In my 15 or so years of looking for snakes, one local has always eluded me. Until two days ago, the Western Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma) was something I had heard of being near by, I had spoken and herped with people who had found them in places I frequent, and I had searched every possible habitat I could find.

Finally, while cruising a road that I had been to twice before, I found one. I had no idea they were there, being at the western-most edge of their range, and such an isolated population. I found two that night, but sadly the second (a juvenile, still full pattern.) was a DOR. I’m getting ready to head out for work, so this will be a very short update. In the next few days I will do a more in-depth post, with other finds since my last entry.

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Easter weekend herping

Posted: April 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

While most spent their Easter weekend playing around with plastic, or hard-boiled eggs, I got to enjoy a few days of herping with some people from out of state. It was like a mini-NAFHA meeting. There was myself and Rome from here, Isaac from Cali, Kris from Arizona, Tim from Colorado, and Shaun from Utah.

Tim, Shaun, and Kris had been traveling the state together finding things I still dream of finding, while Isaac was in the area on business. Friday morning, Isaac and I hit a local greenbelt in search of whatever we could find. It was a pretty slow start, after about 15 minutes of hiking I saw something move. I was amazed at what I found – Eumeces tetragrammus, or the Four-lined skink. I had no idea these were even in my area, nor had I seen them in any of my multiple outings in this particular spot. That day, I found a total of four.

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After taking a few shots of the skink, we continued on. I flipped a rock, and found a breeding ball of Plains blind snakes (Leptotyphlops dulcis). Sadly, I got overly excited and grabbed them, so no pictures as found. Also, what pictures I did take didn’t turn out so well. (Those little guys can move!) A short time later, Isaac flipped a flat-head snake (Tantilla gracilis)

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Under the same rock was a medium sized Gulf Coast Toad (Incilius nebulifer).
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Once we got our shots of these two, we continued on down the trail once again. Once we got off the trail and down into the dried up river bed, I spotted a Texas Spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus) sunning on a rock.
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Shortly after the spiny sat for a few shots before dashing off under another nearby rock, we finally found a small pool of water. As we walked up to it the cricket frogs began to hop all around. At a glance, I noticed a very young Blotched water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster transversa)  hanging out on the edge of the water, hiding his head under a small leaf.
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Unfortunately, when I went to brush the leaf aside, he backed into the leaf filled pool and vanished. At a young age, these snakes are much better looking than their adult counterparts. The rest of the hike that day didn’t involve much, except a few chats about caves in the area with a very eccentric older woman. On the way out, Isaac flipped another rock, and as he was setting it down I spotted the small head of a very tiny little Western Slimy Salamander (Plethodon albagula).
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Not much else was seen after the Salamander as we made our way back to the car to head out for some road cruising. It took a while, but we finally found something as Isaac spotted an old piece of wood lying near a barbed wire fence. Underneath was an adult Western Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum testaceus).
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Nothing else was found but a freshly hit Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) and another smaller one, hit earlier in the evening. I have pictures of the first, but don’t feel the need to post any pictures of a dying snake. That’s just depressing.
The next morning, Rome came out to pick me up for round two at the greenbelt. We arrived at 10AM to meet up with Tim, Kris, Shaun, and Isaac. It was a little on the cooler side, and a little overcast. I had hoped this weather would allow for a Coral Snake or Eastern Hognose, but no such luck. We took off down the trail, a different portion than Isaac and myself had searched the previous day. Tim and Shaun went off ahead, and made herping easy many, many times as we walked up on them already photographing something. I must admit, it’s nice when you have more eyes out. I saw more that day than I have any single day in years. Not too diverse in the snake species, but  numbers were high.
The first snake found was a medium sized Blotched Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster transversa) 
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Once again, Tim and Shaun were off in the lead, and once again I walked up on a nice looking little Red-Stripe Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus rubrilineatus) posed up on a rock. (Seriously, much easier when there is a few more sets of eyes!)
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As to be expected, I was in the back of the pack once again. (I’m slow, but it has come in handy a few times in my life, spotting things others over-looked!) The next photo op came in a fairly short time, as the guys had a decent sized Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
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I noticed a large turtle basking on a rock in the distance, and slid over to snap a shot of a good sized Texas River Cooter (Pseudemys texana)
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Later on, Rome spotted a large Blotched lying in the growth. As it turns out, Tim and Shaun had also seen it but were flying through the wash and trail system and got finished with it before we arrived. It was the largest I have ever seen, and had the typical attitude once it was moved out for a better look. Oh, and it stunk REALLY bad.
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After this, things started to disappear. Tim and Shaun spotted one more ribbon snake, as did Isaac and myself, while Rome and Kris checked out a few turtles. Once we parted ways, Isaac and I went out on the ranch to check a few spots until it was late enough to get in some more cruising. To his delight, we found a nice looking Texas Patchnose (Salvadora grahamiae lineata) under an old piece of plywood. I had also seen a larger one that morning with Rome, before hitting the Greenbelt. Sadly, those pictures sucked so I won’t be posting them! In the meantime, here’s the one from the evening.
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The road cruise went decently. Near the end of the road series, and with no sightings yet, we finally found a live Western Diamondback crossing the road. It seemed to be very curious, and didn’t once rattle or act defensive.
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Over all, it was a great weekend and I hope to get the chance to find more with these guys, preferably in their areas where everything is new and exciting to me!

Been a pretty good gap between posts. Between work, and trying to get back into school, and looking for better work, things have been hectic to say the least. Fortunately, I had plenty of opportunities to go herping around the ranch, as well as various places around Austin.

My first snake of 2013 was a small, but always cool Flathead snake (Tantilla gracilis). I didn’t honestly expect to find anything that day, due to a pretty good breeze and still slightly cool temperatures. Walking down a path beside the “lake” here on the ranch, I spotted a rocky outcrop I had previously missed. After the third or fourth rock, I found the tail end dashing into a hole. I quickly began to dig until I uncovered him (or her) and took it over to the picnic table near the water for some pics.

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That was about all I managed to find that day, but a good sign that the snakes of the area were finally starting to move. Seems it always starts with the little guys.

Later that week, I went off to a Greenbelt with Rome and his family in search of Texas Alligator Lizards (Gerrhonotus infernalis). Sadly, we missed our target species but the day was far from a bust. The first rock I looked under had not one, but TWO lifer Western Slimy Salamanders (Plethodon albagula) and two gulf-coast toads (Incilius nebulifer). I didn’t really care to snap any shots of the toads, because I was too excited to find the salamanders.

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After flipping a few more salamanders (5 total) I heard Rome say he had found a lizard on the cliff face. I climbed up to see what it was and snap a few shots. It turned out to be a nice looking Ornate Tree Lizard (Urosaurus ornatus) peeking out from under a limb. After I snapped my first shot, he got spooked and found himself vertical on the cliff wall.

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While taking my pictures of the Tree Lizard, Rome had made his way across the small ravine and was already on top of the opposite hill yelling “Snake!” Needless to say, I made my way back down as quickly as possible to see what he had turned up this time. It was one of my favorites, an Eastern Blackneck Garter.

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After coming up on tons of Ground Skinks, Green Anoles, and other toads, etc. we called it a day and headed home. My next spot was back on the ranch, and I had my 9 year old cousin in tow. It was a slow start, but once I had searched under countless rocks I finally flipped another Flathead. Now, keep in mind, these are really small snakes and don’t typically even attempt to bite. My cousin had been holding it when he said “It’s trying to bite me!” Having found dozens upon dozens of these snakes, I assumed it was only pushing his head into the skin, attempting to dig. “No.” he says “It’s biting me.” Turning around to see, it sure enough was. A little snake mouth was grasping the flap of skin between his fingers. I didn’t think to take a picture, but once it tried to bite his finger, I quickly grabbed the shot.

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After laughing about the incident, I continued to search. Yet again, it was a one-snake day. I did, however, get lucky and find another Strecker’s Chorus Frog (Pseudacris streckeri streckeri) and it was, in my opinion, the best looking specimen I have found to date. I loved the mossy looking pattern, and lack of typical black dorsal splotches.

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The next few days were pretty much the same, only the snake numbers picked up. A quick hike alone for a few hours turned up just one Texas Patchnose (Salvadora grahamiae lineata).

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Moving onto the following week, Myself and Rome’s family once again took out on a herping adventure to Enchanted Rock. After a few hours of hiking, all we managed were a few more Ornate Tree Lizards, and some Lifer skinks that I was unable to get any pictures of. Way too quick!
Then, I took out to a local creek/park with another cousin, 14, in search of snakes (of course!) After hours of hiking, flipping, and scanning… I turned up nothing, except these buzzards feasting on a fish. Surprisingly, they allowed me to get within 4-5ft.
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Once I gave up, for the most part, I headed down a trail to meet back up with my cousin. He was sitting on a large log, and I soon joined him to rest a bit. Suddenly, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I looked over to the left and there it was, a Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) wound around a thin branch hanging down from a tree. I went to retrieve it for some shots, and brought it to a closer tree.
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At this point, I was once again inspired to continue searching. Only one more snake was found that day, a hatchling Diamondback Water Snake (Nerodia rhombifer rhombifer) which, in my excitement, I didn’t manage to get any shots of.
Jumping forward once again, just a few days, myself and Rome hit the greenbelt once again in search of Alligator Lizards, and, once again, to no avail.
Luckily, we found some species I rarely find. Such as these Bullfrogs that were living in a communal pond with Leopard frogs, Cricket frogs, and a young (very, very small) common Snapping Turtle.
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Once we turned to exit the pond area, Rome spotted a Red Striped Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus rubrilineatus) darting under a rock. He extracted him for a few shots before we continued on our way.
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After the awesome little “Pond of Life” we continued on the trail, but only turned up a small Texas Spiny Lizard and a Green Anole. Around 5:30, we began out long up-hill hike back to the car. IMG_7404 IMG_7406

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I’ve come across plenty of P. s. streckeri, or Strecker’s chorus frogs, over the years. Up until just yesterday, I had no idea they were so adaptable to their surroundings. Typically, I don’t pay too much attention to the amphibian spectrum of things, aside from salamanders. Especially here, which is a topic for another VERY important post. Anyways, back to frogs.

 

In the typical area(s) where I encounter streckeri they are just a normal, olive green to grey coloration, with the usual dark splotches. Don’t really seem to blend in to anything really. However, the one I flipped yesterday was showing a pink coloration down it’s back that almost completely matched the rocks surrounding it.

Example:

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If anyone else has ever noticed this behavior in this species before, please let me know. I think my project for this coming spring/summer will be attempting to observe this in different locations, with different colorations.

For the people who read this, and don’t know exactly what Strecker’s chorus frog is, here’s a little background info:

Pseudacris streckeri streckeri  is a species of tree frog that is primarily active at night (Nocturnal), though I have seen them out and about early mornings and during the evening hours. They belong, obviously, to the genus Pseudacris which is in the family Hylidae, or tree frogs. There are two subspecies of Pseudacris streckeri. The one mentioned here, P. s. streckeri,  and the northern counter-part, P. s. illinoensis Image

P. s. streckeri is native to the South-Central portion of the United States, and is protected in its limited range in southern Kansas, where it currently only appears in two counties, according to current records. On average, they top out at a length of only 1 and 1/2 inches or so.

ImageIn my opinion, they are one of the most attractive and unique of the frogs here in central texas, second only to the Cliff chirping frog, Eleutherodactylus marnockii, which are a little less common in my experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully as the weather warms up, and night’s aren’t as cold, these little guys will be more active and I can get out there and investigate this camo thing a little further. Until then, here’s the rest of the good shots from my first observation of a chorus frog that blends in with it’s surrounding rocks.

 

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Not much to write on this one. Just a few shots I got of the Eastern Blackneck that I am just getting around to getting put up. One of my personal favorite native TX species. Also have a few shots of some other wildlife I got while looking for Nerodia and other species of Thamnophis.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

 

Sadly, the season for reptiles is almost over until spring. Amphibians will still be out, most likely, but as winter draws near the lizards and snakes will be heading underground.

 

Only one snake since my last post. It was a young Eastern Black-neck Garter (Thamnophis cyrtopsis ocellatus). ImageThe door to the house was open, and he just slithered on in like he lived here. Pretty cool, because it is the first Eastern Black-neck that I have seen on this ranch. Others have seen them, but I just couldn’t seem to find one. Luckily, he found me. Wonder if he was human-hunting?

 

The last few days have been more or less unproductive. I did find a ton of Blanchard’s Cricket Frogs (Acris crepitans blanchardi) hopping around the various ponds and streams scattered around the property. The cricket frog is a species of tree frog, howeImagever it is usually less arboreal than its other “tree frog” cousins. Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not much else in the way of herps, but I did get a nice little scenery shot with two turtles basking (one slightly hidden, look hard enough and you will spot him.) and had a little fun with an Invert on the side of an old storage building.ImageImageImage

I met with a friend around 7:30PM to hit some roads I frequent, and the only roads in the Austin area that I have any real success. Sorry, I can’t broadcast to the general public where they are. Leads to over-collection and people like the “stars” of Rattlesnake Republic to attack.

The first few miles were relatively slow, nothing more than a few gulf coast toads hopping here and there. Finally, to the right side of the road, just beside the tires of the vehicle we spotted a young Crotalus atrox (Western diamondback). Once the car next to us passed, we turned and got out for a few pictures. Unfortunately, my camera isn’t the greatest when it comes to taking pictures at night. ImageAfter a few shots, finally managing a decent one, we left the snake alone and continued on down the roads. For a while things were slow again, a few almost-stops for some sticks and other things deceiving us. We followed a few stretches of road that only yielded several more toads hopping across trying not to get hit by the scattered traffic as it passed. Around 8:45 or so I spotted a  Texas coral snake (Micrurus fulvis tener) lying across the lane. We turned to check on it, and unfortunately it had been hit just before we arrived. I personally have found very few corals in my 15 or so years of herping, and none this large. I have seen one that was 42″ long, but it was captured by someone else. As I was moving the snake to our side of the road to take a few pictures, a Travis county sheriff pulled along side us and snapped a few shots of his own. Typically, law enforcement stopping while you are on the roads for snakes turns out less than desirable. Luckily, this particular deputy was very nice and after some small talk, told us to have fun and not to get bit as he drove off. Again, due to lighting, my shots were not all that great, but here is a comparison next to my 3ft long snake tongs.Image Needless to say, finding such a beautiful snake just after it’s death is an all around depressing event. However, we continued on. It didn’t take much time at all before I spotted another small snake crawling on the left-hand side of the road. Once again, we turned around and got out to see what it was.

 

Now, a little back story to this one. Three years ago, around this time of year, I was cruising these same roads when I found a young Bull snake (Pituophis cantifer sayi) and then another on the very next night, in the very same spot. I know they were two different snakes, because I had taken the first home for some pictures during the day. Since then I have been on the look out for another bull every single time I left my house. In the field or on the road. This summer, when Rome moved down, his main target was this very snake. Unluckily, he was not with us on this particular outing. Hopefully we manage to get his Pituophis soon, and my first large one. With that, I leave you with my highlight of the night, a very young Pituophis cantifer sayi Image

Aside  —  Posted: October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized