SC REPTILES & AMPHIBIANS
Week Ending September 26, 1999:
It rained early in the week (about 3/4 inch) and turned a little cool. We did not see any herps on the roads during the weekdays. Neither Win nor I were able to do any serious herping until Saturday. We drove down to the Aiken State Park hoping the rain and cool had prompted the herps into action. Jerry Henshaw, the park manager is interested in determining what kinds of wildlife are present. He welcomes input from herpers and other wildlife observers. He asks that herpers check in with him, and, of course, no specimens should be hurt or removed from the park.
At the park, Mr. Henshaw said that he had seen a number DOR Rough Green Snakes and Timber (Canebrake) Rattlesnakes this summer. He showed us a DOR neonate Timber Rattlesnake which he had found the evening before.
Win and I visited several different environments from the dry sandhills to the boggy Edisto River flood plain. Along a sandhill seep area we made our first find, a large Eastern Cottonmouth warming itself in the early morning sun. Later, we found another cottonmouth in a bog near the river.
We saw a number of neonate lizards in the forest and several sliders and cooters sunning at the ponds. We did not find any other snakes at the park, but on the unpaved roadways in the sandhills area we did see some snake tracks and lizard tail drags. Also, in a cut bank we saw 2 intriguing holes. At the entrance of one sat a large toad (probably a Southern Toad). It retreated into the shadows before I could take a picture. But with the modern tools of digital photography I was able to enhance the picture sufficiently to ID the toad. Technology can be scary sometimes.
While we were talking with the Park Manager before leaving about midday, a Boy Scout leader reported having seen a black-phase Eastern Hognose Snake. Mr. Henshaw said that if we ever found a Coral Snake he would like to get pictures of it. After we arrived home and I checked my e-mail, I found a letter from Mr. Henshaw. Shortly after we had left, he found a 2-foot Coral Snake crossing the main park road!!! Timing is everything.
On our way back home, we stopped at a boat landing on the Edisto River where I had photographed 5 Brown Watersnakes earlier this year. Win hoped to get his hands on one just so he could say he had caught one. We saw 2 adults but not before they had seen us and started their dash to the water.
On our trip to the park we saw DOR a Black Racer and a Black Rat Snake. Saturday night and Sunday night I cruised the local roads for an hour or so but saw only an occassional frog and toad. Win saw a DOR adult Southern Copperhead on his way home from work Sunday night.
I am still out of action a bit following last Thursday's surgery. Things are getting better. I'm feeling better, getting a bit of cabin-fever, and ready to get outside.
Tuesday, it rained! I could think of nothing more fitting to do than go to the pond. I had a wonderful time! Caught a watersnake and a mud turtle! Got musked upon and bitten. It was truly refreshing. Then my son (carrying a cellphone, at my wife's urging) got a phone call. It was my wife checking on us. I do believe that one of the finest benefits to getting outside is being away from the phone! Oh well, she was just concerned for me.
I flipped my tin a couple of times this week; found small skinks.
On Friday I went to the Institute to check the animals. Everything seemed in order. All 30 of the baby corns have eaten except for 3, and I'll get them going also (I hope) when I can get back and work with them.
Sunday, a colleague stopped by on his return from Frances Marion National Forest. Every fall it seems he takes his herp class (from Appalachian State) down for a few days of camping/herping. They had a good time, everybody was safe, found lots of animals, and had fun it seems. Good for them. They picked up a hybrid corn baby and the male softshell turtle we had caught several weeks ago. He dropped off a hatchling Baird's Ratsnake. Sure, I guess I could use one, have never kept one.
Before dark, feeling fairly alert and lively, I went to the pond. Saw some great blue herons, plovers, whitetail dragonflies, a huge clubtail dragonfly, and one that looked like some sort of glider. Some small turtles surfaced but went down again when they saw my movements on the shore nearby.
I go back to work on Tuesday. Hope I am up to the challenge! I also have a mammal expert coming from Wake Forest on Friday evening to get some of these big brown bats from the church attic. (This could be fun).
Wish me luck.
Week Ending September 19, 1999:
I saw a neonate Black Racer AOR on Friday. Saturday, while rotary mowing some fields, I saw a neonate Six-Lined Racerunner! The local population may be small, but at least it is reproducing. What I did not see while mowing were field rats (Cotton Vole is the more correct name if my memory serves me well). While Fall mowing I usually see dozens of rats, but none that day.
I received a very interesting letter from a fellow herp enthusiast in Mobile, Alabama. A few weeks ago he found a nesting Mud Snake. It was in a cavity under a log in front of his house. She was about 4 feet long and coiled around a clutch of eggs. After discovering the snake and eggs, he and his children lifted the log every few days to checked on them. The mother was not frightened away by their actions.
If I had known of this nesting behavior by Mud Snakes, I did not remember it. However, I found it described in one of my reference books. The reference suggested the mother's respiration could help regulate the humidity around the eggs.
The writer was concerned that after hatching the babies would be killed by cars in the nearby street. He said he had already seen some DOR neonate Pine Snakes!! Upon finding the babies beginning to cut open their egg shells, he gathered the eggs (16 in all), the adult, and some of the soil into a container. The mother resumed her position coiled around her eggs. He kept the container in a dark, quiet location. By the next day all 16 babies had hatched successfully. He said the neonates were small, around 6 or 7 inches, brightly colored, and very active. The eggs were also small, considering the size of the mother. He and his children released all the snakes in a nearby wildlife management area.
He took a photo of the mother on the nest. If it turns out well, I hope to post it on the website.
I am still rather "off my feet" [recovering from elective surgery]. I have done very little herping these last few days.
I do have good news to report from the Institute. On Wednesday evening by the time I left, about half of the new corn snake babies had shed and taken live pinkies without hesitation. We had put all in individual containers with tiny water bowls and labels to list when they shed and when they eat. They seemed to be doing quite well. I left complete instructions with trusted students as to cleaning schedules and feeding. I hope I am as happy when I get back as I am with the way things were going when I left.
Thanks to all who have had kind words and get-well wishes. This will take a couple of weeks to get over, but they say it will be well worth it.
Week Ending September 12, 1999:
Reptiles have been rather scarce locally. I blame it on the drought. We did have a light rain in the middle of the week. On Thursday morning driving into work I saw 4 snakes DOR: a Rough Green Snake, a Mole Kingsnake, a Southern Copperhead, and a Brown Snake. I was hoping things were picking up, but that was all the snakes for the week. I did see a few Box Turtles on the road and a neonate Green Anole at my home.
I was going through some older tapes and found a picture of Win with a Texas Horned Lizard which we found on a trip in 1995 to West Texas (Trans Pecos). We have some pictures of our finds on another website.
This has been a most busy week. Unfortunatley it has not all been busy for herpetology. I have missed some good evenings to road cruise but other matters take priority sometimes.
In the lab, it seems both litters of corn eggs have hatched 20 of 22 okeetees and 9 of 9 hybrids (okeetee male and great plains female). I had a copperhead in the shop to birth 10 gorgeous babies Wednesday. I intend to take them to the area where she was caught and release them all.
Back to herping; Win Ott and I took students to the national forest near Charleston Saturday. I have never seen the drought so bad. Conditions are horrible. We saw 2 cottonmouths (and forgive me please but I ran over one ...a do it yourself DOR) and a banded watersnake. Some good birds; egrets, herons, ibis, readheaded and pileated woodpeckers, and good dragonflies (huge clubtails and saddlebags) and a neat velvet ant (cow killer) were also seen. Best mammal? A nice sized black wild boar easily was the best mammal sighted. I really do hope to get rains soon, the fish, amphibians and reptiles are having a hard time.
Hope now to go back to the area first weekend of October if at all possible. Maybe we'll get rains.
Week Ending September 5, 1999:
I saw only two DOR snakes this week: a Black Rat and a Black Racer. Saw no live snakes. Still seeing plenty Fowlers Toads and occassional Narrowmouth Toads.
The drought has returned. Both branches on the farm have stopped flowing again.
I have spent some time in recent weeks developing a simulation for finding snakes while road cruising. If I master JAVA sufficiently, I hope to put the simulation on the web. It makes a fun game. I am calibrating it with personnel experience. The simulation is rationally based. Some of the predictions are very interesting. If my concepts are anywhere near to reality, there are many more snakes crossing the roads than I ever see. If anyone knows of other simulations or previous studies on this subject I would appreciate a note.
Saw a racer in the road this week. Got away. Also saw a watersnake, in a crevice near some shoals. It got away.
Collected some more cricket frogs at another location in Laurens County. I looked closely and some are definitely southern crickets, but some have conflicting ID points. Long leg but well webbed foot. Smooth line on inner thighs or irregular. But some definitely had it: pointed noses, slight webbing, long leg, and smooth-well defined thigh stripe. Definitely southern crickets!
I tried the leg length on frogs of various sizes. They all have long legs, no matter what the other ID characteristics are. Would love to have some more help up here with this stuff if anyone gets a chance.
Corns are hatching in the lab! Starting on day #89 our Okeetee eggs got started. We had 22 eggs (23 originally but one went bad). We are still waiting for the Okeetee (father) and Great Plains Ratsnake (mother) eggs to hatch. We have 9 of them and they are huge eggs. We bred this pair back in 97 and the 2 that I decided to keep had super hatching size and growth rates, with acceptable color. I think if bred back to an Okeetee male next year, I'll still have pretty good egg/hatchling size, with good growth rates, and pretty good color. Looking eagerly to next year. I am still waiting on the Everglades x Black ratsnake eggs, the Redbelly watersnakes, and the copperhead and that will be it for this year's breeding projects.
Return to Weekly Observations Page
Return to SC Reptiles and Amphibians Page