My Year In Pennsylvania

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The Jake-Man
Posts: 224
Joined: June 25th, 2012, 3:08 pm
Location: Lebanon Pennsylvania

My Year In Pennsylvania

Post by The Jake-Man » February 17th, 2014, 3:08 pm

2013 was by far the best year I’ve ever had herping. This year was the first time I had really targeted any herp species other than timber rattlesnakes. I also discovered my passion for photography, which, combined with an abundance of live subjects, helped me get some shots I’m happy with. As the year progressed, I tried to switch over from just in-hand voucher shots with my phone to more natural looking, sometimes in-situ photos. Instead of boring you all with vouchers of every herp species I encountered, I’ve instead decided to only include my better shots, and personally significant finds. Most photos were shot with a Nikon D90 with the standard 18-55 mm lens, the others were taken with my iPhone. If you stick around until the end, you’ll see just how much my photography has evolved. All pictures are from Lebanon county PA, unless otherwise noted.


My first herp of the year was this little water snake, found on April 17 in a dry rock pile over half a mile from any water.
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A few days later I got my lifer spring and spotted salamanders on a school backpacking trip.
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Just an egg mass
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During spring turkey season I picked up my third lifer near my cabin in lycoming county.
Allegheny mountain dusky salamander-
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Back near home, I got my lifer black rat snake and wood frog on a hike with a friend in Schuylkill county. Apologies for the awful photos.

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A few days into May I found my first PA lizard, a five-lined skink that WOULD NOT sit still.

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To give you an idea how little I had herped until this year, here is my lifer northern dusky salamander, and an interestingly patterned juvenile.
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Now for some interesting stuff. June 3rd I grabbed my lifer queen snake from a very polluted stream running through a public park-

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Three days later I left for Potter county, on my first long trip of the summer. The reason for this trip was to attend and participate in the 2013 Sinnemahoning Sportsmen Association Rattlesnake Hunt. This event is one of 4-5 non-lethal rattlesnake hunts that are held across Northern Pennsylvania, and is run by the Keystone Reptile Club, under the supervision of PFBC officers.

The premise for the hunt is that hunters are given the opportunity to capture a live male timber rattlesnake over 42 inches, and bring it to the hunt. Every snake brought in is weighed, measured, and has its rattles counted. At the end of the hunt, awards are given out to the hunter that brings in the longest rattlesnake, the heaviest rattlesnake, and the rattlesnake with the most rattles. After the hunt, ALL rattlesnakes are returned EXACTLY where they were intially found

Also, every snake brought in is given a PIT tag as part of an ongoing PFBC monitoring project. Once in a while a snake is brought in that already has a PIT tag, meaning it was brought in as part of a previous hunt. When this happens, a PFBC officer records any changes in the snake’s length and weight, helping them better understand the impact that these hunts have on the snakes that are brought in.

I was not lucky enough to find any adult male timber rattlesnakes during this period, but I observed over 2 dozen smaller males and females, and recorded all of them for the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey. This was also the first trip that my father let me borrow his Nikon, so the photos I took that trip are a combination of phone and DSLR.

The first rock I flipped at our camp had this adult wehrle’s salamander under it, my first lifer of the trip.

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Minutes later I flipped another rock and found my lifer long-tailed salamander.

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Those were the only lifers I had, but I saw a lot of other neat herps on that trip including:

A pair of nesting wood turtles- Can you spot the second one?

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And this ornery yellow phase timber that posed nicely for some shots with the good camera-

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I returned to the wood turtle spot the next day to find a third individual, and decided to get some close-ups-

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I’ll spare you the common stuff I found on that trip, and head straight into the next one. Work had me held down for a while, but my family vacation took me all the way out to Park county Colorado in early July.

Herps were scarce, at least to a novice like me from back East, but the fishing and backpacking were unrivaled. Without a doubt the Colorado Rockies were the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and I will definitely go back some day.

Native cutthroat
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Herps were scarce for me the rest of july, but things picked up in late July when I got a chance to get out herping with forum member roosters977, who spotted this eastern box turtle buried under a pile of dead grass.

Lifer number 10-
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That did it for july, and I was looking forward to a trip I had planned to the Georgian Bay in August. Unfortunately, our bumbling local courthouse screwed up the paperwork for my passport, so I was unable to go on that trip. As consolation, my father offered to take me up to our cabin in Lycoming county for a week instead. While I didn’t find any lifers, that trip was the most productive I’ve ever had as far as herping and photography. Here’s a bit of what I found

A monster spring salamander
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And yours truly, photographing the spring-
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One of only 14 mountain smooth earth snakes ever verified in the PA Herp Atlas-
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Allegheny mountain dusky salamander-
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Redbelly snakes were abundant-
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This milk snake put on a show, but was only as thick as a pencil-
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Yellow phase timber-
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Double timber flip!
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In-situ garter-
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That about does it for that trip. After returning home I made only a few short forays the rest of summer and fall. Here are some highlights-

Lebanon county red salamander and red eft-
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The first black racer I’ve actually caught, not glimpsed as it fled-
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In mid-Novemeber I was lucky enough to see some interesting behavior by some adult red-spotted newts. There were dozens of these scattered around the shoreline apparently soaking up some of the last warm sunlight they would see for a while-

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That should wrap it up! I couldn’t have done half of this without the help of my good friend Joey-

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-who not only drove me all over southern Pennsylvania, but spotted a fair amount of what I got to photograph this year.

I look forward to meeting up with some of you in the field this coming season!

Happy herping,
Jake Cramer

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Berkeley Boone
Posts: 878
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:02 am

Re: My Year In Pennsylvania

Post by Berkeley Boone » February 17th, 2014, 5:22 pm

Jake-
Looks like it was a good year! Congrats on all of the lifers. That newt behavior is pretty interesting. I've never seen it before- I'll be interested to hear what others have to say about it.
I'm jealous of those wood turtles! What a great find. Neat to get to see them nesting too!
--Berkeley

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The Jake-Man
Posts: 224
Joined: June 25th, 2012, 3:08 pm
Location: Lebanon Pennsylvania

Re: My Year In Pennsylvania

Post by The Jake-Man » February 18th, 2014, 3:55 pm

Thanks Berkely! I too would be interested to hear what others think of those newts.

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walk-about
Posts: 567
Joined: June 14th, 2010, 11:04 am
Location: 'God's Country' aka western KY
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Re: My Year In Pennsylvania

Post by walk-about » February 18th, 2014, 4:23 pm

Jake - those are some really nice pics. Love your Queen snakes. Looks like you got into alot of Timber rattlers too. Be careful with those things. I think my favorite pics is the tent on the mountain slope. Makes me want to be 'there'.

Rock ON!

Dave

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jayder85
Posts: 369
Joined: January 1st, 2012, 7:14 am
Location: Pike County KY
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Re: My Year In Pennsylvania

Post by jayder85 » February 19th, 2014, 6:09 am

Great post friend! I always enjoy seeing pics of Timbers!

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