Buckeye Herps Blog

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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Snake?

When Brian and I were hiking in Costa Rica this summer, I spotted this attractive snake crawling through the forest floor one night.  Initially thinking it might be a halloween snake, Urotheca sp., it actually turned out to be a calico snake, Oxyrhopus petolarius.  Just another reason to return to this wonderful country another time in the future...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Roadcruising Riffs: 2

A quality night of roadcruising and a good set of tunes definitely go hand-in-hand. Invariably, whether with a friend or alone, bodies fatigues and eyes get droopy, decreasing frog, salamander, or snake sightings. But with a rockin' list of tunes on the CD or iPod, roadcruising stamina can extend in the later hours of the night or morning. Here in Ohio, it seems that peak roadcruising snake activity is for the first hour or two after nightfall under right conditions. But in other environments, quality roadcruising can extend into the wee hours of the morning (e.g., desert, tropical dry forest) (although, my experience here is admittedly lacking). In Costa Rica, I can definitely testify that good, upbeat music helped keep my senses alert late into the night..... (that, and 2-3 large Cokes)

Although, I was totally passed out when we cruised right over our only AOR central american coral snake (Micrurus nigrocinctus).... Oops! I've heard no end of grief over that mishap...

Anyway, a bunch of my Costa Rican buds got me hip to Ska music all over again - an excellent genre to jam out to while chasing down Bothrops, Porthidium, and Micrurus....

The Black King

Black kingsnakes, Lampropeltis getula nigra, are definitely on my list of Ohio favorites. I still remember finding my first with Carl Brune quite a few years ago now, a young juvenile. They are large, attractive, and powerful snakes that are relitively mild mannered, but live up to their name - kingsnake. They are not afraid to snack on other serpents, even copperheads and timber rattlesnakes.

A picture of my first, from 04, included for nostalgia.

Thought to be rare or uncommon in Ohio they are actually quite abundant locally.  They are on the northern edge of their range, and thus have a small range in Ohio.  Within their range though, they can be one of the most common snakes found.

I have had luck finding them in a few different ways - primarily roadcruising and flipping rocks and tin/boards.  I can't recall if I even found one out on the crawl while hiking, but I don't think I have.

I often ask permission of people to search their property when looking for kings, and do my best to explain that the presence of these snakes is good and will "help" keep the population of venomous snakes down.  We are all salesman in a way...

So if you happen across a king someday, remember I put in a good word for him.  Take time to enjoy his presence, but please let him return to rule sovereign over his land and subjects.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Roadcruising Riffs: 1

It's the end of the season, nuff said.  Thought I would start a new installment featuring tunes I enjoy roadcruising to.  If you have any suggestions for tunes that keep you up on long slow nights, please share!

If you dig a little Slash, and I do, then you should enjoy this one off his newish solo album.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Season Ending

Unfortunately, things are becoming cold and dreary here.  A cool fall rain is falling as I type.  In a perfect world, there would still be days to be had in the field, but I am pretty booked through Oct and Nov due to hectic work schedules and various little trips.  Before I know it snow will be falling...

This season came and went fast.  I spent far less time in the field compared to years past.  It was still a memorable year, if not epic, and I enjoy any time spent outdoors.  I did manage to get out with the dogs last week on a specially nice day.  We saw a few snakes, likely the last of the year, some frogs and a salamander or two.  A far cry from other early October outings in years past, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Brian should still have some field time left out there, especially for salamanders, and hopefully he will get out.  Otherwise, I will try and share things as they come up, do some flashbacks and try and get through to the countdown for Spring again.

I will end with an image.  Although I am not currently in an area that has marbled salamanders, Ambystoma opacum, they actually breed in the fall.  This differs from most other Ambystomids.  We are getting a nice October rain right now, and if I were in southern Ohio right now, I would be sure to be out looking for them.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Arizona Spring

Arizona has a special draw for most herpers.  For better or worse, herping the copper state has been widely written about, become the subject of television shows, and is frequently mentioned in herper circles.  For good reason though. It has tons of national park/forest land, extremely high reptile diversity, especially rattlesnakes, and many different biomes to explore. 

I have visited the state a few times now, and find myself lucky any chance I get to go.  I have only gone once as a dedicated herping trip, back in 2007, but it is easy to get out and explore even on short trips.  As luck would have it, there was a conference I attended for work back in early June.  It is a bit of a wierd time in Arizona, a little late for spring emersion, before the true heat of the summer, and a few months before the wonderous monsoons.  I don't discriminate though, and was just happy to leave cold Michigan and get out in the desert.

I was only there a few short days, but I spent a few mornings hiking, and few nights roadcruising.  I was staying in the northern Phoenix area, and had easy access to park land all around.  I still find the urban sprawl of Phoenix depressing, but there are parks scattered throughout with animals to find.

I spotted quite a few DORs while driving to and from the conference, mainly gopher snakes and coachwhips.  One of the first few nights I was able to sneak away from the group though and hit the roads.  Right off the bat I spotted a few amphibians.

I am fairly certain this is a Bufo woodhousii.  I don't have great crest shots but this seems more likely than Bufo cognatus.

It was kind of a slow night, but my first pass turned up this.

Desert Nightsnake Hypsiglena chlorophaea

A few more long passes remained slow, until I thought I saw a scorpion running across the road.  It was actually this western banded gecko Coleonyx variegatus.

The next morning I got up early with an old medical school buddy and we hiked one of Phoenix's busier parks.  There were people everywhere, a far cry from Detroit.

We saw chuckwallas, whiptails and tree lizards.

Chuckwalla Sauromalus ater

From the summit.

A Tiger whiptail on the way down.

The next morning I met a local Phoenix herper who was kind enough to hike around with me for a bit.  It was wonderful to soak up some local knowledge and refine some of my search tactices.  It helped that we saw some animals too.

Tiger rattlesnake Crotalus tigris

Speckled rattlesnake Crotalus mitchellii

Western diamond-backed rattlesnake Crotalus atrox

Another chuck

That afternoon I spent the heat of the day hiking rocky hillsides hoping for my first Arizona black rattlesnake.  I struck out, but hiked some nice areas and found this unfortunate DOR.

Wish I could wrap this up on a high note, but the last find of the trip was a red-spotted toad Bufo punctatus.

All in all, it was another great trip, especially considering I was there for work.  I can't wait to go back, and there might be a return trip later this month.  Still plenty of places to explore.