Saturday, October 07, 2006

I got skunked on Saturday in the Pine Barrens again, but I’ve got an excuse. I was trying out riding my bicycle in the Barrens, and I think it’s how I’ll be herping the Barrens next season, even if this time I didn’t turn anything up.

I did find some DORs: one box turtle (Terrapene c. carolina), one garter snake (Thamnophis s. sirtalis), and one black racer (Coluber c. constrictor). If there’s any actual herping advantage to cycling, it’s that you can spot more herps on the road, alive or dead. When you’re road cruising in a car, you’re usually looking out of the windshield at a pretty flat angle. Your gaze is fixed what, ten, twenty yards out in front? On a bicycle you’re looking closer in front or down by your side, and while you cover less ground, I think you can see in more detail.

It was a gorgeous, partly cloudy day in the 70s, but the night before had been quite chilly, down to the high 40s. It was inconveniently frigid when I started off a little after 7am from the Atco station on the Atlantic City train line – I was under-dressed, and my fingers lost their dexterity in the cold. I could hold onto the handlebars just fine, but gripping boards to flip them was a little trickier. Next time I'll bring gloves.

I started off near Evesham at a recently controversial housing development. It’s a McMansion subdivision that was delayed and then shrunk to accommodate populations of timber rattlers (Crotalus horridus) and pine snakes (Pituophis m. melanoleucus). I didn’t find anything on the road, and I didn’t see much public or abandoned land that I felt comfortable searching, so I headed south and east for the Wharton State Forest.

I had stopped into three bicycle shops the week before looking for studded tires for my bike, but all had been out of the size I need. My bike is a fast commuting bike, with thin wheels (1/4 inch) and road slicks, tires that do great on asphalt but slice into sand like pizza cutters. Nonetheless I did manage to ride on most stretches of sand road if I went slowly and was very careful hopping on and taking off (the sudden weight on the bike tended to shove the tires down into the sand).

The lesson here for me is that this is a viable way to get out into the Barrens. I can cover more ground than I had expected without burning any gasoline. I finish with a decent workout and the fun of a bike ride in the country.


1 box turtle (DOR)
1 black racer (DOR)
1 garter snake (DOR)