SC REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
OBSERVATIONS: JUNE 1999
Week Ending June 27, 1999:
My family and I spent a week at Garden City Beach. Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday were so cold that jackets were needed at times. What a surprise! Between the cold and my truck requiring repairs I did not get to herp as much as I had hoped. However, I did manage to make a few interesting observations.
Sunday, in the Francais Marion National Forest I found an Eastern Kingsnake fruitlessly trying to catch a few sun rays on a rootball. Water lillies and other wild flowers were blooming. I also found DOR two Yellow Rat Snakes and an Eastern Kingsnake. At Huntington Beach State Park on Monday, I found a DOR Eastern Ribbon Snake killed by bicyclers. Later that day while boating on the Waccamaw River with my son-in-law I found a Banded Water Snake basking on a tree limb, 2 Alligators cruising the river, and many slider/cooter turtles.
On Tuesday I photographed what I believe was a Chicken Turtle in a local pond. On Wednesday morning I visited the Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve. It looked like prime habitat for coachwhips, pine snakes, pigmy rattlers, and legless lizards, but I saw none, only skinks and racerunners. I did find tracks of a black bear. I took a picture of its track besides my size 13 shoe print for comparison. This preserve has a number of Carolina Bays. The amount of development taking place around this area is staggering. It is very good that this preserve has been made.
On Thursday night I visited several Carolina Bays used by the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority for wastewater treatment but did not see any herps except toads and frogs.
On Monday, my son and I thought we would try a road trip to the mountains to look for eastern milks and timber rattlers. We looked around Henderson county NC and found it too developed and then moved to the mountains of N. Greenville county. There we found racerunners, a skink, fence lizard, and an American toad. No snakes. Oh well.
We did a little local herping throught the week with no major results. On Friday, Win Ott and I took 4 PWI students for an evening of road cruising in the FMNF in the SC lowcountry. We've had some rain, some sun, low pressure but were in a bright moon phase. All action took place before it got really dark. We only found 1 eastern kingsnake, 1 rough green snake (heavy with eggs), 1 med cottonmouth, and 2 banded watersnakes. We saw some other watersnakes (banded and redbelly) but they would have been quite difficult to approach. We also saw loads of sliders and mud turtles, and one snapper. The deerflies were rough before dusk and the mosquitoes were rough after so walking was not much of an option. The frogs were great around and following sunset, we heard squirrel treefrogs, pine woods treefrogs, gray treefrogs, green treefrogs, S. cricket frogs, bullfrogs, and bronze frogs (cicadas were singing loudly also). Lots of frogs crossed the road, and we did see southern toads, bronze frogs, and green treefrogs. The best bird of the week was a female anhinga there in the FMNF.
Here on Sat evening, we took my nephew (working on a reptile study badge) to the pond and found the narrowmouth toads and green treefrogs singing loudly, plus gray treefogs, fowlers toads, and bullfrogs who were singing in the background. There were several mud turtles in the shallows and leeches were quite common. A DOR mole kingsnake was picked up and recorded (and is now frozen). It was 31 inches, a female, and not full of eggs.
Joey HolmesWeek Ending June 20, 1999:
Not much to report this week. We finally got some rain; about two inches in four days. We are still in a drought situation. During the rainy days the gray tree frogs were the most common amphibians. Gene has gone with the family to the beach. When last we spoke he reported that a cold front had moved in after the rain and animal sightings were few. It is warming up now and he is hopeful of finding some of the more elusive low country herpetofauna. Keep your fingers crossed. We may have pictures of rainbow snakes, swamp snakes, and (I dare to hope) an amphiuma!
It has been fairly interesting week. We've caught a black ratsnake, and a nice mole kingsnake. Saw some racers but lost them. The usual fence lizards, skinks, and anoles have been out. Went out with students Thurs and collected some (6) racerunners (I've never kept these, thought they might be fun to try). Had some rain earlier in the week and the box turtles started moving, many getting hammered on the roads.
Road cruising on Wed PM (after rains) I picked up an upland chorus frog and gray treefrog. 30 minutes or so after getting the Hyla I accidentally touched my eye (I had not yet had the chance to wash up) and instantly got a serious irritant/toxic reaction. My eye burned like fire, swelling, red, watery, throbbing. The whole thing was rather painful and unsettling. I've had lesser reactions 2-3 times before, but never anything like this. I would like to get other ideas opinions about this if possible. We've been finding quite a few fowlers toads around the yard on campus and bullfrogs (small and large) are out and active. Have not seen many of the green treefrogs yet this year.
On Tuesday, My boss brought in a small snake that a board member had picked up while vacationing in the Surfside area of Horry County. They had never seen a snake like it, but I knew it instantly, as I've been looking for them this year. It was one of my goal species; the rainbow snake. A 1998 baby. I drive all over the state, and someone else catches one on the steps of a beach-house. Just bad luck for me.
Got a clutch of (female) Great Plains ratsnake X (male) Okeetee corn eggs. We did a set of these in '97 and the 2 we kept from the litter have acceptable color and are already larger than their mother. Larger babies, hearty appetites, and super growth rates are traits that more than make up for the smaller litter size. Breeding them back to okeetee males should give us nice color and still be bigger at hatching than our normal corns. Other points of interest have been a summer tanager, yellow-billed cuckoo, goldfinches, and eastern kingbird. The best bug of the week was a female dobsonfly, always a neat bug and a pleasure to see.
Monday evening my son and I went to the Church to look into the bat situation. We found 2 entry/exit points, and watched one of them. From 8:50 PM until 9:08, in just 18 minutes, we counted 101 bats exit the building. There may have been more inside, but it was too dark to continue counting. We checked one found dead in the attic and they appear to be BIG BROWN BATS. We know this is nothing by standards in the southwest, but for us it was a pretty neat evening.
Joey HolmesWeek Ending June 13, 1999:
Work took most of my time this past week. Most DORs I saw were Black Rat Snakes. Grey and Green Treefrogs have been singing in the woods and at the pond, along with a few Cricket Frogs and Fowlers Toads, plus the occasional Bullfrog. I made a good recording of the Green Treefrog.
Went to the pond a couple of times this week, Sunday evening I found 6 midlands and 5 redbelly watersnakes. Nothing was on the road on the way back but one red fox. Back again last night, saw 5 midlands and 1 redbelly. This pond is owned by a bait farm and full of minnows. The snakes actively forage and watching them hunt and eat is pretty cool. We also saw the usual fowlers toads, bullfrogs, leeches, and heard a few cricket frogs mixed in with the fowlers toads' chorus. Didn't hear any treefrogs????? On Monday, my son and I went up to the Tyger river, saw some anoles, skinks, racerunners, basking turtles, midland watersnakes, and got the queen snake we had promised the Otts would be so easy to get there. When we got home, my son and the neighbors kids went to an open area nearby and got a racerunner for the Ott site. Friday I took my class for a walk by the Enoree river and we saw just two racers and caught one, a male.
Question for everyone; My Church is loaded w/ bats (one lady watched them leave one night. After many had left, She counted 67 exit from one point. They use several entrances so we must have a sizable population). Some members think this is a bad thing. I want to protect the bats. A lady at the DNR is to send me instructions on a device that will let the bats leave the building and not re-enter (I suppose this will be a bit like a funnel trap made from hardware cloth, pointing out of the entry points) as well as directions for making a bat house. I was just wondering if anyone knew anyone who was into bats and might like to get involved for fun or study. I also would need some advice on placement of bat houses, etc. Have the bat people contact me please if possible. Thanks.
Week Ending June 6, 1999:
This was an eventful week. Win and I spent the first of the week installing an irrigation pump so the vegetable garden and pond would not dry up. Then, on Thursday a wind storm ripped off a part of the work shed roof and crashed it into the car and carport.
We did manage a little herping. Black snakes, especially Black Rat Snakes are still showing up DOR. I saw a beautiful 5-foot Black Rat while visiting an industrial plant in Greenville County.
Win made some excellent finds night cruising during a visit to Clarendon County. He found a juvenile Canebrake Rattlesnake. He thought it was DOR but bagged it anyway to make pictures. Next, he found a red-phase Garter Snake. This is the only such garter snake we have ever seen. It is beautiful. My photos do not do it justice. I can find no reference to red-sided colorations in the Eastern Garter Snake. If anyone else has found a similar one in SC I would be interested in knowing. He also found a neonate Black or Yellow Rat Snake and Southern Toad.Win put all three snakes in the same bag. Later, when inspecting the snakes he found the rattlesnake had revived. It has suffered some injury to its head, but is still alive
During the day, he also saw a small Alligator and numerous sliders and birds.
Have spent most of the week with family, in a beach house, at Cherry Grove, SC (Horry County). Had some time for nature. We found fossils on the beach, along with laughing gulls, sanderlings, cormorant, brown pelicans, osprey, herring gulls, and ringed gulls.
I did some herping inland, and found a banded watersnake, southern copperhead, scarlet snake, and eastern ribbon snake (this one I have only caught 2 other times). There were tons of racerunners and their tracks were clearly visible in the soft sand (dunes). I also saw one snake track and the tracks of bugs were there as well. The evening choruses included bull frogs, carpenter frogs, S. cricket frogs, gray treefrogs, green treefrogs, pinewoods treefrogs, and southern toads (some of these, like the leopard frog, were also seen or caught). In one spot I saw large numbers of bullfrog tadpoles in various stages. Mallards (hens did the broken -wing-routine to decoy me away from their babies), wood ducks, green herons, pileated woodpeckers, American egrets and blue herons were some of the birds I noticed.
One day several of the males in our family group went fishing on a charter boat 13 miles out. We caught a few porgys, grunts, black sea bass, and I caught a lizardfish of some sort. One of us (who shall remain un-named, but was not me, or my son) spent most of the boat trip inside the cabin, green as an anole. I counted 14 people inside, sick, at one point.
On the long drive home, mid-day, near Camden, we saw a mammal slinking down the bank on the side of I-20. It was a bobcat. My son was delighted. He had never seen one. Once we got home, he and I made a run to the local store, for bread and soft drinks, and we found him his first luna moth on the front of the store, under the lights.
I suppose that in Horry County, there is some hope for wildlife, but it really is sad to me to see the coast stripped of maritime forests/salt marsh and replaced with high rise hotels/condos, beach shops, resturants, carpet golf, and other man-made structures, tacky with paint and lights.
God bless the sea turtles.
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