SC REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
Week Ending August 29, 1999:
We made a few herp observations this past week. Tuesday night Win found a yearling Corn Snake alive on the road as he drove home from work. It rained on Tuesday and I drove around for about an hour just after dark. There were multitudes of toads on the roads including a few very large Fowlers Toads. The Narrowmouth Toads seem to be very active now. I did not see any snakes.
Midday on Friday Win and I went into Laurens for a few errands and took the long way home in hopes of seeing herps. We found a garter snake DOR. We stopped by a beaver pond where a Great White Egret was hunting, but saw no herps. Back on the road, we found a beautiful adult Black Rat Snake crossing the road. We picked it up just in time to get it out of the path of a dump truck.
Saturday I saw the first Fence Lizard on my farm this year. Usually finding a Fence Lizard would be a trivial observation. But in the past few years, the population of Fence Lizards and Six-Lined Racerunners has decreased drastically in the vicinity of my farm. I have seen only 1 racerunner on the farm this year. They used to be abundant. I have no proof, but my pet theory is that the decline in these lizards is related to the increase in the local population of wild turkeys. I believe the population of small snakes has suffered a decline also. Every few years I catch a glimpse of a bobcat. It seems to me that wild turkeys are perfect prey for bobcats. Perhaps I will see more bobcats in the future!
Last Sunday evening, I caught a very heavy (to the neck!) gravid copperhead, near the pond. That's about it for productive field herping this week! But I did have a couple of interesting (I hope) stories this week.
Last week at work, we came in from trapping, and dropped our turtle/funnel traps outside our classroom. When I came in Tuesday, I walked by the trap and something moved. A toad! The trap wasn't set, just dropped outside, and caught a toad. I thought I would bring it inside. Putting the trap in the mouse room, I thought the wildlife would be safe. Wednesday morning, we went in to feed the mice and there in the trap, a midland watersnake!!! Inside the building! Caught in the trap! It was one that had escaped about month or two ago, when a student failed to secure the lid of the cage properly. That must be quite a trap! Catching animals when not set! Even inside!
A freind came down from Charlotte to do some field herping, with hopes high for a kingsnake. We (another pal and I) took him to some of my favorite spots. We saw lots of good bugs (dragonflies, damsel flies, robberflies, and butterflies), several frog/toad species, 4 species of lizard, 1 big cooter out on a rock. The closest thing to a snake was a DOR copperhead, and a very dead coachwhip (or a few remaining parts thereof) under a car hood (on the ground at an abandoned farm). We checked a turtle trap........drowned muskrat.
I hope that in the coming weeks things will be picking up. Just seems very slow right now. If you are catching anything..........let me know! I need the encouragement!
Week Ending August 22, 1999:
Hot and dry for most of the week; herping was slow. I visited the park on the Saluda River at Ware Shoals twice in hopes of getting a decent picture of a softshell turtle. I spotted one on a rock about 10 feet from the bank, but it was too wary. I saw it again on my return visit 2 days later. I tried to sneak into position before it climbed on to the rocks. It must have seen me, for it went away and did not return. Fortunately, Joey Holmes and students caught one in a trap and sent it to us for photographing.
On Friday, we received about 0.4 inch of rain. Earlier in the week, the 2 small branches on our farm stopped flowing. Now they have a little flow. That evening I cruised the local roads. I saw no snakes, but the frogs and toads were out in abundance. I identified Upland Chorus Frogs, Pickerel Frogs, Eastern Narrowmouth Toads, and Fowlers Toads.
During the week I saw DOR: 2 Black Rat Snakes, a yearling Cornsnake, and young Southern Copperhead.
Thanks to Win, we now have upgraded hardware and software for the website. Hopefully you have already noticed an improved quality in recent pictures. More to follow.
Seeing a lot of Monarch butterflies! They add a very "pretty" element to a very dry summer.
On Wednesday, we (my students and I) set our traps (turtle basket and a funnel trap) in the Enoree River, still in hopes of the ever elusive Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell Turtle. We returned on Thursday, and in the trap... a male! 7" shell, great pattern, a totally beautiful animal! The kids were amazed and quickly realized why I had been so keen on catching this species. It was turned over to the Otts, and soon should be up on their website (softshell). I should be getting it back afterwards if anyone else needs to see or borrow it. We re-set the traps, and on Saturday caught a nice leopard frog in the funnel trap (had a lot of bright green on it). We saw a racer one day while checking the traps, but he did what racers do best........
Throughout the course of the week, we saw the anoles, skinks, fence lizards, toads, 12 spot dragon flies, clubtails, whitetails, and others I could not ID.
A bit of a break in the temps and some rain on Friday brought out some box turtles and we picked up a black ratsnake also. I even heard some gray treefrogs singing on Saturday evening.
I have hopes of getting a large female softshell in the next week or so. I also hope to see more reptile activity as the heat wears off. Right now not much is even showing up DOR.
Week Ending August 15, 1999:
A beautiful adult female Five Lined Skink visited my back door on Thursday. I did a little night cruising of Friday and found AOR a juvenile Southern Copperhead and AOR an adult Northern Brown Snake. Saturday I searched a small branch and found 2 adult mud turtles. I saw a Northern Black Racer foraging by a tributary spring.
DOR snakes for the week were 1 adult Rough Green Snake and 2 adult Black Rat Snakes.
It was a rough week for local deer. On Monday I found Black Vultures eating a DOR fawn. The next morning they were also eating a DOR doe about 100 feet from the fawn, presumably the mother. I was able to get pictures of both scenes. Unfortunately there were no Turkey Vultures present. I have been trying to get good pictures of Turkey Vultures. The Turkey Vultures are less numerous, more skiddish, and less aggressive than Black Vultures.
Still real hot around here. Seeing a few baby anoles/blue-tail skinks (any of 3 species). Seeing some rabbits and cotton rats lately around road sides, but that's not wildlife, that's what wildlife eats.
Wednesday: we (my students and I) put out the turtle and funnel traps. Collected a good load of cricket frogs to feed the ribbon snakes. There is a nice place, near where we trap, to collect the cricket frogs. The ribbon snakes love them.
Thursday: Went back to check the traps not a darn thing (lots of great dragon/damsel flies around the pond). Later that evening, a colleague called. He and I had collected a few of those cricket frogs last week to send for a research project in New York. It seems the researcher had called him. We had not looked closely at the frogs, but she had. They were not Northern Cricket Frogs (Acris crepitans) at all, but were Southern Cricket Frogs (Acris grylio)! From western Laurens County!?! There was one Northern in the batch, an adult from the pond. The grylios had been picked up out of a mud puddle in a dirt road near a pond. Odd. We had been feeding them to the ribbon snakes.
Friday: Checked the traps. Nothing in the funnel trap, one large female musk turtle in the turtle basket. I relocated the traps in another nearby pond. A friend picked up a large tiger beetle (Magacephala virginica) that he was excited about.
Saturday: We checked the traps. In the turtle trap, there were two large yellow belly sliders, a male and a female, and nearby in the funnel trap, a beautiful baby painted turtle. After work, Win Ott and I gassed up the truck, threw some Pepsi in the cooler, and took off for Jasper County. Win had never been there, we discussed the historical aspects of the Okeetee/snake hunting phenomenon in SC. Somewhat rough 3 hour drive. We had bad storms from about Orangeburg down. Road cruised. Not many reptiles out. We did find a female broad-head skink, and saw 3 gators, caught 1 Fla cottonmouth, found one DOR cottonmouth, and a DOR redbelly watersnake. But with the rains, the night belonged to frogs, we heard pine woods TF, gray TF, green TF, and squirrel TF. We picked up southern toads, bullfrog, bronze frog, green TF, pine woods TF, and squirrel TF. We saw raccoons, barred owls, and 5 armadillos (one in the yard of the Okeetee Fire Tower! My how times change). Had a good time, drove 475 miles. Got home, and got in my bed at 5:02 AM!
Good birds this week, Goldfinches and Indigo buntings here locally.
Week Ending August 8, 1999:
No special herping was accomplished this week, but I did make two interesting observations. On Monday, I found DOR a juvenile black-phase Eastern Hognose. It was approximately 18 inches long and still showed patterning in gray and black. On Friday, I found a DOR Black Rat Snake, approximately 6 feet 3 inches in length. Apparently someone had killed it and laid it out in the middle of the road to exhibit.
Also during the week I saw 2 other DOR Black Rats and 1 DOR Black Racer. I also found an Eastern Narrowmouth Toad under a piece of deadwood.
Still very hot here, but have gotten some herping done. Did see a lot of robber flies this week.
Monday: A colleague stopped by on his way to Charleston. We collected some cricket and chorus frogs. He dropped off some snakes (bull, great plains rat, and redstripe ribbons), picked up the mole kingsnakes we had saved for him, and took some pictures of some of our herps at the institute. When my son and I got home, A large female Argiope had built her web on the porch of the house. Interesting spiders, and fun to watch and feed for a season.
Tuesday: My wife and I were both off, the kid's school has not started back, so we went to the PISGAH NATIONAL FOREST in the nearby western NC mountains. We had a nice picnic, then put on the masks and snorkels and looked for hellbenders. We saw some mountain dusky salamanders at the water's edge but no hellbenders. We did see crayfish, hogsuckers, minnows, brown and rainbow trout. Nice way to spend a hot day. There were 4 deer in the back yard when we got home, one a pretty nice buck, antlers in velvet.
Wednesday: (I took this whole week off) A pal and I went to a local pond and watched the dragonflies. We saw clubtails, Halloween pennant, green clearwings, a male cow-killer, cicadas, and many other dragons/damsels that we (mainly me) had no clue about. My colleague stopped by on the return from Charleston, with greetings from the folks down there (and dead stuff; for my students to skin and tan [assorted snakes] and live stuff that I needed to try my hand at --a black pinesnake). Thanks everyone!!!!!
Thursday: Hanging around the house, mowed the grass. A neighbor called, a snake in her yard. My son and I went; caught a garter (wow). Later I went to the pond and set a funnel trap. Caught a little midlands watersnake while I was there.
Friday: Checked the funnel trap early; had a sub-adult redbelly watersnake.
Had a wedding on Sat and the rehearsal on Fri. Sort of had the idea that I shouldn't get musked/bitten/bloody/lost/anything else not socially proper. I did clean the hot cages in the shop on Saturday and found my female pygmy (caught in Clay county FLA back in March of '96) had died. She was having a rough time getting started this year but seemed to be doing okay. Obviously, that was not the case.
Hoping for more acceptable weather this week. Hope to do more turtle trapping.
Week Ending August 1, 1999:
This week had continued record high temperatures. Fortunately we are still getting rains, so the threat of drought has diminished. Herping was slow. I cruised local roads a couple evenings and found AOR: 2 Southern Copperheads and a Mole Kingsnake. I also found DOR: 2 Southern Copperheads, 2 Eastern Garters, 1 Black Rat, and 1 Rough Green Snake.
This week we again sought comfort from the heat. Cicadas are singing, seeing more of those cool little assassin bugs (with the little flag/leaf things on the hind legs), lots of robber flies, dragon flies (saddlebags, clubtails), and damsel flies. Good bugs this week, herps were few and far between.
Monday: I really don't recall what happened.
Tuesday: One of the very small redbelly snakes in the lab at work birthed 4 babies. Later a friend at Lander University stopped by and brought us gray, yellow, and red (corn) rat snakes. The corn and yellow are a bit "off". They have poor balance, and muscle tone. They swing their heads around in a twisted, sideways manner. My friend said they all were fine when they entered hibernation but were like this when they warmed up at spring. The gray was in the same container and he seems fine. Oddly enough, all three ate well on Thursday, catching, constricting, and swallowing without any problems. Any Ideas?
Wednesday: I can't remember anything interesting happening.
Thursday: Set a turtle trap and funnel trap, heard some cricket frogs, found a place where the tiny Acris were emerging from a mud puddle, saw painted turtles, a mud turtle and leopard frogs. Saw 2 ground skinks from the '99 hatch. In the lab, our larger redbelly snake had 9 babies, some tan phase, and some gray phase.
Friday: Checking the funnel trap, we had a bullfrog and some minnows. In the turtle trap there was an old male slider and a 10 lb. snapper. My students were amazed by the snapper, and more than a little intimidated. If they only knew what lurks beneath dark waters! Friday night I went to the pond, saw 6 mud turtles (some marked, others not marked), and 3 midland watersnakes. All the watersnakes were smallish males. No neonates; no gravid females.
Saturday: Checked and pulled the funnel trap and turtle trap (basket style). Both were empty.
Sunday: A family and friends canoe trip down the local Tyger river. Very hot. Saw greenback and blue herons, Belted Kingfishers, some nasty looking fishing spiders, some tiger beetles, and good dragon and damsel flies but little else. Had fun.
Hope you are all catching more stuff than I am.
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