Now that 2008 has officially begun, I think it’s okay to do a 2007 retrospective. Although my thoughts naturally turn to all the things I didn’t find or do (not as much aquatic turtling as I had hoped for, for example), that will be more the topic of my upcoming to-do list for 2008.
It would be inappropriate for me to lead off with the lifers for the year since I’m always saying the lifers don’t matter much to me. Of course I’ve got a few I’d love to find, like hognose snakes (Heterodon platyrhinos) and scarlet snakes (Cemophora coccinae), but tops on my list are usually common species in particular places. For example I’m dying to see an eastern milksnake (Lampropeltis t. triangulum) inside the city limits of
Following that stream (or creek), in 2007 I was thrilled to discover that Cobbs Creek is alive, that it isn’t just a rocky storm sewer but an aquatic environment that deserves my herping attention.
It all started with someone sending me a photo of a snapper next to the creek, and my interest grew with every conversation I’ve had with locals about what they see there. I found a northern water snake (Nerodia s. sipedon) in Cobbs Creek, although north of
I witnessed an amazing abundance of turtles in the Impoundment of the Heinz National Wildlife Refuge on two occasions. I don’t know about you, but I just love watching turtles. It’s rare to see them doing anything but bask, and that bridge over the Impoundment is the perfect observation perch.
I also witnessed some of my neighborhood kids enjoying the turtles (plus a watersnake and a bullfrog – Rana catesbeiana) and having an absolute blast. Those boys and the joy of herping with kids for whom everything is amazing, even redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus), might be my top story of the year. For sure I’m doing more of this in 2008.
As much as I write and talk about boardlines, I’ve only had the fun of visiting one really productive one: Scott’s in north central PA. We’re always spreading out trash piles we find wherever we go, and this is our goal: five snakes in two quick mornings, and three of them the milksnakes I’m hungry for in
I’m still missing my brown snakes (Storeria dekayi) that were bulldozed at their hibernaculum in the
This year I found five new species in our region and one maybe. By ‘maybe’ I am referring to the red bellied water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster) Scott and I found down the Delmarva in
The cricket frogs (Acris gryllus) Chris and I found in
I’ve been expecting to find a spring salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus) for a long time. Whenever we go out flipping rocks in creeks, the big, orange salamander hunters are a possibility, so it’s a little weird we haven’t found one yet. Maybe this one should be another ‘maybe’ since we found it upstate at Scott’s place. But then it isn’t quite three hours away, so maybe I’ll count it.
I’m also a little surprised I hadn’t found mud turtles (Kinosternon subrubrum) before this year. These are really common but secretive bottom crawlers in
Ribbon snakes (Thamnophis sauritus) are also quite common for me not to have found one yet, or rather to not have found one alive, since they show up dead on the road pretty often. This one we found in March was a real looker with its rich browns and drawn-out, slender build, almost a cartoon you’d draw if wanted to exaggerate a snake’s speed and agility.
Last are the timbers (Crotalus horridus). One of my goals in 2007 was to pinpoint some dens that I can follow in the long term. I found two such sites in
The tie for saddest find of the year award falls between the recently-shot, magnificent black rat snake that Eitan, Scott, Simon, and I saw in upstate PA and this dying timber rattlesnake Scott, Frank, and I found on the road in the
One more thing almost escaped my notice until I was reviewing my photos: this year I found a lot of box turtles. I credit this to Kid Chelonia (Chris), mainly because he actually spotted most of them or told me where and how to look, but they sure are a pleasure to find. Some herps can save any trip, and finding an orange or yellow boxie will brighten any day, no matter how hard it is to find anything else or how badly the deer flies are biting. This is also a good note to end the year in review. Enjoy the parade of box turtles, and look forward with me to finding many more in 2008.