Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Winter herpin' with the Dobbs boys

Rob was in town briefly (from Colorado for those who don't know), and as usual....herps were a must while he was in town. We went out one night (myself, Rob & Chris Dobbs) specifically for photographing singing Pseudacris. Rob was also aiming high, wanting to photograph Southern leopard frogs, Lithobates spenocephalus singing......HAH.......good luck!

Below are the night's highlight shots.....I want everyone to notice....there are of spenocephalus singing..........................I......TOLD........YOU........SO!!!!! Aww, it's all in good fun anyhow........

singing male spring peeper, Pseudacris crucifer (above)

singing male Cajun chorus frog, Pseudacris fouquettei (above)

Chris Dobbs here....appearing to be under the influence......but we don't roll that way! Just a goofy shot!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Late Winter Summary, part 1

Things have been real busy in the Basin lately. It’s been a while since I posted here, but the work that’s being done is down right awesome! Dr. Hardin Waddle, Tyler Thigpen and I have been conducting visual encounter surveys in the Basin at night, usually three to four nights a week. When we encounter a herp, we (when possible) measure, age, sex and look for abnormalities. We also gather data for average wind speed (mph), air temperature in °C, relative humidity and substrate the animal was using. I could sit here and type for hours with the experiences we’ve been fortunate enough to have, but I’ll try and summarize with a collection of photos from the field. We’ve seen a great many things worthy of posting… I’ll try and break it down into parts. I should also note the central newt, Notopthalmus viridescens louisianensis that was found by Scott Hunnicutt in Plaquemine. We also tallied a newt, but it swam away before we could get pictures. -James

central newt, Notopthalmus viridescens louisianensis:

spring peeper, Pseudacris crucifer:

Cajun chorus frog, Pseudacris fouquettei:

Cope's gray treefrog, Hyla chrysoscelis:

green treefrog, Hyla cinerea:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Herping Saturday 15 Dec 07

(Southern copperhead)

Bert Lucas and I spent much of the day herping in the Basin, mostly around Whiskey Bay, Butte La Rose & Indian Bayou. The best herps were a nice Southern copperhead, Agkistrodon c. contortrix and a ring-necked snake, Diadophis punctatus. Walking around Jim Delahoussaye's property in Butte La Rose, we picked up Cope's gray, Hyla chrysoscelis & squirrel, H. squirella treefrogs in his bird houses. The afternoon in Indian Bayou was pretty slow with mostly Coastal Plains, Bufo nebulifer & Eastern narrow-mouthed toads, Gastrophryne carolinensis.

(ring-necked snake)

(ring-necked snake)

(Cope's gray treefrog)

(Cope's gray on left, squirrel on right)

(Eastern narrow-mouthed toad)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Basin Herpin' 27 Nov '07

Rob Dobbs and I spent a couple of hours in the Basin last night, mostly to photograph and re-release a Louisiana milksnake he had found there Sunday night. Of course, we were also there to see what else we could find before (and just after) dark! Below are two of my best pics of the milksnake, Lampropeltis triangulum amaura. (photos by Beck)

We also scored huge with very cooperative upland chorus frogs, Pseudacris ferarium (top) & spring peepers, P. crucifer (bottom)!

After a little more poking around, we found a nice five-lined skink, Eumeces fasciatus and three (3) Eastern narrow-mouthed toads, Gastrophryne carolinensis.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Well, I already have a post devoted to copperheads...I might as well have one for cottonmouths as well. A.K.A. "water mocassins", they are another pit viper closely related to copperheads. The subspecies we have here in Louisiana is Western cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorous. Like their copperhead cousins, they are live-bearers and are born with yellow tips to the tail, to lure potential prey items within striking distance. They're also heavily banded when they're young (picture at end of post). While we're on the subject of snake tails, I want you to notice the drastic truncation at the base of the tail of the below pictured cottonmouth:

This is indicative of a female. The tails of males would taper off much more gradually in shape towards the tip, as they need more room to store the hemipenes.

Cottonmouths are, naturally, venomous and get their name from the light-colored lining in the interior of the mouth. There are numerous species of watersnakes (genus Nerodia), which mimic cottonmouths, but are non-venomous. Below is a picture of a banded watersnake, N. fasciata.

Countless watersnakes are killed each year when people whom are less informed take the snakes' lives often to protect their family from a potential threat of a venomous snake. But...let's not kid ourselves, not everyone who kills a snake is rationally-minded. In fact, some kill snakes because it makes them feel "manly". Wow...please excuse my lack of enthusiasm for someone who is successful in killing something much smaller than themselves and perhaps because they're insecure about themselves.......

Anyway... Cottonmouths, as their specific name (piscivorous) implies, eat fish. Not soley, but they do consume fish and can consume fish as large as bream and small catfish. They also will prey on frogs, lizards, etc. Some can attain lengths of near 5' or so, but this is quite rare. Most are smaller, and individuals of 2-3' are more often encountered. Below is a juvenile snake I caught at the Zoo of Acadiana in Broussard a few years ago.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Northeast Louisiana Plants

Not much to ramble on about here, but included are some images of some of the plant species myself, Bobby Keeland, John McCoy and Erika Stelzer sampled while working in the Tensas River Basin. I took pictures mostly of trees, shrubs & vines that I would like to learn better.

Carolina snailseed (Cocculus carolinus):

Climbing dogbane (Trachelospermum difforme):

Smilax bona-nox:

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans):

The Rattlers of Canebrake

It's been a while since we've had a post on this blog. To tell the truth, I forgot my username and/or password. You know how that goes, you try a thousand different combinations, and nothing works. Then finally, you find where you put it so that you could "find it" if you were ever to forget it. Right....

Anyway, enough about that. This past summer I did a lot of field work up in the Tensas River Basin as well as the White and Cache River Basins of Arkansas. The work was centered around the amphibian research we had been working on, but also now there was a new phase: plants. I got to work with Dr. Bobby Keeland and John McCoy in the field on the plant project. I'll get to that in a minute. First thing's first. While working out in the Buckhorn WMA in Tensas Parish, Susan Walls and I finally stumbled upon what we were really hoping to find while working up there....the mighty CANEBRAKE RATTLESNAKE.

It's pretty funny how we came across the first one, actually. I was leading the way via GPS to one of our frogloggers, deep in the thick, palmetto-covered undergrowth of the forest. I happened to trip over some exposed roots, and landed palms-first on a spread of blackberry (Rubus sp.). Now, previous to this, Susan had been stung four times already by yellowjackets (Vespula sp.)! So, candidly, I told her that I had thorns in my fingertips to make up for not being stung. Just then, I caught a glimpse of something moving on the forest floor right next to where I stood. When my eyes adjusted to the low light, there was a very large canebrake rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)! The snake was at least 5' in length, and had an impressive girth. The pictures do the snake NO justice. The conditions were such that a "perfect" picture was not attainable without further agitating the snake. As it was, the snake showed no signs of rattling. But, we didn't want to take any uneccessary chances way out here. of us (hint, NOT Susan) has been bit by this species before, and not looking for a rematch. The snake we found is illustrated below.

Unbelievably, about 20 minutes after finding this first rattler, I found another one! Susan didn't believe me at first. Only after seeing me taking a picture of something did she come over for a look. This individual was smaller, and thinner than the first, but the picture came out better of this one....figures.

It's been a long time now since I've been up in Tensas. I look to be back up there again the last week of February. It might be too cold for most snakes then, but I'll be constantly be looking...for the rattlers of the canebrake.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Tensas River Basin

We spent the week of 4/17 – 4/21 working based out of Tallulah, Madison Parish. Madison Parish is located in extreme northeast Louisiana, one parish south of the Arkansas border. We were working in the Tensas River Basin, setting out frogloggers in various locations. Even this far north, migration was quite apparent. The bulk of the migrants were Orchard Orioles, but we had a decent selection of other migrants as well. In the cotton fields of Winnsboro, it was a real treat to see Horned Larks on their breeding grounds; something I’ve never witnessed in Louisiana. I have seen them on breeding territory in New Mexico. Also in Winnsboro, Susan Walls and I came across a very large cottonmouth hunting a ditch for frogs. At this site we heard Cope’s gray treefrog, northern cricket frog, bronze frog and bullfrog.

By far my favorite place we visited was the Tensas NWR. This vast expanse of hardwood bottomland is home to loads of breeding birds and interesting insects, but also home to another population of Black Bears. Susan, Mike Baldwin and I got to see a bear on Thursday, as we were riding into one of our study site on the north end of the NWR. We rounded a corner, and after studying some scat along the road, I spotted an adult bear at the edge of a meadow full of flowering vetch. When the bear saw us coming on the four-wheeler, it took off for the forest without looking back. Samantha Hill and Chad Case had just run back to the truck to retrieve another froglogger, so unfortunately they missed the bear. Migrants here were Tennessee Warbler, Dickcissel and Blue Grosbeak. Many others were around too, but species like Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Swainson’s Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat were likely local breeders.

My favorite experience at the refuge (besides the bear) was a full chorus of bird-voiced treefrogs (Hyla avivoca) at the big lake. (at right) Just before hearing this large chorus, I had found a ring-necked snake, but it proved to be very difficult to photograph, and consequently zero out of six pictures came out worth keeping.

Before we set up shop in Tensas NWR, we visited Buckhorn NWR. As we were unloading the ATVs, we noticed a problem with one of the trailer tires. It would turn out that Chad and I would have to bring the trailer into town to have the problem fixed. So, we missed out on setting out the frogloggers at Buckhorn, but not before I heard a Prairie Warbler singing!

Overall, we had a great trip and saw lots of neat things. Most of the animal pictures didn’t come out worth keeping, but the scenery pictures did. I have included pictures at the end here of some of the oddly-shaped cypress knees in the swampy area on the north end of the Tensas NWR.