2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finished!)

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DracoRJC
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2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finished!)

Post by DracoRJC »

Hey all, it's that time of year again! 2013 was an incredible year for me, full of lifers, improved photography skills, and LOTS of newfound friends thanks to the NAFHA Croatan trip. I guess I'll leave the giant blocks of text for the actual post itself, so enjoy!

First up were the first snakes of the year, a cottonmouth and brown water from Virginia Beach, on a mid-50's day in January. These were crappy iPhone pictures, btw.

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Next up was gorgeous male fence lizard found basking in early February at a reliable cottonmouth spot, not where I expected to see one of these. Beautiful belly nonetheless.

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Hit the vernal pools for some breeding amphibians, and although I know this is frowned upon, I couldn't resist taking this picture of some leopard frog eggs. That day we also flipped a lifer Mabee's salamander!

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Went back home to Fairfax for a weekend to check out the breeding wood frogs and spotted salamanders - wasn't disappointed, but it seems we missed peak chorus time. Oh well!

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Back to southeast VA, we had a pretty decent day out in early March and had another decent batch of snakes considering the weather. That's our buddy Dane Conley with the black rat. The red phase garter was a cool treat.

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Back to Virginia Beach with member Brendan Murray, where we found this cottonmouth in the dunes, within sight of the Atlantic Ocean. Why we didn't take better of that photo op, I don't know. Also the juvie we later found was brilliantly colored.

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A few days later I landed my second lifer of the year, spotted turtles! So cute! A brown water and red-bellied water also showed up, too. The red-belly gave me a bit of a nip, and in return is now doing splendidly in captivity under my care and is one of my favorite snakes I've ever kept! I might add he was caught just behind the backyard of a known snake-killing neighbor of my friends, and the population in that area is quite healthy - I also do not make a habit of collecting, this particular snake just really vibed with me. He's since gone through several sheds and looks incredible - the last picture of this set is from a photoshoot I did a few months later in my backyard.

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Back to Virginia Beach for more of the usual, plus a big honkin' snapper covered in mud!

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Our first nocturnal cruising excursion also yielded us a juvie red-bellied water, and a bullfrog eating a toad that was part of a breeding chorus! Unfortunately for the bullfrog, the toad escaped to live another day.

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Next up, a rather fruitful day at one of our favorite spots, were we found our very first baby canebrake! We left that snake completely undisturbed. We also rescued a gravid snapper crossing the road, though she seemed to have been flipped, the injuries were minimal.

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Back in VA Beach yet again, this time for a herp survey with the Virginia Herpetological Society, so even though this was at a National Wildlife Refuge, all handling was done with permission. Despite temps in the mid-50's (strange for early May), howling winds, and a morning of cold rain, the herping was VERY productive, with many more finds other than these, including a rainbow snake found basking! The red-belly and box turtle were found later that day in Chesapeake, VA at a favorite tin spot. We find a lot of cottonmouths here btw, if you haven't noticed already. That's my dad in the first picture, followed by Dane Conley, and myself, before a major haircut I might add.

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That marked the end of my school year in Southeast VA, so I headed back home to Fairfax for the summer, with several excursions out to the Blue Ridge mountains and Maryland. First up was my somewhat-lifer timber rattlesnake, found basking out at a popular hiking spot, along with a few other finds from the day, including a monster female broad-headed skink and a particularly pretty box turtle.

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Some local parks in Fairfax County yield a gorgeous blue garter snake, and a very orange-bellied sipedon found in the "Nerodia hotel" - a boat ramp on the Potamac River that had between 20-50 sipedon hiding out between the bricks. I managed to get my mom out for some herping at the neighborhood lake, where I caught the bullfrog and got her to hold her first wild snake!

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I went back to the timber spot a few weeks later and was greeted by this beauty on Memorial Day!

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Another early summer stop was my another timber den in the mountains of Maryland, an incredible experience to say the least. We saw dozen that day, plus a few copperheads, a rather ornery racer and a few other common snakes. I might add that none of the timbers were touched or handled in any way, but a few did move/try to retreat when approached.

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Can you find this one? In-situ.

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A nice rainy night brought out some great amphibian diversity on the roads, as well as a flipped juvenile mole king right before the rain hit! I managed to get my first pictures of anurans with their vocal sac inflated.

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This turtle nest was either raided or hatched naturally, I couldn't tell. Either way there was some mammal scat and a few duds that were left buried, a pretty cool find. And a cricket frog nearby.

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One of my favorite local spots also has a neat population of hybrid three-lined x long-tailed salamanders. Gorgeous critters!!

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A trip to Dolly Sods, WV for some elusive (but unsuccessful) target species still managed to yield some neat finds, and some gorgeous scenery to boot.

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A hiking excursion in Shenandoah National Park yielded my two favorite local snakes, an amazing looking pink copperhead and a very dark timber. The copper was lurking around a swimming hole, where a little kid told me to "Look out for the copperhead!" I laughed, thinking it was just going to be a black rat or northern water, but lo and behold the kid was right! I relocated the snake a bit farther away from all the commotion for some photos. The timber was, oddly enough, out and about in a rainstorm that was got caught in, and slithered right past us as we took shelter under a tree.

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The next day we headed to one of the few flipping spots that I know of in the mountains, out near Front Royal, and was not disappointed one bit. A big eastern milk and a Virginia mountain corn snake!

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Took some friends out to the same spot a few days later, and we struck out on corns, but were met with something even better! What could be under here?... The big garter was flipped under a nearby tarp as well.

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This was kinda fun, setting up a 10 gallon tank at a local pond to set up some staged shots of a few red-spotted newts.

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A real heartbreaker, this would-be lifer red salamander was found dead in a nearby creek. Our target species for the day, we were not happy to see this one. A big, gravid queen snake farther down the creek slightly made up for it a few days later.

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If you ever need to find a green treefrog in a hurry, drive to your local state park and check the bathrooms. Works every time no matter where you are within their range. I slapped one on a coke machine for a pseudo-artsy picture.

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Back to one of my favorite spots on my birthday, with parents and dog in tow, made for an interesting day. Hoping to show my mom how venomous snakes aren't all bad, my dog literally steps on this copperhead 5 minutes into our hike, resulting in a very startled and unfriendly copperhead that didn't want to pose for pictures, making for a rather uncomfortable encounter. Finding this timber at the top of the mountain, peacefully resting in his crevice, was not enough to convince my mom to come take a look. Oh well, have to convert her some other time.

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Back to college in southeastern Virginia put me in the mood to go cruising for muds, so on a nice humid night, we did a little bit of flipping before dark, followed by some intense road-cruising and ditch-searching to find our target. Unfortunately, the ditches only yielded a brown water and an amphiuma that got away (a HUGE beast!), and cruising yielded my would-be lifer mudsnake, a large and pretty one too, now residing in a jar in my university's collection. Flipping was a bit more successful.

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Back to our old faithful spot in Virginia Beach, I was met with a lifer six-lined racerunner. A small one, but I've been trying to catch one of theses suckers here for the past 2 years to no avail, and we finally managed to grab one. This particular excursion was with members of the Virginia Zoo vet staff to identify a potential outbreak of SFD in the area. Many cottons and nerodia have been found recently with textbook symptoms, but testing revealed this infection to be caused by a different fungus. Strange. The real heartbreaker of the day was recapturing a SPECTACULAR red northern water snake that we caught last year in perfect health, with the worst case of this fungus we have ever seen. It is safe to say he probably died the next day. Just check out that belly though!

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Upon dropping off a friend on the way home, we found this little lifer hopping around in his backyard! Unfortunately we have yet to find a proper breeding chorus of adults, but this baby spadefoot was a nice little icing on the cake of a long days herping.

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A nice surprise on a cloudy October day, a rough green found while conducting a field experiment with my ecology class in the middle of a rather stanky marsh on the James River.

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We drove down the Hyde County to find my most anticipated lifer of the year - success! Despite herping during the government shutdown (by sheer coincidence), we were still pulled over and questioned by USFWS officials suspecting us of poaching! They quickly realized we were just goofy kids, but not before searching our car! Our success that day left us with plenty to go home happy with, though. We also stumbled upon a narrowmouth with no eyes (weird), and what I believe to be my lifer little grass frog - can someone confirm the ID? A DOR canebrake also rounded out our finds for the day.

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The last snakes of the year, lots of eastern cottonmouths in both VA and NC, rounded out November and early December, but not the last snakes in this post!

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I can't forget our epic weekend at the NAFHA trip to Croatan National Forest! While the species list was nothing to laugh at, the real experience came with herping/camping/hanging with a long list of newfound friends! Campfire stories, a bit of alcohol, and some sweet herps made for an unforgettable weekend.

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Another unforgettable trip was made to Houston in late July, where I met up with FHF member Soopaman for some awesome additions to the lifelist. Dane Conley and I pitted my week in Texas against his month in Illinois, and despite warnings that I shouldn't get my hopes up, I have to say I utterly destroyed him! Hahah sorry buddy, maybe next year <3 Herping with my family and old childhood buddies (forgot to say that I grew up there, and am moving back this year) was incredible, and I look forward to some new Texas lifers in 2014.

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I have to take another moment to thank Soopaman for helping me fulfill one of my most anticipated, but silly lifers - western diamondbacks. He took me out flipping on the Texas coast for one of my most unforgettable herping days to date. I don't care how common they are, but they hold a special place in my heart as one of the first snakes I ever saw in the wild (back in 3rd grade), but never properly photographed until now. Plus, some of these specimens were gorgeous!

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I'll wrap up this post with a good omen for 2014, my first properly photographed Atlantic Coast slimy salamander, found a few weeks ago in January. With potential trips to the Everglades, Arizona, Australia, and moving back to Texas on the horizon, this should be an epic year, and thanks all at FHF and NAFHA for making this year my best yet! Good luck out there this year guys!

Ryan

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DracoRJC
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by DracoRJC »

Sorry for leaving this half-finished post up here for so long - lots of distractions in college!

Ryan

Jimi
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Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by Jimi »

This turtle nest was either raided or hatched naturally, I couldn't tell. Either way there was some mammal scat and a few duds that were left buried, a pretty cool find. And a cricket frog nearby.
Sorry, it was depredated: shells all over the place topside, and a bunch of excavation spoils. Placement of the latter - not scattered radially, but as if between 2 front legs - and the shape of the shaft into the nest chamber both say "mammal" to me.

I'd like to have seen your DOR Hyde cane. "Everything's red in Hyde" they say...I once saw a few pics of an incredible AOR purple one there.

That Croatan copper is a beauty.

Gotcha a whopper ribbon in Texas, huh? Cute pic with the boy holding her.

cheers,
Jimi

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Trey
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by Trey »

Awesome year dude!

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Soopaman
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by Soopaman »

You had a good year, dude. More mole kings, please!

Glad I could help do my part. That first place we flipped the two female diamondbacks has been bulldozed and cleaned up, by the way :(

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DracoRJC
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by DracoRJC »

Soopaman wrote:You had a good year, dude. More mole kings, please!

Glad I could help do my part. That first place we flipped the two female diamondbacks has been bulldozed and cleaned up, by the way :(
Damn, thats a shame... I won't have more than a couple days to slip in some mole king flipping back home, but I'll try!

Jimi - the DOR cane was fairly average looking, kind of pale and still very pretty, but not red by any means. The baby cotton posted with the Croatan pics was from Hyde though - we mistook it for a pygmy on the road for it being so red!

And the boy holding the ribbon is my cousin Cody - ever since my last visit he has apparently taken up quite the adventuring bug and is eagerly awaiting my move back to go herping with me, cant wait to get him his first atrox :)

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Kyle from Carolina
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by Kyle from Carolina »

This was a great post. I never get tired of copperheads and I'm always partial to the virginia/carolina findings. I've never found a corn in an app mountain setting. What type of habitat was that in?

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DracoRJC
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by DracoRJC »

Kyle from Carolina wrote:This was a great post. I never get tired of copperheads and I'm always partial to the virginia/carolina findings. I've never found a corn in an app mountain setting. What type of habitat was that in?
Not too far from the Shenandoah River, underneath either a tarp or rock pile (I forget which) at the base of a cliff at the edge of a meadow. Wierd, huh?

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Mike Pingleton
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by Mike Pingleton »

Congrats on a productive year! Some great pics in this post.

-Mike

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walk-about
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by walk-about »

Ryan

Gawdang that is one incredible post!!! Excellent photography sir. Easily the best one yet for this year. Too much to mention with so much diversity and obvious regional locations. That huge Western Ribbon is a real stunner! Those eggs looks like spiny softshell eggs (?) Thanks for posting this...I will be back for seconds and thirds on this one for sure.

Rock ON!

Dave

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DracoRJC
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by DracoRJC »

walk-about wrote:Ryan

Gawdang that is one incredible post!!! Excellent photography sir. Easily the best one yet for this year. Too much to mention with so much diversity and obvious regional locations. That huge Western Ribbon is a real stunner! Those eggs looks like spiny softshell eggs (?) Thanks for posting this...I will be back for seconds and thirds on this one for sure.

Rock ON!

Dave
Thanks Dave, that's very flattering! I try to go for diversity as much as possible - I don't really ever reach the sheer numbers that some herpers achieve. I try not to ignore common species either, so I get pictures of as many species as possible.
I'm not so sure those are softshell eggs, though. They were found pretty darn far from the nearest water, at Mason Neck state park on the Potomac River. Softshells aren't native there but I've seen pictures of supposedly introduced animals in the nearby Occoquan, so who knows.

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Mike VanValen
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Re: 2013 End of the year post - Virginia, MD, NC, TX (Finish

Post by Mike VanValen »

Congrats on all the lifers, and yes, you can count the Little Grass Frog as one of them.

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