2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

For your reports/images, made outside Europe and the "Mediterranean" countries. Not to be too narrow minded and limited to our European/Mediterranean herps.

2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Matthijs Hollanders » Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:43 pm

Hello all,

This is a copy of a post from FHF. Not really a vacation but I went with Jeroen's suggestion.

The Texas drought has been continuing at full force, but July did bring some scattered rain. Herping during this time was more productive than most days this summer. I was pretty excited to flip this brute, the first live adult of the western subspecies I’ve seen.

Masticophis flagellum testaceus

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A few minutes later we came across this sight.

Pantherophis obsoletus lindheimeri

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I’ve been wanting to see a kinked up rat snake on a dirt road during the day for years now... I was pretty excited. A few nights later Scott and I were road cruising when we drove by a small snake on the road. I told him to stop although he was hesitant, as “it was just a dumb Storeria, who cares.”

Lampropeltis c. calligaster

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A few days later Scott redeemed himself with an awesome swerve for this thing.

Lampropeltis getula holbrooki

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While on the topic of king snakes, I was looking through some photos from earlier this year and decided these two from under the same board were worth posting.

A drab one in shed...

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And this awesome thing.

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Anyway, road cruising kind of slowed down after the July rainfall. Here’s one thing that’s kind of interesting... a rat snake with an expelled mockingbird.

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I have been fortunate enough to have taken two trips with my parents since the summer. My family made a trip to San Francisco during the first week of August. There wasn't much herping, as the purpose was sightseeing.

Alcatraz.

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However, my dad and I spent two hours riding a bike north of the Golden Gate Bridge with a 15 minute herping break, and half a day hiking around there the next day. Thanks to Natalie McNear, I got some pointers to an area where we were going to herp.

When we were cycling the first day we stopped to flip some rocks on the side of the road. After a few minutes I look on the hillside and see this. See if you can spot it... you might want to view it larger... http://www.flickr.com/photos/mhollander ... otostream/. A close up will be posted a few photos down in the thread.

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Charina bottae

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I found two lifer Western Fence Lizards.

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We found two of these Uroctonus mordax.

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The next day, I found most of my targets, all of them in the same small area. I was stoked about the first one.

Batrochoseps attenuatus

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Elgaria c. coerulea, in situ

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Another one.

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One of my favorite shots of the trip.

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A gorgeous Aquatic Garter Snake. This area is an intergrade zone for atratus atratus, atratus hydrophilus, and atratus zaxanthus, so I'll just call it Thamnophis atratus.

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When my dad and I came across a beautiful scene with wildflowers, rocky cliffs, and the Pacific Ocean, I was itching to photograph a herp. Luckily this alligator lizard literally walked out of my dad's backpack when he grabbed his camera.

Elgaria c. coerulea

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We posed him elsewhere, too. I love California substrates for photography. We carried it around in the backpack for the remainder of the hike and released it where it had likely entered the backpack.

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And finally, my lifer Thamnophis elegans terrestris.

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Here’s the close-up of the boa.

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After this trip, I started using my new softbox. I’m really liking the results I’m getting with it.

Pantherophis obsoletus lindheimeri

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Scott Wahlberg and I spent two days in deep East Texas to get better photographs of the Desmognathus population he found earlier this year.

Bufo velatus

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We spent some time walking around creeks like this, which was great during the 100ºF+ temps of that weekend.

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Every single Nerodia here was gorgeous. I guess pretty habitat = pretty snakes.

Nerodia fasciata confluens

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Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster

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The purpose of the trip, however, was to photograph one of two (or three) known populations of Desmognathus in Texas.

East Texas is gorgeous once you get into some more remote areas. This area is no exception.

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Scott called the first log he flipped and found the best thing we could have possibly found: a female guarding eggs. These animals are/were widespread throughout east Texas, with specimens coming from nearly every county. However, historical localities simply haven’t turned up salamanders so Scott’s previously unrecorded locality was awesome.

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They proved to be abundant in this area.

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I was able to squeeze off only one shot of this one before it moved... and I was really happy with the result.

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Here is some stuff from the weekend... some of the best remaining longleaf tracts in the state that Scott gave me a tour of.

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Scott and an outcrop.

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Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthus

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And that sums up the weekend... a huge thank-you to Scott, obviously, and to my sister, who let me use her new Sigma 10-20mm on the trip.

Like I said, herping in the Houston area has been pretty slow recently. A friend and I found some young-of-year cottonmouths one evening.

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Another pretty one from a few days ago.

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A two day school trip to the Hill Country resulted in limited herping, but at the last minute I found some water in a dry creek bed.

Bufo nebulifer

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Lifer Thamnophis marcianus. I thought this thing was gorgeous.

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After some rain in the Houston area, I hit up the local creek and stumbled upon what I was hoping for...

Nerodia fasciata confluens

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The following weekend, my dad and I went to observe the hawk watch along the coast. On the way there, we came across this crusty roadkill. I wonder what inspired this animal (and apparently a significantly high number of other corals that whole week, from what I’ve heard) to move during this crazy drought.

Micrurus tener

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Because of strong winds, there wasn’t a whole lot of raptor activity on the coast. My dad did stumble upon this injured Mississippi Kite, that had likely been assaulted by a group of Sharp-shinned Hawks.

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The second trip my parents took me on was to the Blue Ridge of North Carolina and Tennessee... needlessly to say I was infinitely grateful. On the first night, Todd and I found this lifer (for me):

Plethodon teyahalee

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And most excitingly, this cool thing.

Plethodon cheoah

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Unfortunately, a cold front came in that day and I’m fairly sure this, in conjunction with the lack of moisture, caused the low number of Plethodon found throughout the trip.

The next day, Todd and I set out to look for hellbenders.

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Black-bellied Salamanders and Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamanders proved to be abundant along the stream.

Desmognathus quadramaculatus

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Eurycea wilderae

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After a half hour or so Todd turned up this battle scarred beast.

Cryptobranchus a. alleganiensis

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When we were checking out a different section of the creek, I flipped a small log to find a Desmognathus and the tail of this awesome lifer sticking out.

Eurycea guttolineata

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We turned up this one in the middle of the stream, the king of the dusky salamanders.

Desmognathus marmoratus

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The next day my parents and I went hiking, and Plethodon aureolatus, the golden slimy salamander, was on the top of the list. We immediately started finding salamanders.

Desmognathus santeetlah

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And this small garter snake actively cruising through the leaf litter when it was less than 60ºF.

Thamnophis s. sirtalis

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This awesome salamander turned up in an extremely mucky seep that crossed the trail. Notice the leeches.

Gyrinophilus porphyriticus danielsi

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At the end of the trail I flipped a log to find this awesome surprise. These are one of two Desmognathus that don’t have a larval stage. I wasn’t expecting to see one of these on the trip so this was a very welcome find.

Desmognathus aeneus

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I was getting antsy to see the Tellico Salamanders, so I started flipping a whole lot. They simply weren’t on the surface that day in high numbers, and the only one I flipped immediately ran down the burrow it was sitting next to. I did find another one of these.

Plethodon teyahalee

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We moved onto a different area the next day, and the target was Long-tailed Salamanders. With a bit of research and asking around, we managed to get to this cave.

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We could see two bats in the area before it was closed off.

Pipistrellus subflavus

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This is one of my favorite shots from the trip.

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However, we also found salamanders in the cave. It was a really neat and different experience to see salamanders just walking around inside the cave. Aside from these guys, my lifer Plethodon glutinosus was also in the cave, but unfortunately behind the fence.

Eurycea longicauda

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Herping the higher elevations the next day produced quite a few of these.

Desmognathus ocoee

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However, that was not the reason we were up there. The targeted salamanders proved to be playing hard to get up there, until I flipped one log with three underneath.

Desmognathus wrighti

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Here’s one that didn’t look quite as good. This is the second species of Desmognathus that undergoes direct development.

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When we headed down to the lower elevations, we started seeing bears.

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This a female that had two cubs with her. We saw a total of eight bears over the course of a week.

The streams in this area were loaded with these:

Desmognathus monticola

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A beautiful water fall.

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At the end of the day my dad and I set out to find hellbenders again. After an hour or so I spotted the perfect rock, we flipped it together. Because there was a current and we had no net, I had to witness a large hellbender swim away between my legs...

When my mom opted to stay in town the next day my dad and I took on a longer hike.

Desmognathus conanti

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Cool grave in a fairly remote area.

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This bear stuck around the area for at least two hours.

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One of my favorite shots from one of my favorite spots of the trip.

Desmognathus monticola

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Rana catesbeiana

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After hiking and herping for 16 miles I was glad to see this snake cross the trail at 6pm.

Diadophis punctatus edwardsii

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All in all, the trip was extremely productive, with 20 species of salamanders seen. On the way back to the airport, this was an awesome way to end the trip.

Plethodon jordani

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Thanks for looking!

Matthijs Hollanders
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Guillaume Gomard » Sat Sep 08, 2012 8:00 pm

Hi,

Very nice report and wonderful pictures! :shock: The Nerodia fasciata confluens look awesome. How was the behavior of the Masticophis? :) Did you observe any rattlesnake?

Thanks for sharing,

Guillaume
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Michal Szkudlarek » Sat Sep 08, 2012 8:11 pm

USA seems to be salamandering heaven. So cool hellbender pics. BTW- It must be great to have such fine dad...
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Jürgen Gebhart » Sat Sep 08, 2012 8:21 pm

I love the Elgaria pics, very cool Lizards!

The behavior of the Masticophis is simliar to the Malpolon.
You have time to take some pics, but suddenlly it starts to run.
At one of these Days a Masticophis bite me in my face.
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Niklas Ban » Sat Sep 08, 2012 8:35 pm

Masticophis flagellum testaceus very very nice animals :)
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Matthijs Hollanders » Sat Sep 08, 2012 8:41 pm

Guillaume, no rattlers on this trip. Look at my intro post for some rattlers. I didn't see too many of those in my time there. Nastycophis are bitey but play dead after a while, making them easy to pose but a challenge to lift their heads up. This following animal was playing dead. It was nearly 2m.

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Michael, the southern Appalachians (the Smokies in particular) have the greatest salamander diversity in the world. The west coast has a huge plethora of different species too.

Jürgen, you're right. The above animal took off after a while. Very similar to European Natrix, as I found out.

Niklas, you and I are definitely the minority ;) Strangely enough they're considered trash snakes.
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Laura Bok » Sat Sep 08, 2012 9:39 pm

Hey Matthijs,

that post really made my day, thanks for sharing!

The US-salamanders are awesome, and I don´t think salamander-photography can get any better...
Maybe I should start playing with my flash again, right now I am using the tripod + long exposure times method. Which camera, flash, and softbox are you using?

Cheers,
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Bobby Bok » Sat Sep 08, 2012 10:21 pm

Ehm, wow! I've never been much of a USA herp lover but this makes me doubt! Those Nerodia's, the Eurycea longicauda and the Charina are my favorites.
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Thomas Bader » Sun Sep 09, 2012 6:49 am

Fantastic report and extremely cool findings - thanks for sharing!
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Re: 2011: San Francisco, East Texas, and the Blue Ridge

Postby Pierre-Yves Vaucher » Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:49 am

this is the most impressive report I saw on the united states, very interesting, very nice pictures. It's fun to find in the U.S. european "correspondents" (look like..) species as Malpolon, Natrix, Coronella, Hierophis, Elaphe etc..
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