The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action

Winter Is Coming; Herp While You Can

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Since my summer has been full of writing and conferences and decidedly empty of time spent working with reptiles and amphibians, I decided to take advantage of a recent family wedding (congrats Tanya!) and do some herping in North Carolina, a state I haven’t spent much time in since my undergraduate days in the Herpetology Lab at Davidson College.

Even before arrival at my final destination, I spotted a promising sign: a green anole (Anolis carolinensis) out basking in the afternoon sun near the Forest Service office.

Ancar

Ahhhh, sunlight.

I camped in the Uwharrie National Forest, a relatively small national forest with some nice campsites on Badin Lake.

Yep, pretty nice alright.

Yep, pretty nice alright.

While it’s been getting chilly here in State College, the climate in NC is still rather balmy with daytime temperatures in the 70’s and nighttime temps warm enough for a little reptile activity, at least on the roads. Unfortunately, warm roads with cars and cool weather are a pretty good recipe for snake deaths, and the first snake of the trip was a DOR (dead-on-road) scarlet kingsnake (Lampropeltis elapsoides). These gorgeous snakes are coral snake mimics and can be an unusual find.

Laela

DOR snakes often look a little bug-eyed…:*(

A full day of hiking around Badin Lake, and through streams and backwoods resulted in a decent turnout, including many of the usual suspects:

Licat

Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeiana) were common along the shoreline of the lake and in adjacent streams.

Cocon

The most surprising thing about finding this black racer (Coluber constrictor) was that it didn’t bite me….what?!?

Sclat

This little brown skink (Scincella lateralis), was moseying through the leaf litter in a sunny patch along the lakeshore. And yes, that is its “official” common name. Scientists are so creative!

Acgry

Northern cricket frogs (Acris crepitans) were abundant throughout the forest and easy to spot as they used their outrageously long jumps (> 3 ft for a frog <2 in!) to escape approaching humans (me).

Defus

Northern dusky salamanders (Desmognathus fuscus) were holding out in a small spring seep in an area surrounded by muddy creeks and lots of horse poop.

Psfer

Upland chorus frogs (Pseudacris feriarum) were active, but not chorusing, on a cloudy day.

 

Nerodia2

This hatchling midland water snake (Nerodia sipedon pleuralis) was none to pleased to be removed from its natal creek (and bit me numerous times, as watersnakes are wont to do).

Nerodia1

However, it calmed down (a bit) when return to its aquatic environs.

On the way back to PA, I couldn’t resist targeting one specific species, the Peaks of Otter salamander (Plethodon hubrichti). This species is found only along a 13 mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Peaks of Otter (surprise!) in southern Virginia and is under review to be considered federally threatened or endangered due to its very limited range. This salamander is named after the eminent citizen naturalist Leslie Hubricht (who also discovered the Red Hills salamander) and was so named after a bit of scientific skullduggery (you can read the story here). Finding this species was no problem thanks to a tip on a great locality from ex-Langkilde Lab member Sean Graham. I’d found a few, snapped a couple of pics, and was on my way home in under 15 minutes.

Hubrichti

These ‘manders were all dirty from their stay under the local rocks, but, as I didn’t want to disturb the population too much, I settled for some slightly less polished photos.

And of course, I couldn’t resist stopping at some of the awesome overlooks scattered along the Parkway.

Fall

Even on a cloudy day, the fall colors were still very nice (even for a colorblind viewer!)

And with that, I’ll enter a long, dark winter of writing and working towards finishing my dissertation!

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Author: Chris Thawley

Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Rhode Island; ecologist, herper, discslinger

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