RFI - Houston & more, October

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krismunk
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:17 am
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

RFI - Houston & more, October

Post by krismunk » July 21st, 2014, 11:15 am

I'm a Danish field herper, long time fhf member, who wrote here a little over a year ago about visiting my sister who just moved to Texas http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... 7&p=222903, well... it's finally happening :)

Along with my wife and kids I arrive Saturday, October 4 and leave Saturday, October 18. As stated, our main objective is to visit my sister and her family in the Woodlands north of Houston, but of course we'll play tourists a bit as well and I'll try to squeeze in about as much herping time as I feel comfortable getting away with.

As my sister and her husband both work long hours we'll want to spend the weekend with them, leaving weekdays open for other activities. My wife and kids are not really bitten by the herping bug so no hiking for hours on end through mosquito infested swamps or all night road cruising for them but I have managed to win them over at least a little so something like Brazos Bend for gators, anoles and whatever else might come along is definitely on the agenda. Besides Brazos Bend we'll certainly be headed into Houston one day. Johnson space center, Galveston Island (partly for herping) and Sam Houston National Forest (partly for herping) are other possible destinations for one day excursions. Please feel free to add suggestions to the list.

We'd also like to go on a longer trip - perhaps some 4-5 days - but can't decide where to go. We were pretty hooked on Big Bend, but ended up deciding given the time frame it's simply too much driving with two kids with very limited patience for long drives in the back seat. Once again, other ideas for longer excursions where herping opportunities can be combined with activities for non herpers are very welcome.

With regards to herping I'd love to meet some of you if you have the time and interest to show a foreigner around a bit. Apart from that I'm thankful for tips of all kinds (times, methods, localities, etc, anything) . I got a few pointers from last years RFI but you can't really have too much info. Of course I don't expect you to just blabber out all your top secret Louisiana pine spots, though ;)

I love all herps but my main targets are snakes and going to Texas rattlers of all kinds (iconic) and coral snakes (never seen a wild elapid) are at the very top of the list. Also, king & milk snakes, mud snakes, coachwhips would make my day. Apart from snakes, alligator snapping turtles, sea turtles and horned lizards would also be thrilling finds but probably not very realistic targets, at least not in the immediate vicinity.

Furthermore, I remember reading posts referring to Texas herping regulations, something about permits, orange vests and a bill somehow restricting road cruising? Would one of you be so kind as to inform me of whatever I need to know in this regard?
Edit: Just read Tom's post and replies to it answering this question

My main source of information for Texas herps so far has been herpsoftexas.org. Can anyone recommend a field guide, I must admit I haven't really looked for one yet :oops:

Obviously, you guys don't know me personally and I respect and understand any reservations you may have with regards to disclosing information. In the hope that you might trust me, the best presentation I can offer of me, my intentions, attitude and behaviour is a look at my previous posts here as well as on fieldherping.eu (user name Kristian Munkholm). I haven't posted much lately but if you dig back a bit you'll find a bunch of reports from Denmark, Israel, Croatia, Malta, Sweden,... I have a lot of posts on Danish forums as well, but I doubt very many of you read Danish, and a severely mangled Google transplantation isn't really worthwhile so...

Anyway, hope to hear from you, perhaps even see some of you in October. Thanks for any and all help :)

John Williams
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 4:50 pm

Re: RFI - Houston & more, October

Post by John Williams » July 22nd, 2014, 6:24 am

Kristian,

October should be a decent time to be here and I would expect to see some snakes if I were you. The Woodlands will be a good home base for a road cruise or two in Montgomery County, probably in the Sam Houston NF. Copperheads are abundant in the NF and if you cruise on a warm evening you should definitely see at least one. Corals are common there too and seem to have increased movement in September/October. Timbers are there but not overly common. Texas ratsnakes and brown snakes are other commonly cruised NF snakes. A morning cruise on a quiet dirt road through any sort of open area could get you a hognose, racer, or coachwhip. Find a sluggish creek and walk the banks and you should see a cottonmouth and any of three species of Nerodia (erythrogaster, rhombifer, fasciata). Your sister will probably have anoles, Gulf Coast toads, Rio Grande chirping frogs, and Med geckos at her house.

Brazos Bend will certainly be worth the drive and fun for the family. Alligators are always present and you can get in very close proximity, which makes for some good photo opportunities. Broad-banded watersnakes are common there and if you hike enough you should see ribbonsnakes. Copperheads are also common there but you may have to flip logs to find them, which isn’t always a great idea in a state park. Occasionally you can see Mississippi green watersnakes in the larger lakes as well. Mudsnakes, prairie kings, brown snakes, Texas ratsnakes, rough green snakes and coachwhips are also in the park, among probably others I haven’t seen yet.

Galveston Island isn’t a prime herping destination, but there is some AC around the far eastern and western portions of the island and there are speckled kings there. I wouldn’t expect much during a trip down there, herp wise, honestly. Further down the Texas coast you can reliable see Green Sea Turtles by walking down jetties out into the gulf, looking especially on the canal side, but I don’t know if that is the case at the Galveston Jetties.

For a 4-5 day family type trip you may consider the Texas “Hill Country.” Very pretty scenery, relatively close to Houston, multiple trails and parks, accessible caves, interesting endemic herps, good Texas barbeque, craft beers, etc. A few places I would recommend would be Hamilton Pool/Reimer Ranch, Natural Bridge Caverns, Zilker Park/Austin Green Belt, and one of the most beautiful spots in Texas- Garner State Park. Pedernales Falls, Guadalupe River, McKinney Falls, and Landa Park are all worth a stop as well. The drive from Houston to the Hill Country could also put you through several other neat, quick stops like the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge (good area for calligaster), Stephen F. Austin State Park (about as pretty of a Texas forest as you can find, southern copperheads), Palmetto State Park (unique eastern veg in a western setting, broad-banded copperheads), and others.

You’ll be in range of nearly all the snakes you mentioned, just read up on habitat and do your locality research. You don’t really have a chance at an alligator snapper unless you’re trapping on private property, and to find a horned lizard you’ll need to be at least 200 miles west of Houston.

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krismunk
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Re: RFI - Houston & more, October

Post by krismunk » July 23rd, 2014, 11:51 am

Thanks for the tips, John :)

We were already thinking about the Hill Country, your recommendation only fuels our interest, ideas for stops on the way seem very useful, much appreciated.

With regards to morning road cruising, never tried that. What time of morning would you recommend?

Galveston Island as a destination was really just chosen based on a desire to go to the coast and not have to drive to far, as well as in the hopes of finding atrox in the dunes (and maybe turtles in the sea). Perhaps I should consider going a little further south instead to improve my chances?

Finally, any litterature suggestions?

John Williams
Posts: 104
Joined: June 16th, 2010, 4:50 pm

Re: RFI - Houston & more, October

Post by John Williams » July 23rd, 2014, 6:28 pm

I would recommend the stops on that drive because in addition to herps your are crossing several different ecotones of Texas in that short distance. Each is neat it it's own way.

October mornings may be chilly depending on whether or not we've received a cold front that week. I'd say between 75-90 degrees, is ideal. Movement seems to slow when the sun is high overhead, and that exact time varies through the year. 8-12 might be good. I'd imagine you'll see snakes around that time in October on dirt roads in the Sam.

Definitely visit the coast. Galveston is great for a vacation. Not sure about atrox on the island itself though. Atrox are much more common further south along the coast.

The new Hibbitts book on Reptiles is very well done. Bartlett has a good guide on everything but snakes in the state. The Bible for Texas snake's is James Dixon's book. It's a must have.

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Soopaman
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Location: Houston, Texas

Re: RFI - Houston & more, October

Post by Soopaman » July 23rd, 2014, 6:40 pm

Kris,

I can't promise right now that we'll have time to meet up.

That said, I don't have any problem giving you some spots for coastal atrox. You may luck into a getula (not really the season for them, but I've flipped them in October). Western Coachwhips are also common along the coast.

-Kyle

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krismunk
Posts: 389
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:17 am
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Re: RFI - Houston & more, October

Post by krismunk » July 24th, 2014, 12:08 am

Thanks to both of you :-)

John, ordering the books now :-)

Kyle, sent you a PM


... and just because I ought to offer something in return - however little - here's a couple of random critters from last week, two from a morning at the playground with my kids, one from a short evening walk in the woods.

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