Buckeye Herps Blog

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Roadcruising Riffs14: AWOLNATION Sail

Don't know if it will be up beat enough for a long drive, but I have really been enjoying AWOLNATION, Sail, during my drives to work lately.  Will have to add it to the playlist to try it out next season.

Drive safely!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Got Wood 2011

As you may have noticed from previous posts, I highly enjoy searching for wood turtles during the warmer months.  I my opinion, there is nothing better than cruising in a nice canoe/kayak down a northern Michigan river.  Each year I try to add another river or two to my list, and hopefully a new wood turtle as well.

I probably won't get out again, but I won't completely close the book on the season yet.  Anyway, this year was extra successful.   I kayaked 5 Michigan rivers this season on all parts of the state.  3 of those were new for me.  One of the repeats was a river I have yet to see a wood turtle on yet, and it is unclear if they are even still there.  I will most likely do this river each year at least once in hope of getting lucky.  The only day I got skunked was on this river, and it did rain all day early in May.

I want to share with you a magical day in mid-July. I was looking into a few rivers to paddle in NW Michigan, near where my wife and I vacation for a few days each summer.  The friend we stay with mentioned he fishes one of them and told me it was by far his favorite river.  I was hooked.  I applied some of my past experiences in deciding how to attack the river, and drew up a game plan.  

Part of that plan was trying out a sit-on-top kayak or a fishing kayak.  I had already flipped a canoe with my dogs this spring, as well as a small kayak randomly and am trying to avoid that as much as possible.  I pulled up to the store around 830-9 am and asked about renting a kayak for the day.  I was informed I was in luck, not only did have have a couple sit-on-top boats, but he had a new one that just came in that he thought we would perfect for me (we can visit the perfect boat subject later).  He also mentioned they see tons of turtles on the river.  Needless to say, I was getting excited.

I was dropped at the put-in site a few minutes later.  I usually explore around a little, but I was too anxious today.  After a short prep with the new boat, I was on the water.  I paddled under the bridge overhang, looked to my left and noticed a wood turtle basking right there.  We were off like a herd of turtles...

Seriously, that easy?
It was about 930am.  I will spare you the intimate details, but basically I spotted 10 turtles in the next 2 hours, and 14 for the 4 hours.  It was unreal.  I would climb in the boat, paddle a little, then see a turtle, turn around, find a way to photograph it, rinse and repeat.  Again.  And again.  It rocked.

And finally, the last of the day, about 20 yards away from the bridge I would get out at.

This day was pretty awesome.  I only saw 1 other turtle, a large snapping turtle.  I can't believe it is always that awesome, but the owner of the shop did say they see tons of turtles...  Have to check it out again next year as well.

So how was the kayak?  Ahh more to come on that later...


Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Brake For Snakes!

The leaves are changing here in Michigan, but the last few days have been warm and sunny.  I took advantage of a day off to head out and try for the last (maybe?) rattlesnakes of the year.  I spent a couple pleasurable hours hiking around a fen that is usually good for a snake or two, although not this day.  I decided to try my luck elsewhere, but figured it was a decent time to try a pass or two on one of the roads through the area.  It was a good idea, as not 200 yards down the road I swerved to miss a small twig stretched out on the road.

Neonate eastern massasauga rattlesnake

It didn't move for about 10 or 15 minutes of me photographing it and steering cars around.  This was shot with my 10-20mm wide angle.  For the nonphotographers out there, that means I had to scoot up nice and close to get that shot.  He didn't care.

I switched to the 90mm macro for a few shots.

The classic diagnostic shot.   
 Refer to recent posts for discussion of identifying massasaugas, including juveniles and neonates.

I also shooed a neonate water snake and a couple garter snakes off the road this day.  Unfortunately, there were two or three DOR (dead on road) water snakes, a few DOR garters, and DOR ribbon snake and a DOR redbelly snake.  Snakes were definitely moving, although like usual, the dead out numbered the living.  Happily, no DOR saugas were found.  I pride myself in spotting small snakes in the road, and seeing how slow to eventually move off this little guy was, this high traffic area most definitely would have claimed him soon.

So, do you brake for snakes?


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Arizona and Califorina 2009: Part II California

The California leg of the trip was much more successful from a herping standpoint.  We spent more time in California, and I was able to get out a few days.  This was my first trip to California and I enjoyed experiencing a new set of diversity and herpetofauna.

One morning I was invited out by a buddy who I had shown around a little bit in Ohio a few years previous.  He had a board and funnel trap survey so we set out to work over his site.  We were out bright and early, hitting the boards before it got too warm.  The details are a little sketchy this far out, so commentary will be fairly brief.

Early on we turned up a   .  We were lucky to catch it first thing, before they warmed up so it cooperated well for photos.

Aspidoscelis hyperythra beldingi - Belding's Orange-throated Whiptail

The first snake was my first gopher snake.

Pituophis catenifer annectens - San Diego Gopher Snake

This spiny was able to be caught while scurrying around the shrubs and bushes.

Sceloporus occidentalis longipes - Great Basin Fence Lizard

We flipped this nice looking alligator lizard under a board.

Elgaria multicarinata webbii - San Diego Alligator Lizard

The sideblotch lizards were prettier than I am used to seeing in Arizona.

Uta stansburiana elegans - Western Side-blotched Lizard

Striped Whipsnake also flipped under a board.

Coluber lateralis lateralis - California Striped Racer

Gilbert's Skink found under a board.

Plestiodon gilberti rubricaudatus - Western Red-tailed Skink

Does anyone know their tarantulas?  I unfortunately, do not have a whole body shot.

This was the first time I witness a ringneck curling the tail.

Diadophis punctatus similis - San Diego Ring-necked Snake

I guess coachwhips are pretty uncommon at the site, but Jeff had been catching one frequently under his boards.  We missed out on the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake but lucked into the coachwhip.

Coluber flagellum piceus - Red Racer

I believe this is the famous, Gitmo, a Cuban Iguana, Cyclura nebila.  They breed a number of critically endangered Carribean iguana species at the facility.

It was a great morning, but Jeff had to get to work.  Another old buddy, Brian H. had been working there as well and took the afternoon off to hike around.  We hit up a nice rocky hillside and quickly turned up a couple Red Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes, Crotalus ruber.
In situ

These were some pretty awesome snakes.  Nice and heavy bodied, but faily well dispositioned.  It was a real treat to see these.

We decided to hike another rocky hillside nearby.  I flipped this awesome night lizard under a small piece of flat rock.

Xantusia henshawi - Granite Night Lizard

I was also very happy to spot this lyre snake deep in a crack I shined with my trusty mirror (this mirror has been good to me over the years, well maybe twice!)

Trimorphodon biscutatus lyrophanes - Baja California Lyresnake

But the find of the day was my first horned lizard.  Brian spotted it scurrying across the trail.

Phrynosoma blainvillii - Blainville's Horned Lizard
(Coast Horned Lizard)

The next day I dragged Molly and our friend Becky to the San Diego Zoo.  If you haven't been, it is world class.  The zoo is unlike any other and has numerous examples of rarely seen animals.  You can spend days wandering the trails and exibits of the park.  I of course, spent hours photographing the herps from all over the world!  If only I had photographed the name cards...

European Green Lizard Lacerta viridis

Gharials! Gavialis gangeticus

 Red-headed Agama Agama Agama

Chinese Alligator?  I sadly don't remember...  Alligator sinensis

Nile Crocodile? Crocodylus niloticus

Oh did I mention we saw a Tuatara?  Awesome...

Tuataras are tuataras.  They are dinosaurs, relics from 200 million years ago.  They resemble lizards, but there are only two species left that are in their own Order,  Family and Genus.  They can only be found in New Zealand where they can live to be over 100 years old.   Unfortunately, they reach sexual maturity in 10-20 years.  Unlike other reptiles, they like it relatively cold.  Thriving in 60 degree temperature.

How about a super cool Mang Mountain Viper Trimeresurus mangshanensis, discovered on Mang Mountain China?  They have em.  These snakes are actually quite large.  Much bigger than I had expected.

What's the matter, big vipers aren't your thing?  How about the small Ethiopian Mountain Adder Bitis parviocula?

If you don't like snakes, they have cool frogs too!

Panaminian Golden Frog Atelopus zetecki

or Vietnamese Mossy Frogs Theloderma corticale

Seriously.  Go to the zoo.

We enjoyed some sight seeing at La Jolla Beach.  Well I enjoyed animal watching.

I managed to sneak away for another couple short herp outings.

Pseudacris hypochondriaca hypochondriaca - Baja California Treefrog

Hypsiglena ochrorhyncha klauberi - San Diego Nightsnake

Phrynosoma blainvillii - Blainville's Horned Lizard
(Coast Horned Lizard)

Some excellent California herpers offered to show my some kingsnakes.  We flipped some nice boards and were rewarded well.

California Kingsnakes Lampropeltis getula californiae

Plestiodon skiltonianus interparietalis? - Coronado Skink

That ended up being much longer than anticipated.  It was a great trip for busting out the camera.