19 March 2017
Erin and I felt like getting some fresh air. So, after tending to domestic chores throughout the morning, we packed up the truck and headed out to Palmetto State Park.
Palmetto State Park
Here are a couple of earlier blogs that can shed some light on why I enjoy visiting this park so much:
We planned to look for herps (reptiles and amphibians) throughout the park and county roads in the area. We dreamed big and hoped to find a Timber Rattlesnake or Small-mouth Salamander. I’ll go ahead and save you the suspense; we found neither. However, we did fairly well on diversity and accounted for 12 species on the day including 4 (maybe 5) species of snakes.
Some Bird Stuff before the Herp Stuff
I’ll also mention that we kept track of some of the bird life too but didn’t focus much effort looking for them. We did have an interesting observation when we came across a domestic Ring-necked Pheasant near Salt Lake just northwest of the park.
The Northern Parulas and White-eyed Vireos are back in full force (White-eyed Vireo is year round at the park but much more dense in the Spring and Summer). Here is a complete birding list from the park.
Black and Turkey Vultures like to roost in the trees above the swamps. On several occasions while hiking the swamps at night, I’ve nearly had a heart attack when they begin to loudly fly off and snap branches from above. Erin and I were provided an opportunity to inspect a likely injured black vulture from a close distance. Although it is undeniable the importance of their services to ecological systems, it’s difficult to see much beauty in that ugly crusty head.
We ended the evening looking for a Short-eared Owl that had been an over-wintering resident nearby. On the way out to the site, we watched two coyotes lope across the dirt road a couple hundred yards in front of us. It appears they were on their way to a concrete water trough for a drink before the evening prowl. Eventually, and after thinking it may have pushed off north bound, we were pleased to pick the Short-eared Owl out hunting over the grassy pastures as the evening light faded away.
And Now the Herping – (with lots of photos)
Our herp list included (records on www.iNaturalist.org linked):
- Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) – throughout but concentrated in the reedy portions of the Interpretive Loop Trail
- Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) – heard only, throughout (the recording linked includes Blanchard’s Cricket Frogs clicking throughout)
- Blanchard’s Cricket Frog (Acris blanchardi) – common throughout
- Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenacephlus) – throughout
- Gulf Coast Toad (Incilius nebulifer) – one, heard only among frog chorus
- Western Narrow-mouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea) – two, under rotting logs
- Texas Cooter (Psuedemys texana), 2+, one hatchling crossing park road on electric side, others in the swamp
- Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), one shell found along clear creek
- Green Anole (Anolis carolinensis), one, reedy portion of the small artesian pond (lake side campground)
- Little Brown Skink (Scincella lateralis) – several, throughout wooded areas
- Western Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorous) – 3, road cruising and found along flowing creek in park
- Broad-banded Copperhead (Agkistrodon controtrix) – 1, road cruising at night
- Banded Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata) – 3-5, mostly young concentrated around the old stone cistern/pump house on the Interpretive Trail and another along a shallow creek on the west side of the park
- Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) – one, DOR (dead on road) while road cruising