Monday, February 12, 2007

I've got cabin fever something fierce. I don't remember it being this bad last year, but last year I had the wedding and then the trip to Brazil to distract me.

We had that fun December, but lately it's just been brutal with the constant cold weather and frozen ground.

To make matter worse, I chose a photo of a black rat snake (Elaphe o. obsoleta) that I found this summer (see the August 31, 2006 post) as my wallpaper for my work computer, and every time I look at it I feel a sad, anxious, caged-up feeling.

I know that black rat snake is underground and dormant right now (assuming it survived the fall), but I still feel like I need to get out and try to find it. I think a scouting trip (or two) is in order, especially since we've got the long weekend coming up.

As for something to tide me (and maybe you too) over to March (we're going to Mexico - more on that later), here is the report from a trip I took this past July 26th late afternoon in Clearfield County, land of the coal skinks (Eumeces anthracinus).

It was a blast, since I found one of my target species, the red bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata). They are one of the prettiest snakes out there and would be rightly recognized as such one of the beauties of the snake world if they got any bigger than a knitting needle.

I had to be at a meeting near the Kinzua Dam the next morning, so I figured I could spend a couple hours poking around in a state game land midway there. I had trouble finding the access road to the SGL, and I remember driving back and forth on this windy road until I figured out which dirt road to walk up.

Before I tried the SGL, I checked out the area next to where I had parked.

I flipped a log in a grassy clearing and just like that there were two little red bellied snakes underneath it.

I only managed to catch one, and it did something that was as bizarre live as it looked in photos I’ve seen: lip curling. I didn’t get a photo of it myself, but what these guys do is curl up their lips and press their gums and teeth against you. I wanted to ask it what that could possibly do to scare away a predator, but of course they don’t speak English.

Here’s what else I spotted up there:

A couple painted turtles (Chrysemys p. picta) in a pond that wasn’t much more than a puddle.

The second coal skink of the season in a dug-out clearing covered with loose shale.

This last photo was one of the best fake snakes of all time, a large millipede species that kept making me go, “Oh boy, it’s a… millipede.”

Temperatures were in the low 70s and it was a little cloudy.


- 2 painted turtles

- 2 red bellied snakes

- One coal skink