Buckeye Herps Blog

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2nd Ohio Amphibian Research and Conservation Conference

If you have any interest in herps, biology or just enjoy the outdoors, I suggest you check out the 2nd Ohio Amphibian Research and Conservation Conference.  Ohio DNR has been putting on reptile and amphibian conferences every two years now for almost a decade.  They alternate the focus of each conference between reptiles and amphibians, so each topic is approached every four years.  This years event is March 20, 2012 at the ODOT Hilltop Conference Center in Columbus, Ohio. The keynote speaker is Dr. Tyrone Hayes, an amphibian ecologist from UC Berkeley, who will be speaking about amphibian declines.

Western Chorus Frog found breeding on March 11, 2006

I have made almost all of these conferences now and they are always full of top notch speakers, fascinating information relevant to Ohio reptiles and amphibians and provide a great opportunity to get together with a group of like minded individuals.  The past few conferences have probably attracted 100+ people in attendance from all walks of life and level of interest.  These conferences are pretty laid back, and provide a wonderful venue to celebrate herps and bring in the new field season.

Tiger Salamander roadcruised on March 15, 2008

The conferences are centrally located in Columbus Ohio.  You can obtain more information about registration (late now), location and scheduled speakers here.  Another selling point is that the past 2 or even 3 conferences I have attended were blessed with rain.  I have been able to get some early spring amphibian migrations in on almost every occasion!

Smallmouth Salamander roadcruised on March 13, 2010

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Turtle Craft!

My holiday wishes came true and I found myself the lucky owner of a new "turtling" (fishing) kayak this year.  I had spoken about my dream boat before, the Jackson Kayak Coosa, and I can't wait to really get this thing out on the water...

It's a decent sized craft, coming in at 11'3" and weighs a bit under 70 lbs.

Getting her unwrapped was a breeze, and I quickly had her outfitted for a trip!

Notice the fishing pole and snake hook fitting nicely.
But now the question became how to store it??  I am not the handiest of fellows, but I recruited my buddy Rob to help figure something out.  Rob recently got a hard top Jeep Wrangler and had rigged a pully system for the hard top in his garage.  Turns out it broke and fell, but he assured me he wouldn't make the same mistake twice.  I figured he had more experience than I, and maybe he learned a thing or two from his earlier transgressions...

A couple stops at Home Depot, Lowes, the neighborhood ACE hardware, (and then Home Depot and Lowes again) and we were in business.  The boat doesn't weigh a ton, but Molly wasn't thrilled about the idea of it hanging over the front of her car, especially with twiddle dee and twiddle dum suspending it.  We opted for the fairly high load bearing pulleys, rope, etc.  We made sure to try and and eliminate any "weak" points in the system.  After buying everything, I am sure it won't fall due to equipment failure.  Now, knot failure is a whole other issue.

Most of our supplies, just after getting started.  
We rocked out to some Black Keys as we fashioned the webbing around craft.  We used heavy duty caribiners to connect the webbing to the rope, with a section of rope to keep the straps tight in the middle.

Here we are getting ready for the first test pull.  We quickly fashion rope loops around the rafters just for the test run, and ended up with heavy duty chains, as eventually trading up for climping rope too.

Good thing we checked first too.  The initial pulleys didn't have a swivel feature, and the "track" for the rope was too shallow.  The rope kept coming off and getting wedged.  New pulleys, new rope, and our chains now in place...

To keep the chains from sliding, we bolted them in place in the beam.

Another test run later, the craft pulled up and down fairly easily, with everything staying smooth.

I read you should hand your kayaks upside down to prevent warping.  We lowered it down, figured out how to tie it off on the wall, and we were in business!

It isn't the prettiest, or easiest tie, but it is redundant and it works.   We used a heavy duty loop and hook initially.  The loop is bolted into the beam, and when you pull the hook and knot down it easily hooks in.  Makes it pretty simple for one person to do.  We could only find a small cleat, and probably should have gotten a bigger dock cleat from a boating supply store. Since this was kinda the backup, we opted to just loop a knot around the cleat we had.  What little excess rope there is is looped above.

And there she is, all hoisted up!

Many thanks to Rob for all of his help!  Now I just need to come up with a creative herping name, and get her in the water!  Spring and the rivers are just around the corner...

Any name suggestions for a river worthy turtle craft??


By the way, we hung her Jan 9th, and if any of you were wondering she hasn't crashed down on Molly's car yet!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Roadcruising Riffs 15

The Black Keys are a couple of home grown Buckeye Herps boys from Akron.  Their song, Little Black Submarines, is by far my favorite off their new record and made for some great listening on my trip last week.
You are missing out if you haven't heard this.

I am really excited to see them perform this tune live in a couple of weeks.

Rock on and Happy Herping!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Everglades and Pythons

Pythons have been all over the news of late.   A recent paper reported the decline of certain mammals in Everglades National Park since the introduction of pythons a number of years ago.  The title states that mammal population declines coincide with python population proliferation. The paper takes available data, and reports it with some conclusions.  It is flawed, but it is a starting point to look at a very difficult problem to try and study. Yet, tons of fear mongers are freaking out and wondering when the humans are next on the menu?  This is not the researchers fault.  They are just presenting their data, yet our current society pulls the crap out of there and turns it into a horror story.  News agencies. papers and blogs all across the country are spinning sensationalist stories, and I imagine most of them never even read the actual article...

Notice I didn't link these other blogs, papers, magazines, etc.  I linked the actual article.  I suggest if you have any interest you read it too.  I am frustrated because I am leaving for a trip to the Everglades on Friday.  I am extremely excited to kayak the back country and camp on a barrier island or two.  I hope to do some fishing, a little birding, a lot of photography and much herping.  Everyone who hears about my trip the last few days has warned me to "watch out for the pythons", or "try not to get eaten".  This is all complete crap.  I admit the pythons are there.  I admit they are a huge problem.  I admit they need to be studied.  I admit that they are likely having detrimental impacts on the Everglades ecosystem.  We do not yet fully understand their impact or role, and honestly we never will.  We also will not eradicate them. This is all scary.  I understand people will hate them because they are snakes.  I understand they are very big.  They are not what media will have you believe though.  Most people probably think I am full of crap, but I have actually seen pythons in the Everglades.  I also know a couple people who worked on that exact python paper, and who have caught countless pythons over the years.  If you asked me or any of them if they feared for their lives going to the Everglades because of the pythons I bet you would might get some chuckles.

We will never fully understand this situation.  We will do our best to try, because it does matter, and because declines are worrisome.  The study was just the tip of the iceburg though.  They used road cruising techniques because that was the only available data from before the introduction of the pythons.  If you look at a map of ENP though, there sure isn't much road running through all that swamp...  We do have to keep studying this situation.  We do not need to make blanket, knee jerk reactions out of fear.

Maybe this time next week I will have new python pictures.  What I really hope is that I will have pictures of animals that are really awesome, such as the eastern diamond-backed rattlesnake or the endangered american crocodile.  I will try not to be eaten in the process.