Saturday, February 02, 2008

I guess it makes sense to follow the highlights of 2007 with my goals for 2008, but it’s a much harder entry to write. I can plan all I want, but who knows what unexpected find will shift my fancy, and who knows where peer pressure will steer me.

That said, I can think of a few species I’m looking for in particular places – scarlet snakes (Cemophora coccinae) in New Jersey, eastern milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) in Northwest Philadelphia, or black racers (Coluber constrictor) anywhere in Philadelphia – but I can’t say I intend to target much of my time so specifically, except perhaps hunting those milk snakes.

These guys have been haunting me for almost three years. I dream of finding them, and each time someone tells me about finding them somewhere in the Wissahickon or in some Roxborough backyard, I feel like punching the wall. I know I can find milk snakes much more easily upstate or in any collapsed barn anywhere in agricultural PA (I know, Scott), but it’s the Philly milk snakes I’m after.

Here's one of my stock photos of a milk snake, caught far, far away from Northwest Philly:

Aside from that obsession, I’m keeping a landscape focus. I will keep trying the Pine Barrens here and there, but I’m most interested in exploring the Pine Barrens’ wetlands in the spring. I’ll probably still head out on the occasional flipping trip and Scott will probably manage to drag me out for a few road cruising trips, but I would like to turn my herping energies elsewhere.

Where else? First, I’d like to spend more time in Cobbs Creek. I’ve got a notion of hiking the length of Cobbs Creek, at least where it runs along Philadelphia. It’s my backyard park, and I think there’s more there than I’ve given it credit for.

I’d like to spend a little more time in some specific parks and State Game Lands upstate. I do like my mountain herping, and now that I’ve got some good spots pinned down in my two hour radius, I’d like get deeper into them. It would be nice to find some relatively nearby red belly snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) spots. They are one of those species that is locally common but has a spotty distribution, meaning you’ll drive yourself batty finding none of them while your friends are talking about how common they are at their vacation spots in the mountains.

Here's a picture of one Kyle took. How could you not fall in love with this snake?

If I’d like to do anything new, it’s exploring out towards Central PA. My parents recently moved to Media, PA. An old timer I once had the privilege to talk with once claimed that Delaware County has plenty of old barns that are full of milk snakes. I gingerly pointed out that Delaware County no longer has many barns – all subdivisions – but now I’ve got the urge to explore out a little beyond. Maybe there are some old abandoned barns lingering out there in Delaware, Chester, or even Lancaster County. I do have that fantasy of rescuing a bucket of snakes from a soon-to-be-developed farm, just before it’s bulldozed and planted with a few hundred McMansions. I think we’ll go scouting tomorrow. Wish us luck.