Thank you to Bob Herrington and Sharon Yomtob for contributing their experiences about Places You’ve Never Herped 6! Read their stories below, as well as an update about the use of HerpMapper for this event, a link to more event photos and a list of species found at the event.
Authored by Bob Herrington
Places You’ve Never Herped has just concluded its sixth outing to the PeeDee River basin in the low country of South Carolina. The Orianne Society was hosted by the Black River Outdoor Center that provided all of the kayaks and gear, as well as very professional trip leaders for the outings. The weather was great, even providing an afternoon thundershower to stimulate the amphibian communities just before the Saturday night surveys.
The event started off with a group meeting at Huntington Beach State Park where the 40+ attendees were divided into two groups. One group would survey the Black Mingo River while the other group would survey Big Sandy Island. Groups swapped survey assignments on the second day, and an entirely terrestrial third group surveyed the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge’s Cox Ferry Lake Recreation Area.
The surveys were very successful, and the total number of species will certainly rank well with all the other PYNH surveys. Several target species that are either considered rare or species of special concern were located. Among these were a beautiful Rainbow Snake discovered the first night and a perfect male Spotted Turtle from the first morning’s outing. While every record is important, for me the other amazing finds included the Many-lined Salamander, Amphiumas, little Grass Frogs, Eastern Glass Lizards, as well as an amazing variety and number of watersnakes.
On Saturday evening all participants were treated to a great meal of salad and pizza at the Huntington Beach State Park Nature Center as well as an excellent presentation on Cave Life by Noah Fields. The Nature Center had excellent displays and, amazingly, several painted buntings (reptiles, right) at their bird feeder.
Sunday proved to be just as exciting as Saturday. It was actually more exciting for those crossing the river over to Sandy Island.
Authored by Sharon Yomtob
I spent another wonderful nature filled weekend with The Orianne Society. This time we were close to home, so I spent the weekend at my sister Mandy’s house. James Blodgett and Bob Herrington also stayed there. Albeit, Bob was relegated to tent in the yard because James and I had dibs on the spare rooms. Bob did have bathroom/shower and kitchen privileges though. James and I both arrived at the Johnson’s early afternoon—and we were treated to a trip to a private rookery where we were able to get a wonderful view of woodstorks, great egrets and anhingas nesting. Bob arrived late afternoon. Mandy and I fed everyone, then we four herpers went in search of herps. We cruised Plantersville back roads but didn’t find much except the traps that Paul and Dirk had set out earlier, so we came home to take a quick walk around the Johnson’s pond to see what we could find.
It was pretty cool—we found that Banded Watersnakes (at least those at Mandy’s) will come to the beam of a bright flashlight. One large watersnake basically swam right into James’ hands. We got to bed much later than anticipated but awoke ready to meet the day on Saturday. We headed to an early breakfast at the Ball n’ Cue in Georgetown then made our way to Huntington Beach State Park (HBSP) to meet up with the other participants. Black River Outdoors sponsored the event, allowing us full use of their kayaks as well as guides to lead us in a Black Mingo River swamp paddle and a Big Sandy Island paddle.
As always, the object was to find and record as many herp species as humanly possible. I was with the group that paddled Black Mingo on the first day. We found plenty of Brown Watersnakes and Banded Watersnakes as well as a Rough Greensnake, some skinks, anoles, and an assortment of turtles and an alligator. It was a great paddle in a beautiful environment and lots of fun. If you ever want to know how authoritative Mandy is, just ask Scott—he took his first dive out of a kayak after a skink. She thought he had said kingsnake and demanded he catch it. He admitted that he did not quite understand her enthusiasm for a skink, but the tone of her command to “get your butt out of your kayak and catch it NOW SCOTT!” told him she was not to be disobeyed.
The groups all met up again that HBSP to compare notes and have a pizza dinner. I understand Noah Fields and Ben Stegenga gave great presentations later that night but Mandy, James, Bob and I headed back to Mandy’s for an early night. Well, at least that is what we had planned. Paul called Mandy to tell her that he, Dirk and Rob were coming to check the traps they had set the night before. We decided to join them, but since we had all taken showers and put on clean clothes, we left the slogging through the swamps to those three. Prior to them getting to Plantersville, we had gone looking for elusive Grass Frogs. James let a large Red-bellied escape his grasp (this one had come to the light, too). When Paul got there he quickly located a Grass Frog for us to see. Their traps caught several Stinkpots, crawfish, fish and a Two-toed Amphiuma. It was interesting to see Dirk shove the Stinkpots practically up his nose and inhale deeply—he said he loves the smell of a Stinkpot and claims that the scent also drives his wife wild. Paul, Dirk and Rob also found a beautiful yellow-colored Cottonmouth and a Many-lined Salamander while retrieving the traps. Once again it was much later than we had planned to be out, so we headed home, road cruised a few deer and raccoons, and went straight to bed.
Sunday started with another early breakfast at the Ball n’ Cue then on to HBSP. Our tour this day was to Sandy Island. I was especially looking forward to this trip, as there is a bog filled with carnivorous plants and uncommon wild orchids. We saw some gators on the paddle to the island and spotted a Brown Watersnake at the island dock. We then hiked into the interior of the island to look for herps and the plants. The bog did not disappoint. The orchid, called a Small Spreading Pogonia, was beautiful. While looking at the orchids and carnivorous plants, we found a Glass Lizard. I should mention here that prior to even leaving the landing, the Bollock brothers found a Wormsnake. After another brilliant day spent in nature, we met up with the other group in Georgetown just to compare finds. The other group had gone to Cox’s Ferry Preserve and had quite a lucrative day, too. I’m not one to keep up with all the species and totals caught or seen, but suffice to say, it was impressive. And before I forget, the “holy grail” of finds this weekend (and what a lot of folks were coming for), was found by Noah on Friday night: a Rainbow Snake!
Bob left from the landing to go home as he had a six-hour drive. Mandy, James and I went back to Plantersville to clean up then go to dinner in Georgetown with her son and husband. After we had just finished a wonderful dinner, Richard and Paul called to say they were coming to eat dinner in Georgetown and would we like to join them. Since we’d already eaten we decided we would drink beer while they ate. Frankie also joined us as did Lauren. We had a great time—lots of laughs. Paul and Lauren were going out that night to release the amphiuma and to see if Lauren could catch a Cottonmouth.
We left Georgetown, and Mark took us on a tour of Chicora Wood Plantation. James has almost decided he wants to live in the guest house there. It was just dark when we got home—James, Mandy and I decided to take a last walk around the pond. It was rather quiet, but James did find a Banded Watersnake, and then I spotted a Banded attempting to eat an injured Bullfrog. I say attempting because it was trying to eat it rear end first—that was not going to work. Mandy got the snake to release the Bullfrog—the snake swam away, but we hope that it came back and got it right the second time around.
It was a wonderful sleep-deprived weekend that will be reminiscent fodder for some time to come. And in the short-term, it will be remembered not so fondly by the itching of chigger bites!
Authored by Stephen Spear
One of the new features of PYNH 6 was the incorporation of the HerpMapper reptile and amphibian database for recording observations. Some of you may already be familiar with this citizen science tool, as it has become a popular platform for entering herp observations, with a total of 57,800 records as of June 10, 2015. The Orianne Society has been discussing a potential partnership with HerpMapper for the past several months, so we have begun using this application for our programs. The PYNH series is a natural setting for HerpMapper and would allow us to keep better track of all the observations from participants.
Briefly, observations can be entered into HerpMapper through the mobile app or through an online web browser at home. The most important aspects of a HerpMapper observation is the species identity, date, exact location and a photo voucher. The mobile app makes much of this easier by automatically getting GPS coordinates through the phone and filling in the time and date field. The user just needs to enter the species observed and upload a photograph. The photograph can be taken through the app or selected from the phone’s photos. The web browser entry allows users to enter information manually or to choose a location through Google Maps, as well as to upload a photograph. Importantly, an observation cannot be submitted without an exact locality and photograph.
The fact that much of PYNH 6 took place by kayak did limit us a little bit in that the ability of our participants to enter observations by mobile app or to take photos if they didn’t have a waterproof case or dry bag. Still, we recorded a number of observations, and more are coming in as people use the web browser after returning from the event. Approximately a quarter of the species observed were entered immediately through the mobile app, and judging by the number of photos taken, we expect more will be entered through the web browser in the coming days. We are excited about the potential of being able to more easily access and use data from our events through HerpMapper tools.
You can see all of our member and staff photos in our PYNH 6 Facebook album.
Below is a list of the species found at PYNH 6:
Two-toed Amphiuma (Amphiuma means)
Broken-striped Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens dorsalis)
Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea quadridigitata)
Many-lined Salamander (Stereochilus marginatus)
Southern Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus auriculatus)
Southern Toad (Anaxyrus terrestris)
Oak Toad (A. quercicus)
Eastern Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis)
Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrokii)
Little Grass Frog (Pseudacris ocularis)
Southern Cricket Frog (Acris gryllus)
Barking Treefrog (Hyla gratiosa)
Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)
Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella)
Pine Woods Treefrog (Hyla femoralis)
Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)
Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)
Bullfrog (L. catesbeianus)
Bronze Frog (L. clamitans)
American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)
Striped Mud Turtle (Kinosternon baurii)
Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)
Yellowbelly Slider (Trachemys scripta)
Florida Cooter (Pseudemys floridana)
Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)
Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata)
Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
Chicken Turtle (Dierochelys reticularia)
River Cooter (Pseudemys concinna)
Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis)
Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis)
Broadhead Skink (Plestiodon laticeps)
Ground Skink (Scincella lateralis)
Six-lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineata)
Banded Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata)
Red-bellied Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster)
Brown Watersnake (Nerodia taxispilota)
Eastern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoemus)
Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
North American Racer (Coluber constrictor)
Red Cornsnake (Pantherophis guttatus)
Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis)
Rainbow Snake (Farancia erytrogramma)
Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea)
Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)