Buckeye Herps Blog

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Last Paddle, Again!

Michigan was lucky to have a few warm spells in November and I managed to sneak up north for a day to take advantage of the weather. Curtis and I met on the fringe of wood turtle territory, although in a river system they are not known from. The conditions were sunny, but cool in the mid to low 50s. It probably wasn't the best time of the year to try and explore fringe rivers, but it was a little closer of a drive for the two of us on a day trip.

We had a some great access, and quickly prepared for the trip. The old trusty explorer made this excursion and is still treating me well.

I am usually not an advocate of drinking while paddling. I focus on the turtles and save that for the campfire, but on a lazy day we couldn't resist bringing one for the water.

We quickly started seeing map turtles basking along the river though. I think we ended up with about 15 for the day.

This turtle was gaping like a crocadilian. I don't see them do this too often.
We were able to watch a pileated woodpecker for a while, but I was unable to get a clear shot.

A great way to enjoy a fall paddle.

Happy Herping,


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Herp ID Help: 5

Although this is pretty easy, I will give you two pictures of the same species. Cell phone pictures can be kinda blurry sometimes!

Click for snake ID:

Both pictures are again of Eastern Milksnakes Lampropeltis triangulum.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Herp ID Help: 4

Looks very similar to some of the snakes already posted...

Click for snake ID:

But this is a young Black Ratsnake Pantherophis obsoleta. They have much more distinct markings when they are young, which usually fade into the classic black most people are used to. Some individuals will retain a light pattern into their adult age.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Herp ID Help: 3

I usually first see these pictures on my phone. It is fairly easy to identify the animal most of the time, even on the small screen. Sometimes I have to look a little harder or pull it up on a computer screen.

Most of the images are accompanied by concern that a rattlesnake is in their home.

Click for snake ID:

Eastern Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum

This one intially looked a little like a northern watersnake on my small phone screen. What did you first think?


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day everyone! May your winter be mild and the wildlife abundant.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Herp ID Help: 2

The first few will stay pretty easy.

Snake two was found in Ohio.

Click for Snake ID:

Eastern Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum

Happy Herping,


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Herp ID Help: 1

I get a number of pictures emailed to me every year from people all over Ohio and Michigan. I decided to start sharing some of these to the rest of my readers as well. You will find a number of "frequent flyers" continue to puzzle interested folk all over.

This snake was photographed in Michigan the first week in November. I hope it made it down for the winter shortly after the photoshoot.

Click for Snake ID:

Eastern Hognose Snake Heterodon platirhinos

Unfortunately, as winter is upon us I have a bunch more of these to try and keep us occupied.

Happy Herping,


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Last Paddle

I was hoping to get out for one last paddle in early October. Unfortunately, the weather would not cooperate or align with my schedule. Luckily, Curtis, a fellow paddler and turtle enthusiast called me and mentioned he would be in town and that the weather looked good. Well, it looked good for October. The plan was set in motion quickly.

We got out late in October. The day started sunny but ended cloudy with the threat of rain. It was not really all that warm out.

My brother David joined us. Here he is preparing for his first kayak experience.

The paddle was long and mostly uneventful. There was a large turtle that slid in early on, but no one could ID it. Curtis spotted another turtle later, and initially thought it was a woodie, but it turned out to be a large snapping turtle trying to soak up what little sunlight was available.

This river started out very tight and challenging. Dave was doing well and paddling cautiously. Unfortunately, like all people who paddle frequently know, flipping your boat can happen to the best of us. He was tricked by the overhanging branch that "looked flexible". He was swept into it and tried to push it out of the way. Well the branch didn't give an inch, and Dave was quickly upside down. It was not a good day to get wet and he left his change of dry cloathes in the car. I lent him a jacket though and luckily he did fine as we still had more than half our paddle to go.

 Soon after, I was paddling under an overhanging tree trunk. The trunk was about 6 or 7 feet off the water. Right as I went under it there was scurrying sound from above and then a loud plop and splash about 6-12 inches off the right of my boat. I though someone threw a large rock at me. Turns out Curtis caught a view of a plastron shell as it dropped out of the tree above me and almost landed in my boat! I wish it had as we never could ID that turtle as well. Odd stuff happening in October...

The paddle was getting long, the sun had traded with the clouds hours ago and we were getting tired and cold. Finally a mud bank held our prey, a lonely wood turtle basking in the evening light. This was a new county for me and made our day.

I doubt I will paddle for turtles again this year. Some of my records show it was a banner season. I paddled around 41 hours and 95 river miles over the course of 10 paddles on 9 different rivers. The turtles were frequent but not always a sure thing. More importantly I explored a ton of new ground. Can't wait for spring already...

Happy Herping!


Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Wood

The paddle season is coming to an end quickly.  Despite the new boat, I was late to get on the water this year.  I wasn't able to take her for a maiden voyage until midAugust.  Since then, we have paddled far and wide though, so I guess I have been making up for lost time!  In the past month, we have paddled six rivers, a few of them involving multiple trips.  Turtles have been fairly hard to come by, mainly because I have been trying for a couple county records, but I have still seen a few here and there.  This will be short on dialogue, but blessed in turtles!

Every shot in this series is in situ - I tend to leave these beasties alone!

A few of these turtles were notched, part of someones research study.  Another good reason to leave them as you see them and move on down the river quietly!

I have a few days off next week I might try to hit one of my nemesis rivers again.  It is sorta close to home, and I have now paddled it twice without seeing any turtles or any species.  Historically, woods should be present.  Unfortunately, I usually hit the river under poor conditions and don't give it a chance to work out.  Seems like this year will be no different.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Oregon 2012

We recently flew to Oregon for a weddding in my family.  It was a great opportunity to catch up with my father's side of the family and spend a nice weekend with Molly and my dad.  Most people might not find Portland to be all that exciting, and it might be way off the radar of most "herpers", but for a salamander enthusiast it was a dream come true!

The herping was limited by the above reasons, but I managed to make the best of a quick trip.  We drove to the coast for a few hours the first day, and enjoyed checking out the tidal pools and nearby streams.  Herping was a huge bust here.

I fooled around photographing some of the tidal pool creatures.

About this time a girl walked up to us yelling "WAR EAGLE!!".  She seemed a little excited to see a "fellow" Auburn fan in Oregon. Sadly, my father was sporting the shirt that was a gift from Brian.  He was completely clueless and couldn't figure out what she was saying or what it meant.  I kindly explained to her he didn't understand, and she proceeded to further educate him on Auburn etiquette.  I found the whole interaction rather humorous.  Crazy war eagle stuff...

The next day, we got to the gorge in the early afternoon after picking up a college buddy to be my "guide" and a quick bite to eat.  We hiked a couple trails he picked out.  Wes is a "nonherper" but is a biologist type and enjoys rustling around for herps when given the chance.

That pool yielded nothing unfortunately.

But I faired better at this one.

Unfortunately, I think they are all coastal giants and I missed out on Copes.  Coastal Giant Salamanders are some pretty cool beasties.  They get rather large, and are considered the largest terrestrial salamander of north america. Many of them actually retain their "larval" form, despite being sexually mature, which is known  as neotony or paedomorphism.

Coastal Giant Salamander Dicamptodon Tenebrosus

Wesley Snipes - Rocking it out!

Wes and I decided to explore farther up a creek that led away from the trail.  I was rewarded with the first frog of the day - Northern Red-legged Frog Rana aurora.

Farther up I explored a seepage that trickled down a rock wall and flowed into a smaller pool in the creek.  I spotted a tail sticking out of moss and was surprised and excited to find this adult Dicamptodon up on the rock face.

The transformed adult form of the Giant Salamander

Wes also found a second Red-legged frog in the edge of the pool.

The next trail we hiked led back to another waterfall.  This pool was very deep and large, and hard to hunt without actually going swimming.  I checked out some of the pools downstream where the water flowed out of the rock walls, as well as some other seepages in the area.  I quickly turned up another 4 or 5 Dicamptodon without much effort.  I flipped another rock and was scooping out a Dicamptodon when Wes said "Hey, here's a frog too!" I had evidently overlooked it. He picked it up and at first glance said he thought it was something different.  Being a bit of a salamander nut, I was still focused on my quarry, until he mentioned it had a tail.

Coastal Tailed Frog Ascaphus truei

These frogs are pretty stinking cool.  The "tail" is actually an organ for internal fertilization, much like a penis. These are the only Genus of frogs in the world that fertilize internally.  It is also thought that they do not vocalize!

Our few hours of hunting unfortunately came to a quick end after this.  I was pretty happy to turn up what I did, but was a little bummed out that I missed Rhyacotriton. I also missed out on the other terrestrials, despite flipping a bunch of logs and rocks along the trail and stream edges. I am hoping it was just due to my timing at the end of August during a drought, but who knows.  Just more reasons to head back, and hopefully soon.