Herping in Hellhole with Holmes - 2004

By Gene Ott

Friday afternoon, May 21, 2004

Win and I arrived at the Hellhole campground about 3 pm. No one else was around and it did not appear that anyone else had visited either.

We took the opportunity to identify some of the interesting plants. In the campground we identified a pretty little flower as Orange Milkwort. With field guide in hand, we stopped at likely looking spot along Hellhole Road. There was a very abundant shrub that we identified as Swamp Cyrilla. We noted Sweet Bay blooming along the wayside. Lizardtail was an unusual grasslike plant with a long, drooping flower that looks like a tail. We spotted some Bladderwort in bloom, although it was not as abundant as it had been at the time of the last Holmes gathering in early April 2003. Black-eyed Susans brightened the roadsides with their yellow flowers.

The water in the roadside ditches was low and drying until we reached a Beaver dam. Upstream of the dam, the water areas were substantially larger. Near a culvert that crossed the road, Win saw an Alligator. It would prove to be the first of many observations of small Alligators the group made during the next 48 hours. All were seen at culverts.

About 5:30 we started driving to the campground from the eastern side of Hellhole Bay. After crossing Farewell Corners intersection, I spotted a black tail quickly entering the roadside grass. Win jumped out but it was gone. I thought it was a Black Racer. Driving a little farther I spotted a black snake at the edge of the road. Win sprang from the van and raced to catch it. He grabbed it as it turned to re-enter the grass. It was an Eastern Kingsnake, about 4 feet in length. We bagged the snake to show to the other participants when they arrived. We drove a littler farther and spotted another Kingsnake. This one was smaller, about 3 feet. We caught and immediately released it. Driving a little farther, we spotted another King about the same size as the last. We caught and immediately released this one also. We were pumped! Four snakes in less than 15 minutes.

We drove on back toward the campground and met Jeff Holmes coming down the road. He said others were on their way, so we continued on to the campground. After gathering, we split into 2 groups. Win and I chauffeured one group in my van and Jeff the others in his SUV. We planned to cruise and observe for a couple of hours, meet Farewell Corners intersection, and swap passengers for twilight and early nighttime cruising.

With out group, we headed back down Hellhole road. Jeff and his group preceded us. Drove back to the area where we had seen the Alligator. Not far away, we spotted another gator.

At twilight we met Jeff and his crew. Jeff regaled us with sightings of Cottonmouths, Kingsnakes, Banded Water Snakes, and a possible Mud Snake.

We had little to report other than a Least Shrew which ran across our path and I managed to hit while trying to avoid it.!

We wasted little more time talking and headed out again to hunt the crepuscular period. Still we found little to brag about until after dark. I saw a small black shape on the road. I went past it. Then reconsidered and stopped. Win jumped out and retrieved a Black Swamp Snake. This was a first for us and was on our list of species we hoped to find!

More time past without further unusual finds. I picked up a beautiful Southern Toad for photographing. We were making our way back to the campground. I saw a snake in the middle of our tire path. I slammed on brakes and managed to stop inches before hitting the snake. Win jumped out and grabbed a 3-foot Mud Snake! The Mud Snake was also on the top of our list of species we hoped to find. It was a first for Win.

Continue To May 22, 2004

Return to Herping in Hellhole with Holmes - 2004, Introduction

May 31, 2004
Contact: South Carolina Reptiles and Amphibians