbelly, seal, crevice (name listed in '75 Conant field guide), and I saw something that looked like some sort of dusky but lost it. Human comfort was lacking but the salamanders were out!
Friday: I found but a slimy salamander and shrew under my tin. The rains and cold were hanging on.
Saturday/Sunday: My wife and I went back to western NC to have a little relaxed time to ourselves. We did see more 6-spot tiger beetles, tufted titmouse, and we heard peepers calling in the evening. The best find was on the side of I-26 in Spartanburg county, between exits 15 and 16, a colony of groundhogs. They are on the north-east side of the interstate on a slope in a kudzu patch. This is news to me! Groundhogs (woodchuck) within 6 miles of the mall in Spartanburg! 25 miles from the mountains and the nearest other groundhogs I've seen.
Had a busy time, ain't ketched much snakes, but been real busy.
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