A week in Herps 4/17/2013

A great week for herps. nighttime temps around 50-60 degrees with daytime highs in 70’s. The week started out with some nice finds (see previous entry) a combined total of 22 snakes 6 different species one of which a newby for me – the smooth earth snake.

P1050006 All of the species were found in Fairfax county but in different locations and habitats. The larger species of Mole kings and northern black racers were found in open fields with the exceptionof one juvenile racer found under an old car door in a wooded area. All of he snakes were found under artificial cover consisting of pieces of metal and plywood.


One exception an eastern worm snake was recovered under some pine bark on the forest floor.

P1050004The smaller snakes were found in different locations. The smoth earth and the northern browns were found under plywood.

The ring necks under flat rocks sometimes as many as four at a time.

P1050021P1050024I also found about 8 skinks none could be positively identified but my guess majority of themwere five lined and possibly a broadhead or two. The phibs were less numerous. Several two lined, a dusky and gravid female spotted salamanders as well as one cricket frog and one american toad. All found in their natural habitats with the exception ofthe toad which was occupying the same piece of plywood the skinks were found. Chorus frogs were heard but none captured.


VA Tech Field Biology Night Time Vernal Pool Herps 3/16/2013

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Dr Steve Sheffield and members of Virginia Tech’s Field Biology Class Mike grgory and myself pose for a group photo after a night of field herping. tonight’s yield included 6 species of salamanders ( Four plethodonts: Eurycea bislineata, Eurycea longicauda longicauda, Desmognathus fuscus, Plethodon cinereus, Ambystoma opacum, and numerous Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens. We also found three species of Anurans (Lithobates): Lithobates palustris, Lithobates sylvaticus, and one from the enus Psuedacris: Pseudacris crucifer.

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Above: Two lined and a longtail salamander caught together under same log.
The trip did not focus specifically on herps Other animals as well as plant species were recorded.

WebFrosty (13) above: several Marbled Salamander Larva. Marbled Sals bred in the late summer and as a cnsequnce got a head start on the spotted salamanders. Not a good thing for Spotteds or Wood Frog eggs and larva. But that is nature and always manages to balance itself out.

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Ambystoma opacum: Female Marbled Salamander Guarding Her Eggs


A female marbled salamander protects her eggs along Bull Run floodplain. She was discovered underneath a rotten log about 35 feet from the nearest potential vernal pool.  She wil remain with her developing eggs until the next heavy rain so that they can make their transition to water where the eggs will soon hatch.  If enoguh rain doesn’t then the eggs will remain under the log until the the follwing spring. Once the eggs do hatch she will abandon them then retreat underground until the next breeding season in the fall.  Meanwhile the tadpole like larva will reside in the pools feeding on invertebrates and eventauly the eggs of other salamander species until they are ready to transition once more to a terrestial existance.



Mole Sals Marbled and Spotted Salamanders by Mike Gregory


Above Marbled Salamander found by Mike during a an early morning walk along a wetland area within a Regional Park. Also found were a spotted salamander (below) in the same vacinity. Both species belong to a group of salamanders known as mole salamanders simply because they burrow after their done with their breeding season. The two often utilize the same vernal pools but breed at different times of the year and lay their eggs differently. Spots breed in late winter or early spring and lay their eggs in water. Marbled breed earlier on usually in the Fall and their eggs are laid in depressions on land near water where the eggs can be washed into vernal pools with the later fall of early winter rains.