Rogue Year

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Josh Holbrook
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Rogue Year

Post by Josh Holbrook » February 20th, 2017, 6:51 pm

Sorry folks; no opening crawl for this one...

Well, it’s definitely been a rogue year – I didn’t get to go on very many herping trips besides some local cruises; but the beautiful thing is the southern Appalachians are still a new and exciting region for me, so I’ve really enjoyed digging into the local herpetofauna. I’m fortunate to have a cruising road that’s about 10 minutes from my door and is good for a nice mix of Piedmont and Mountain species – most of my western N.C. finds are from this road, because I can head out and be back in an hour, which had been a necessity over this past summer with a year-and-a-half-or-so kiddo and one very pregnant wife, culminating in our second daughter 10/21/16. In short: lots of life events in a very short time – luckily for me, I’m easily fascinated by even “the usual suspects” of herps in our area (which is good, because if I only liked the rare stuff, I’d be mostly-unhappy!)

Starting November of 2015, I got the opportunity to film with the Discovery Channel for a show called “Snaketacular” (#22 here: https://www.amazon.com/Snaketacular/dp/ ... aketacular). For this, I got a flight out to LA, which was my first time being more than a stone’s throw west of the Mississippi (in North America, at least). Though I was staying at a Hotel in the heart of LA, I chose to skip the tourist-y stuff and hit the pavement to head to the infamous Whitewater Canyon. It was cold, but it was also rainy – so I was hopeful for some sort of cool amphibian; and wasn’t disappointed though I only turned up one species.

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Back in NC, we started doing some cave surveys after hearing reports of a possible new species of salamander. Our efforts weren’t fruitless, but we didn’t find anything that we could peg as a new species… Some interesting phases of Seal Salamander though…
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I honestly didn’t mess with the exposure on this – the background rock was quite white.
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A more normal one from the cave:
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It was about the time we were conducting these surveys that I realized how abundant my favorite salamander, the Mud Salamander (Pseudotriton montanus) was at my local cruising road:

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Other winter and early-spring herps from “the Road”:

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And I did manage a little bit of travel for winter Ambystomatids – once with Cary Howe to cruise for Tigers:


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We saw dozens, but it was during a heavy rain so I opted not to do any prolonged photo sessions.

Next month, I got out with Chance and Marissa for some Amphibiaction. We had two goals, one the Mabee’s Salamander, we did well with:

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We saw a good 9 or 10, and could’ve seen more had we kept on walking the road’s edge or the nearby Carolina bay:

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And this late-season Tiger made an appearance:

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Elsewhere in the state I hunted Hellbenders; though I’ve only come up with one so far, and no pictures of the animal to boot. Oh well, it’s one of those species that it seems it takes a bit to get keyed in on. Hellbender habitat:

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Right around the equinox, things started to get moving really well. A couple of snakes showed up, even, such as this Worm Snake:

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More muds:
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And some montaine Mole Salamanders. Having never cruised them, I was at a loss as to what they could be when I saw them driving by at ~35mph:

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Spring’s harbingers:
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Mo Mountain Moles:

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Eastern Newts… Not the most common thing to roadcruise despite being abundant in stagnate waters:

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Around about the time things started getting moving really well in NC, my herping buddy Steve and I hit the road for southern Florida. The first afternoon, we were greeted by one of those nice central FL Yellows:

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And other usual suspects… It was definitely a trip of usual suspects:

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A nice surprise was this Coachwhip trip-flip on an overcast day:
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Then on farther into SFL. Interestingly, we turned up two racers right next to each other, one displaying typical “Everglades” coloration, the other looking firmly like a normal southern black racer:


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At one point we were greeted by an American Croc laying eggs on the roadside:
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Then got a crew together in mainland Dade County where there haven’t been any clarkii vouchers for quite some time. These from a night in Fairchild Tropical Garden:
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In all we got three. The first of which got me waist deep in mangrove mud. It was great to be reintroduced to the feeling:
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The hunters:

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Back in NC, things were moving right along. We went to South Mtn. State Park for some surveys – I’m in the middle of a multiyear herp inventory for the park:

Carolina Spring Salamander, Gyrinphilus porphyriticus dunni
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Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen
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Lots of these were present, but I still haven’t gotten a shot I’m happy about. Ahh well – next year.

South Mountain Greycheek Salamander, Plethodon metcalfi
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On the road, the time was ripe for serpents:
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But, in NC, the Amphibians never really give up their crown. We went down in early May to herp with Nigel and turned up a long-expected lifer. Thanks to Nigel, as always, for the good times. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise (it’s a southern saying, evidently) I’ll be back soon:

Pine Barrens Treefrog, Hyla andersonii
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Somewhere in there we got Ducks… And fast forward to this year and we have ourselves a small farm to feed the family and help ends meet – Pomegranates, Figs, Blueberries, Apples – all the good stuff.

The ducks:
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At some point in there I made it to CT for a weekend. Turned up a few things, but evidently only broke up my camera for some of my Spotted Turtle friends from my favorite vernal pool:
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Back in NC, my herping partner-in-crime from FL, Lloyd, came up for a weekend herp-a-thon. Nothing spectacularly rare was found, but we had a good time, especially given that the common stuff was new to him

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Black Ratsnake, Pantherophis obsoletus
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And I have to admit, flipping coppers is pretty cool:

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Now, I have been chomping at the bit for a Mole King ever since moving here a couple of years ago. The first summer: nada, but this past summer proved to be a lot more productive – starting with this little legless bundle of joy:

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…From my favorite road, of course – along with these funky looking “Timbreaks”:


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Even the unproductive nights are beautiful to herp in:
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And will usually yield a beautiful Copperhead or two:
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And, as promised, more Mole Kings:

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This one was by far my favorite Mole of last year. Looks more like an African Mole Snake than a calligaster to me:
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And nearby, another Lampropeltis reigns king:
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Another Timbreak:

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And another jaunt last year included a trip to see my old friend Jason T in Cleveland. While the city itself is a wretched hive of scum and villainy (ok, the food was good and they had a Dunkin, so I was happy,) the herp prospects seemed good. We turned up a few Nerodia and a garter east of there. Anyone good with their Ohio Garter ID’s?
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And west we found lots of turtles:
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More Nerodia:
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Red Squirrel… These were pretty cool, but maybe I just don’t get out much:


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And, herpeteofaunally at least, I’ll end this post where I started – my favorite road by the house:
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And finally, the reasons for the truncated herping efforts this year:
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Well worth it, and besides that – the oldest has really been getting into Road Cruising the last couple of weeks! The next generation!

Thanks for viewing all; the best is yet to come…


-Josh

NACairns
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by NACairns » February 20th, 2017, 7:09 pm

Great post, lovely to see all those salamanders, makes me looking forward to spring even more. Running into a crocodile would be amazing enough but to see one laying eggs would be an amazing observation. Was that copperhead (the one after the ratsnake) from CT? Thanks for sharing,
Best,
Nick

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jason folt
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by jason folt » February 20th, 2017, 8:39 pm

Nice post. Love all the montanus.

Your Ohio garter looks like sirtalis. It shouldn't be anything else unless you drove 1.5-2 hours from Cleveland.

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Carl Brune
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by Carl Brune » February 21st, 2017, 8:20 pm

Great post. I enjoyed seeing all the mud salamanders!

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BillMcGighan
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by BillMcGighan » February 21st, 2017, 8:23 pm

Super post, worthy of the posts from the days of a thriving SE forum. :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

Sals are sensory overload.

Seal variations are intriguing.

Muds are a plus.

Mole Kings in VA seemed to hug the piedmont. NC?

Yellow rat is sensory overload... I bet I can guess where it came from ... but privately.

:?: Question?
How far south were the two Racers? I've seen that diversity on the north end of the ENP. Where they farther south?


Finally, but most importantly, congrats on new arrival. Girl #1 is beautiful.

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by Josh Holbrook » February 23rd, 2017, 6:01 pm

Nick - Thanks. The coppers are all from NC - I've gotten a few coppers in CT, but none this past year.

Jason - Thanks. It was from near Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area.

Carl - Yeah, I love the muds too - haven't got bored of em' yet!

Bill - Thanks. Hopefully these old bones will have some life breathed into them sooner or later. I've got a book deal in the works and we're gonna be talking up the forum a little bit. On the Mole Kings - they were definitely in Piedmont-ish habitat. Between 1,100 and 1,500 feet... On a cool little sand ridge, actually. The racers were from right outside of the ENP main gate... I know, that's what everyone says when they find a cool snake - but I'm telling the truth :beer: I don't know that I've ever seen a racer in ENP proper, actually - but I'm mostly there nocturnally.

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mtratcliffe
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by mtratcliffe » February 24th, 2017, 6:15 am

Great post, Josh! You got to see a lot despite not being able to get out as much this past year. I hope everything is going well at home and that you can get out again soon.

I'm glad to see that you are excited to see the common stuff. I try to keep that perspective, otherwise herping would be filled with too much disappointment. As long as the common stuff I'm finding is in new locations, I'm fine with it.

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by Josh Holbrook » February 24th, 2017, 6:27 pm

mtratcliffe wrote:Great post, Josh! You got to see a lot despite not being able to get out as much this past year. I hope everything is going well at home and that you can get out again soon.

I'm glad to see that you are excited to see the common stuff. I try to keep that perspective, otherwise herping would be filled with too much disappointment. As long as the common stuff I'm finding is in new locations, I'm fine with it.

Yep - just remember, there are plenty of folks that get really jealous over the stuff we have in our back yards.

Barry R
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by Barry R » February 25th, 2017, 11:03 am

awesome!

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dwakefield
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by dwakefield » March 2nd, 2017, 4:17 am

Nice finds! Wish we had copperheads in south Florida. And that American Croc laying eggs is a really sweet find.

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: Rogue Year

Post by Josh Holbrook » March 3rd, 2017, 11:19 am

Barry - Thanks!

Dwakefield - Copperheads are definitely one of the gems of the upper southeast. The laying croc is one of those things I could've turned up with some research and time going into it - but it's always nice when these sorts of things happen haphazardly.

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