VHS Herp Survey Hemlock Overlook

Juvenile Northern Copperhead

Above Juvenile Northern Copperhead found on campground during our lunch break. Other snakes found that day were northern water, queen, northern brown, eastern worm, and ringneck snakes.

One of the species of salamanders found in this area. There are at least three sepcies of the genus Eurycea. Their common names are two lines three lined and this one pictured here the long tail salamander. The purpose of this survey was to capture a hybrid between the three lined and longtail that purportededly exist in the area. Genetic testing for certain marker proteins will help to deermine if indeed hybridization occurs or not within tis genus of sals.
Eurycea Longtail Salamander (2)

Perhaps one of the coolest of salamanders and the one species that has eluded me for many years was found by one of the surveyors in a seepage that fed into the main stream. This is the The Northern Red Salamander and apparently a recently transformed adult.


Hemlock Overlook Bull Run 4/20-4/21, 2011


IMG_0006Went Herping with Mike both days at Hemlock Overlook.  Had a routine start finding numerous red back salamanders in three color forms of red and yellow striped and gray. Most of these were found at higher elevations such as hill tops  under logs or rocks along the the slopes near the river. As Mike and I descended to the river we switched our focus to the rocky shorelines next the blue trail.  I spent much of the rime next to the water while Mike worked the slopes. Mike found more of the red backed sals.


He later joined me along the river flipping rocks hoping to find copperhead. We found two aqautic snakes, no copperhead. Two of the snakes were juvenile aquatic snakes.  One was a queen the other a northern water snake. Both under rocks. Other animals we found in this region were pickerel frogs. Leaving the stream bank we continued northward up the blue trail checking under rocks and logs alongthe way. Mike discovered what we both agreed to be a member of the”mole” salamanders which we later determined might have been a marbled salamander- which would have made an awesome photo.  Our total finds today were 2 skinks, 2 ringneck snakes, oneworm snake, one northern water snake, one queen snake one american toad four pickerel frogs. We stopped counting the number of redback and the variants after about twenty were caught. All animals were (and are always) released to the original location after we photograph them.


Click: HERE to view our encounter with this animal

Click Copperhead ambushes frog  to watch what happens next!!

Day two was quite a a treat. We headed fown yatesford trail turned left where it intersected with the river on the blue trail and mafe our wat back to somerocky outcroppings along the river bank. We have always made it our goal to find a copperhead so that seemed like the best place to find them and it is where I have found them in the past. Along the way we, as before, checked the wooded slopes and next to shoreline flipping rocks and logs finding more redbacks andtheir variants. Mike did manage to find one salamander that has eluded me for years – a slimy salamander. Ihadnt seen one in nearly 20-25 years. That was cool. We coninued down the trail back the other direction the way we came in but then made our way past the intersection of the yatesford trail and river heading toward the old dam ruins. I stopped by a rocky section of shoreline where a seapage from the highlands drains into the river. Walking along I look up and almost stepped on a rather large copperhead.  I yelled for Mike to come over. He had never seen one in the wild before so it turned outto be quite a treat for us.  We must have taken hundreds of photogtaphs wfhile the snake lay there motionless. What we didnt realize is that the snake was lying in ambush for a meal. Much to our surprise the animal was extremely docile or focoused on its prey that it ignored us all together. Even when we poked at it gently it didnt move. But suddenly it began to flick its tongue and jertk its head towards a clump of exposed roots along the shore.It then  proceeded to crawl in that direction and partially disappear under the roots. A few seconds later out jumps this green frog onto my feet and then into the water -apparently to escape from being eaten by that snake-surprised the shit out of me.

Hemlock Excursion 4/12/2011


Went on an in outing today to Hemlock Overlook looking fro some critters. Weather was overcast with few brief sprinkles. Bull Run was somewhat swollen with floodwater from previous rains and the trails were moderately muddy.  Today I had great success locating  4 species of snakes and two species of salamanders and one pickerel frog.  Snakes encountered today in the wooded section of the trail were worm and northern brown snakes. Unofrtunately the northern brown snake had been killed maybe squashed in path by hikers (unknowingly of course).  Near the river along the rocky banks were perfect habitat for the water snakes species. Under flattened, dinner plate like rocks I found a northern water snake and a queen snake. Over the years I have seen fewer queen snakes. Northern water snakes seem to be doing quite well however.


Only two species of salamanders were caught and released. Upland species typically found were led and red back or plethodonts. These are terrestial slalamaders that complete their life cylce inside of an egg and hatch as minature adults.  Plethodonts also have no lungs and breather entirely through their skin.  They also exhibit variation in their externmal appearance having all gray, or a dorsal red, yellow or silver stripe.  Common varieties encountered today were of the red then gray colored. 

   woodfrog program (9)

(At Hemlock we had frequent encounters with plethodonts like the pair above)

I only found one species of streamside salamnder today. Eurycea occur along the stream banks and in seapages that bridge the forest to the river. Often encounter two lined, three lined and long tails in this region. 


Over all a great day.


Hemlock Overlook Herp Survey (photo credit Michael Gregory)


Today was a great day to do a herp survey of Hemlock Overlook’s Doak Farm.  Within the first half hour we found several ring neck snakes and pair of northern browns and seven box turtles before we headed off into the woods. Salamanders were a little challenging but we were able to capture (and release) several two lined salamanders.  At the pond, the final stop in our short tour we hit the jackpot. Almost everyone was successful in capturing a red spotted newt.  What a day.  Later on that day I developed body aches, shrtness of breath and headache. By the end of the week I was experiencing the worse headache pain and fever ever. I was admitted to hospital for the third time in a week. The doctors didn’t know what exactly was wrong with me.  Spinal taps, x-rays, Catscans ultra sounds volumes of blood test and a 4 dat stretch in the hospital with a near 104 degree temperature later they discovered I had erlichiosis-another form of bacteria transmitted by ticks.  Took me months to regain my energy -needless to say that was the sickest I had been in my life-in fact almost died according to my wife.





Pair of Northern Brown Snakes discovered by Michael Gregory (photo by Michael Gregory)