Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back in the States, Back in the Field

I arrived back in the US on August 20 feeling tired but excited to be back in the States. The heatwave from the summer rendered the Midwest bone dry, but with a little work and luck I figured we could turn up a few animals. After being home for only a day or two, my Dad and I made a roadtrip up to Michigan to visit the Buckeyeherper and catch a baseball game. Naturally, we scheduled in some field time. We invited my brother David along, but he declined, saying that "we never find anything" when he comes out into the field with us. His loss, our gain, I suppose....

We checked out a neat fen in southeastern Michigan. The area supports some interesting fauna, including a few species of turtles, snakes, and frogs. Bob particularly enjoyed the pitcher plants and sundews, when he was finally able to spot them. Of course, Cid and Joy tagged along for the trip, who are always eager to get out into the field. After investigating the area for about an hour, Cid, Joy, and I hiked right past this little 1 year old snake. Fortunately, the more experienced Michigan herper made the spot:

Eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) found on August 22, 2010 at 6:35 PM.
This was Bob's first ever swamp rattler, and only my second, so suffice to say we were quite pleased. Too bad Dave wasn't along for the fun......

About a week later, I found myself back down in Athens, Ohio, gearing up for the start of another school year. On the August 28, the weather was looking prime to see pitvipers, so a buddy and I went down to a familiar hiking and flipping area to see what we could turn up. Unfortunately, the first find of the day was absolutely devastating. I've had zero luck over the years with one of Ohio's more interesting snakes, the Eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platyrhinos), and it was certainly in the back of my mind when we set out that morning. Imagine my dismay when we found one on the road around noon... but dead:

Bummer. We proceeded on to check a few flip spots before embarking on our hike. The first thing flipped is one of the usual suspects for southern Ohio, the Northern ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus):
On our hike, we saw a few lizard species. Unfortunately, the skinks were too quick for us to bring in hand. However, we did successfully photograph an Eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) and an Eastern box turtle (Terrapene carolina):

Our luck was pretty raw on the hike. We didn't see any vipers and both of us found our pants covered in hundreds of "micro" ticks: minuscule ticks less than 1 mm in diameter (I literally scraped hundreds off my ankles that night. Disgusting.).

We checked a few other spots. A Northern black racer (Coluber constrictor) was too quick for us and bolted away. However, we flipped a nice Black rat snake (Scotophis spiloides), which promptly tagged Carl on the cheek:

Ouch. I also photographed this pretty snake:

Eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum).

After grabbing a bite to eat and hitting a few more spots as it got dark, we decided to roadcruise a few "new" roads that haven't been too successful in the past. It was a cooler night, with temperatures down into the 70s. At 8:30, right as it was getting dark, we were pleased to find this:

A Northern copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), in situ. The rest of the night was fairly eventful, as we stopped for two more copperheads at 9:03 and 9:45. At around 10:30, we headed home, decently pleased with the day's activities.

Three snake night... not bad!

Unfortunately, I'm currently super busy with club soccer to spend much time in the field in search of herps. However, I did participate in a field trip for my Ornithology class on Saturday September 11. At three different localities, we saw over twenty species of birds, including a few lifers. First, at 7:15 AM, we saw a few local vultures hanging out on tops of houses along Grosvenor Road in Athens, OH:
-10+ Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) (lifer)
-2 Turkey vultures (Carthartes aura)

Next, we stopped off highway 686 along the Hocking River, down beneath the ridges. There we observed:
-2 Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) (lifer)
-American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
-1 Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
-Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura)
Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
1 Pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
-1 Canada goose (Branta canadensis)

From around 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM, we hiked around the Ridges, an elevated ridgetop area that is a part of Ohio University's campus. There we observed:
-American robins (Turdus migratorius)
1 Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) (lifer) "the bird that rocks," according to our prof
-1 Yellow-throated vireo (Vireo flavifrons) (lifer)
-1 Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
-1 Downey woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
1 Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
1 Caroline chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) (lifer)
-Blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata)
-Northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis)

A few other species were seen by people in the group. However, I only listed the birds above that I was able to visually ID.

Hoping to get back out into the field soon....



  1. Love the posts and the pictures. Great shot of Carl with the snake, and the bloody cheek. At first, I thought I was ready a Buckeyeherper post. You have similar writing styles.

  2. Who stole my brother and made him a birder (not that there's anything wrong with that...)? Keep it up, you have plenty more to share. I expect plenty of posts during the winter months.