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 Post subject: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 9th, 2011, 10:43 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:17 am
Posts: 634
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
In early February 2011, south central chapter Education Specialist Eric Rittmeyer (ritt) approached me with the idea of undertaking a herpetofaunal survey of a local conservation area owned by the Recreations & Parks Commision of East Baton Rouge Parish (BREC). A meeting was scheduled with the folks at BREC and a week later NAFHA’s survey at the Frenchtown Road Conservation Area was born. (see http://www.nafha.org/south-central-chapter/frenchtown-road-conservation-area for more on the site).

In the six eight months (fell a little behind on putting this together) that have followed, upwards of 150 man hours have been spent scouring the near 500 acres of bottomland hardwood and resulted in the documentation of 48 species of reptile and amphibian (good for 90+ entries into the NAHERP database). A number of NAFHA members and non-members have taken part to date, but Jeff Weinell (jeffro) and John Andermann deserve considerable recognition for the significant time put in working the site with Eric and I. Thanks to the efforts of all involved, we have been able to photograph all but three of the 48 species. Images of all species along with some representative habitat shots are included below.

Up first a few habitat shots:

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Photo by jeffro

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Photo by jeffro

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Photo by jeffro

And the herps.

Salamanders:
We’ve been lucky enough to document four species of salamander to date.

1. Ambystoma opacum (Marbled Salamander) were found as late into the year as June and may prove seasonally abundant once breeding season approaches in the coming months.

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Numerous opacum egg masses were uncovered beneath logs in a dry recession during March. With standing water from TS Lee already filling the recess this fall, we expect to see many adults and larvae nearby this winter.

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2. Eurycea quadridigitata (Dwarf Salamander) are common finds along sloughs throughout the site and have been found during every month of the survey.

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3. Eurycea guttolineata (Three-lined Salamander) are abundant throughout the sloughs and wooded, low-lying parts of the site. They have been observed during every month of the survey and are often encountered on the surface after dark.

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4. Notophthalmus viridescens louisiadensis (Central Red-spotted Newt) have been documented on a handful of occasions across the site. All observed have been efts including the most recent in late August.

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With the winter breeding season approaching, we hope to add to this number by the surveys reaches 12 months.

Frogs & Toads:
Anurans have proved abundant at the site with 15 species tallied so far.

1. Anaxyrus (Bufo) fowleri (Fowler’s Toad) are abundant throughout the site.

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2. Incilius (Bufo) nebulifer (Gulf Coast Toad) have proven uncommon/common at Frenchtown. Individuals have been found throughout the course of the survey, but never near the density of the Fowler’s.

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3. Acris crepitans (Northern Cricket Frog) are abundant throughout (no surprise there).

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4. Hyla avivoca (Bird-voiced Tree Frog) have been heard calling along most permanent sloughs and ponds along the interior of the site during breeding season. Where present they appear to be common with Eric photographing multiple individuals calling in a single shot. Species abundance is extremely seasonal, however, as no observations have been made since the end of breeding season in mid-summer.

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5. Hyla chrysoscelis (Cope's Grey Tree Frog) have proven seasonally abundant throughout the site with choruses being observed toward the interior and northern edge of the site prior to the end of breeding season in mid-summer.

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6. Hyla cinerea (Green Tree Frog) are locally abundant at Frenchtown with large choruses proving prevalent along the sites disturbed northern edge. Observations to date suggest they are absent from the sites interior.

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7. Hyla squirella (Squirrel Tree Frog) is the rarest amphibian to date with only a single specimen found during the 1st survey.

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8. Pseudacris crucifer (Spring Peeper) were heard calling throughout the early months of the year, but the first visual encounter did not occur until the month of June.

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9. Pseudacris fouquettii (Cajun Chorus Frog) were commonly heard calling early in the year, but have yet to be photographed at the site.

10. Gastrophryne carolinensis (Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad) are common throughout and have been documented during all months of the survey. Perhaps more surprising than their abundance is the regularity with which adults and sub-adults have been found active on the surface.

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Photo by jeffro

11. Scaphiopus holbrookii (Eastern Spadefoot Toad) are a rare surprise near the SW extent of their range with 3 individuals found to date.

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12. Lithobates (Rana) clamitans (Bronze Frog) are common to abundant throughout.

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13. Lithobates (Rana) catesbeianus (Bull Frog) are uncommon, but have been located in both the interior ponds and along the sandy rivers banks.

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14. Lithobates (Rana) sphenocephala (Southern Leopard Frog) are common to abundant throughout.

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photo by jeffro

15. Eleutherodactylus sp. (Greenhouse frog or Rio Grande Chirping Frog) is the first invasive documented at the site and is only represented by a single individual. There is currently some debate as to whether the specimen photographed is E.planirostris or E.cystignathoides. We’ll be sure to bag the next one to ensure a positive ID.


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Lizards:
Diversity is somewhat limited in regards to lizards, but we do have most of the basics for the area covered with these five.

1. Sceloporus undulatus (Eastern Fence Lizard) are absent throughout most of the site, but are common along the disturbed railroad ROW bordering the site to the north.

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2. Anolis carolinensis (Green Anole) are common to abundant throughout.

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3. Plestiodon fasciatus (Five-lined Skink) are uncommon to common showing up with some consistency, but never in significant numbers.

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4. Plestiodon laticeps (Broad-headed Skink) have proven uncommon with only a handful of individuals documented thus far. We’ve yet to voucher one to date.

5. Scincella lateralis (Ground Skink) are common/abundant throughout.

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Snakes:
For all the snake fans, we’ve finally reached that part of the list. To date 14 species have been documented at Frenchtown. For the most part they have proven a rare treat, but a few have been found to be relatively common.

1. Coluber constrictor (North American Racer) have popped up twice in the first eight months. One actually held still long enough for a few shots.

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2. Diadophis punctatus strictogenys (Mississippi Ring-necked Snake) are the most commonly flipped snake at the site. Not a huge surprise considering the abundance of salamanders and small anurans.

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3. Lampropeltis getula (Speckled Kingsnake) has only turned up once thus far. And thanks to Eric taking a few dozen fire ant bites for the team, we have a voucher shot.

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4. Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster (Yellow-bellied Watersnake) are uncommon as watersnakes go, but have turned up a handful of times mainly along Frenchtown’s disturbed northern boundary.

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5. Nerodia fasciata confluens (Broad-banded Watersnake) are easily the most abundant snake in SE LA. This holds true for the site as well where broad-banded waters are everywhere.

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6. Nerodia rhombifer (Diamond-backed Watersnake) are another uncommon water, but still present. Oddly, the only photo I’ve taken of a diamondback was for the comparative shot below. Juveniles of all 4 Nerodia sp. present at the site were collected from a single pond.

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7. Nerodia sipedon (Midland Watersnake) were a presumed rarity at the site until we paid attention to our field guides and began targeting the sandy rivers after dark. Though habitat specific, they have proven common along the sites eastern edge.

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8. Pantherophis spiloides (Grey Ratsnake) is likely more common than present observations indicate, but to date only a handful have been encountered.

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9. Opheodrys aestivus (Rough Greensnake) was known only from prior observation (BREC staff) until an August night of spotlighting overhanging brush from the river finally produced one.

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10. Storeria dekayi (Dekay’s Brownsnake) is an uncommon find at the site, but both neonates and adults have been flipped and spotted on the cruise over the course of the survey.

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11. Thamnophis proximus (Western Ribbonsnake) is a common swamp denizen in SE LA, but have only been documented at our site on a handful of occasions.

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12. Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis (Eastern Gartersnake) were found on multiple occasions early in the spring, but have remained largely absent during the warmer months.

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13. Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix (Southern Copperhead) are an uncommon find at the site, but have been documented on two or three occassions.

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14. Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma (Western Cottonmouth) are common to abundant at the Frenchtown site with individuals being recorded during the majority of survey outings. They have been found day and night along sloughs, the rivers, and interior ponds.

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Turtles:
Last up are the turtles. With two sandy rivers and their confluence bordering the site and a vast array of internal ponds and sloughs, we entered the survey expecting an interesting mix of turtles. Through a combination of trapping and chance encounter, we have recorded 10 species of turtle at Frenchtown.

1. Chelydra serpentina (Common Snapping Turtle) has been a rare find thus far with only a single individual turning up while trapping the interior ponds. With all aquatic species, however, true abundance may be difficult to judge with such a limited sample size. We expect given time and further trapping efforts that Chelydra will likely qualify as an uncommon to common find.

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2. Graptemys sp. (Map Turtle) are a common sight along the sandy rivers, but have avoided our traps and cameras to date. G.kohnii appears the most likely culprit, but The Amphibians and Reptiles of Louisiana by Dundee and Rossman makes reference to G.pulchra as a possibility. No pic sorry!

3. Pseudemys concinna (River Cooter) appear common at the site as they have showed up with some frequency while trapping the interior ponds.

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4. Terrapene carolina (Eastern Box Turtle) are uncommon to common throughout Frenchtown. They were reported with some frequency by BREC staff prior to the survey, but have since eluded me personally (excluding two dead specimen). The other guys have done better, however.

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5. Trachemys scripta elegans (Red-eared Slider) are another common find along the interior ponds and showed up in numbers during early trapping efforts.

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6. Kinosternon subrubrum (Mississippi Mud Turtle) are uncommon to common in the interior ponds and permanent sloughs throughout the site. A single turtle trap produced the four shown below along with the Trachemys.

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7. Sternotherus carinatus (Razor-backed Musk Turtle) have proven common along the sandy river bottoms and after tropical storm Lee one individual was even found on the crawl a half mile in land.

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8. Sternotherus odoratus (Eastern Musk Turtle) appear to be common to abundant in the interior ponds based on early trapping efforts.

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9. Apalone mutica (Smooth Soft-shelled Turtle) appear to be rare based on early trapping efforts. Only a single individual has been documented during multiple trappings along the sandy rivers bordering the site.

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10. Apalone spinifera (Spiny Soft-shelled Turtle), like A.mutica, are limited to the sandy river bordering the site. In contrast to A.mutica however, they are extremely abundant. In fact, five A. spinifera were collected in the same trap that produced the surveys only A.mutica.

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----

That about wraps it up for now. With some luck the list should be a little longer by the time we get around to posting a 12 month update (almost Ambystoma season down here). I’m sure Eric and Jeff will chime in below when they have a chance.


Thank


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 10th, 2011, 12:54 pm 
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Location: San Clemente, CA
Nice post.

I noticed that the Mississippi Ring-necked snake in your photos is doing the little "corkscrew" defense with it's tail. Someone made a comment on the forum a while back that East Coast Diadophis do not do this. It's a common trait with the Western subspecies. Does anyone know how far east this trait can be found. Just curious. I always just assumed that all of the Ring-necks did it.


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 10th, 2011, 1:50 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
Posts: 2737
Location: San Antonio, TX
Awesome post and survey.

No horridus or milksnakes there? That looks like a great spot for both.
The more I look at that frog photo, the more I'm sure it is cystignathoides. What makes anyone think it is planirostris?

Chris


As for Steve's comments about Ringnecks....does the east side of Lake Okeechobee, FL count as far east enough for a tail coiler? :lol:
I found this one in the cane fields while I was trying to find FL Kings.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 10th, 2011, 2:57 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 9:48 am
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Location: Delmarva
Quote:
Someone made a comment on the forum a while back that East Coast Diadophis do not do this.


Well they're an idiot. :crazyeyes: 8-)

They were probably referring to northern ringnecks. I cant think of any time I have seen a northern do it, and I rarely see intergrades do it, but southern ringnecks commonly do it.


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 10th, 2011, 4:00 pm 
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Location: San Clemente, CA
The comment could have referred to northeasterns, I don't remember. I do remember thinking that it was an interesting comment.


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 10th, 2011, 7:19 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:17 am
Posts: 634
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Thanks for the comments guys.

Steve - Like Chris and spinifer, I've seen southerns do it with some frequency.

Chris - No horridus or milks yet. They are both high on our list, but neither is the easiest to find around here. I found my first 2 timbers just a month a go (been in LA since 09) and have yet to find a LA milk. As for the Eleutherodactylus I was initially hesitant to call it cystignathoides due to size (all i've seen previously were not that large), but really am not confident enough with these little invasives to make a definitive call. Since then folks looking at the photo have suggested both planirostris and cystignathoides. I will make a point of grabbing the next one I see to ensure we finally get a positive ID.

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 10th, 2011, 8:09 pm 
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Location: San Antonio, TX
gretzkyrh4 wrote:
have yet to find a LA milk.


Those hardwood swamps are perfect LA Milk habitat in East TX. If you find a partially rotten, upright hardwood tree with some loose bark, you can usually find LA Milks using that habitat in late winter and early spring. If you find a good tree, you can get them out without pulling the bark off. They are usually around 4-6 feet up off the ground.


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 10:52 am 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 6:05 am
Posts: 223
Chris H - From what I've heard, the same applies to the LA Milks out here. I think they're just rather hard to come by, and we haven't gotten lucky on that genus yet. Outside of Nerodia and Agkistrodon piscivorus, we haven't actually gotten a huge number of snakes out there yet. As Chris W (gretzkyrh4) said, horridus can also be tough to come by here. I got called out to one last fall in similar habitat, but have yet to actually track one down in some 3 years here. I think both LA milks and horridus are likely to turn up with continued searching and a bit of luck (along with several other conspicuously absent species, e.g. Regina, Farancia, Storeria occipitomaculata).

Re. Diadophis, I've seen dozens of northerns up in NY and a few in PA, but have never seen the behavior in them. Down here, where we have the Mississippi Ringnecks, I've probably seen a dozen or so specimens, and while they do occasionally exhibit the tail-curling behavior (as in the photo), I actually have yet to observe it, so they seem to be less apt to do it than the Diadophis further west do.

Regarding that Eleutherodactylus, I unfortunately couldn't make it the night Chris and jeffro got that little one, so I haven't seen it first hand. The canthal stripe does suggest cystignathoides, but I seem to remember them being lighter and not so intensely blotched as that individual. I've seen a number of planirostris with similar dorsal pattern to the specimen in question, though admittedly they did not have so intense of a canthal stripe. But I'll admit, it's been a few years since I've seen a cystignathoides, and I haven't found one in LA, so it could be a cystignathoides.

-Eric


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 11:47 am 
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Location: Montana
Very cool post - thanks for putting it together! That frog doesn't look like E. planirostris to me. They always seem more granular, dorsally - at least by gestalt. E. cystignathoides is found so close in East Texas and part of Louisiana, too. What is it that makes it seem more likely to be an introduced population to you guys, as opposed to a remnant or fringe native one? Check it: USGS info on E. cystignathoides

-Cole


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 5:56 pm 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 5:44 pm
Posts: 602
Location: Upper TX Coast
Quote:
What is it that makes it seem more likely to be an introduced population to you guys, as opposed to a remnant or fringe native one?


Fringe native, remnant? Both species are invasive, just invading from opposite directions and probably a few introduced epicenters in between (Baton Rouge is right in the middle of it). Field guides can't keep up with them.

Shane


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 7:50 pm 
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Share,

I am familiar with the introduction story of planirostris, but what's up with the other guys? Is there a known introduction event, or are people assuming the newly reported populations in East Texas and Louisiana are introduced? It wouldn't seem out of the range of possibilities for them to go unnoticed for many years. I am fairly ignorant of the situation down there and I worded the question poorly in my original post - my apologies.


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 11th, 2011, 11:28 pm 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 5:44 pm
Posts: 602
Location: Upper TX Coast
Quote:
Is there a known introduction event, or are people assuming the newly reported populations in East Texas and Louisiana are introduced? It wouldn't seem out of the range of possibilities for them to go unnoticed for many years.


Their extensive spread in a short amount of time is (I think) linked to the potted plant trade originating in the Rio Grande Valley (natural northern fringe). They don't go unnoticed where they are established (that includes hearing them, flipping cover, etc.) The rise of reports is probably due to their increasing success in 'natural' habitats (where most herpers who report things spend their time). As of now I haven't heard a strong population far from human habitations, but I regularly hear them where the wild things live.

Shane


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 12th, 2011, 5:29 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:17 am
Posts: 634
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Shane_TX wrote:
Their extensive spread in a short amount of time is (I think) linked to the potted plant trade originating in the Rio Grande Valley (natural northern fringe). They don't go unnoticed where they are established (that includes hearing them, flipping cover, etc.) The rise of reports is probably due to their increasing success in 'natural' habitats (where most herpers who report things spend their time). As of now I haven't heard a strong population far from human habitations, but I regularly hear them where the wild things live.

Shane



To follow up on the cystignathoides (seems to be the consensus reached at this point): it was found a ways back into the site, but under a stack of tin adjacent to an area where we've been told a camper/RV was kept for many years prior to BREC's acquisition of the site. Next spring/summer, we may need to spend a little more time in this area listening for calls.

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 12th, 2011, 7:46 am 
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Location: San Antonio, TX
Cole Grover wrote:
Is there a known introduction event, or are people assuming the newly reported populations in East Texas and Louisiana are introduced?


I remember when I was a teenager in Houston (late 70s), cystignathoides was a "Mexican" frog that was restricted to its natural range in the lower Rio Grande Valley. By the early 80s, it started showing up in my Houston herping haunts until now it is one of the most abundant herps (in those habitats that haven't been paved!). It is not generally found far from residential areas.
By the early 80s it was known from mostly the valley, the Houston area and the San Antonio area. Now it is found throughout residential areas in the eastern half of the state (at least) and it shows up away from cities as well. In the Rio Grande Valley it shows up all over. This indicates it is arriving in residential areas first and spreading out from there.
Although I generally hate introduced animals, I like having cystignathoides in my backyard. I enjoy hearing their little chirps and trills after rain when I get home.

http://www.naherp.com/viewrecord.php?r_id=53848


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 13th, 2011, 6:26 am 
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Location: Montana
Interesting stuff - thanks for the info., guys.

-Cole


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 17th, 2011, 9:32 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:25 am
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Location: under a rusty piece of tin, Mobile Bay area
Really cool post-I love the shot of the different Nerodia species together. I would love to help out on a survey like this one day but I do not have any formal training in herpetology (but I am a NAFHA member).


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 17th, 2011, 3:27 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:17 am
Posts: 634
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
Thanks Coluber. Not all involved are herpetologists or even biologists. Just folks with a passion for this stuff. For the most part it has been an informal survey, so there is nothing in the way of in-depth training involved.

On another note, I have a 49th species from the site to post once I upload some pics. I'll try to do so tonight or tomorrow.

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 17th, 2011, 4:02 pm 
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Location: New Iberia La
Im also getting more into field herping and would love to help out and learn more. Im only an hour or so from Baton Rouge.


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 17th, 2011, 4:52 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:25 am
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Location: under a rusty piece of tin, Mobile Bay area
Looking forward to seeing that 49th species. I plan on getting out there for at least a few days in the spring.


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 Post subject: Species #49
PostPosted: October 17th, 2011, 7:11 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:17 am
Posts: 634
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
After inquiries from a few members about species seemingly lacking from our list thus far, Jeff and I made it out this past Saturday to try and check them off. Sorry Chris H., no timbers or milks yet. We did drag the dipnets along, however. And as a result finally checked off what should have been an easy herp for the area. So this one is for Matthijs. Thanks for prodding us to get the dipnets out.

Amphiuma tridactylum
Image

Sorry for the crappy pic. We didn't come prepared to properly photograph these guys. We'll work on the siren next time and with some luck utilize Chris' milk technique in a few months.

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 18th, 2011, 11:13 am 
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Awesome habitat.

Awesome work making the survey happen.

Awesome work getting tons of man-hours surveying.

Awesome species diversity.

Great job on getting new stuff into the database.

Thank you so much for putting all this up.

Now, with 49 species, 150 man-hours, and almost a whole year of surveying, shouldn't that represent a lot more than 90 worthwhile database entries? I'm not downplaying anything because the work you guys have already done is awesome and far beyond the call of duty, it just seems like there must be a lot more valuable data there.


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 18th, 2011, 2:25 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:17 am
Posts: 634
Location: Baton Rouge, LA
I believe there are still more to be added (or may have been since I last tallied). However, conditions have played a limiting factor in the number of photo vouchers. Wet, muddy conditions aren't always the most conducive to photography. I'm admittedly guilty of only vouchering new species on many occasions due to not wanting to put the camera at risk or rain damage, etc. I really need to pick up a cheap point & shoot for such occasions and may try to in the near future.

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: NAFHA Survey at Frenchtown Road (LA) - 8 month report
PostPosted: October 19th, 2011, 7:21 am 
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I don't know if this qualifies as a real tail curl since the snake was playing dead.

D. p. edwardsii
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