This is a compilation of several days in one post. Due to the low species count, it was easier to do it all in one shot. Below are the day to day breakdowns.


Trip Details

Day & Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Start Time: 3:30 p.m.

Weather: Cloudy. Around 65 degrees. Low wind.

Location: Amherst County, Virginia

Herper(s): Matt Ricklefs & Wayne Clemments

Account written by Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: Take me home, country roads.

It was a family vacation. My wife, mother-in-law and myself were going to see my wife's sister, her husband and our niece and nephew. Being in Virginia we do not get to see them all that often since we live in Iowa (duh). I did want to commit time to herping though. We took the early flight so that I would have some time the first day to look around. My brother-in-law Wayne took me to the Blue Ridge Parkway that we had been to on a trip a few years ago. Near what appeared to be an unused restaurant I found my first herp under my first rock. It was an American Toad (Bufo americanus).

It was only about two and a quarter inches. Not a huge find, but a find nonetheless. After a few pics it went on it's way as did we. A little later in a salamandery looking stream I found my next herp. It was a salamander. I am not familiar with salamanders in the area, and since there are a lot, I'm even less sure. However, with the location data and the information I have I believe it was a juvenile Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus sp.).

I am not sure of the specific species or sub-species. If anyone has a definitive ID, please let me know, I would like to nail it down if possible. This one was very hard to get pics of. It was small, one and a half inches, and was constantly on the run. It also picked up debris and was hard to keep clean and in one place. I wrangled the best I could as I did not want to harm the little guy then had to call it quits. We let it go back where it was and then did some cruising around. The temperature was dropping and the light was fading. Wayne was a good sport for letting me drag him along to find a few small herps. He handles things in a typical southern fashion, patient and easy going. He's a great guy. That was all for day one.


Trip Details

Start Time: 7:30 a.m.

Weather: Sunny. Around 70 degrees. Low wind.

Location: Hyde County, North Carolina

Herper(s): Matt Ricklefs

Account written by Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: In my mind I'm going to Carolina.

Thursday was family day. We had come down three and a half hours from Virginia to Wayne and Joan's (my sister-in-law) cabin near Ferguson in North Carolina. It was just Wayne, my wife Janie and I. We got down late afternoon and settled in. They had a hot tub so as the sun set over the mountains we sat in the hot tub, drank some Yeung Ling beer, listened to the Whippoorwill's and watched the bats come out to feed. The rest of the family joined us later that evening. No herping that day, but it was pretty nice. On Friday, I set up to get a rental car. After more difficulty then expected, I headed out Friday afternoon to eastern North Carolina. I arrived in Hyde county at dusk and drove around. It was pretty cool (about 64 degrees) but I drove around until about 10:30 p.m. then looked for a motel. Again, after some difficulty I settled in and got some sleep. The next day (Saturday) I headed out into Hyde County.

I had done some reconnaissance and gotten some information of this area. As it is, even with information it can be hard to herp a new area. I drove down a road and in one area I spotted some junk. It looked like a good area and I pulled over. It was a large metal shelf. Under the largest piece was a metal drawer and off to the side was a metal scrap of the shelf.

Under the big part - nothing. Under the drawer - nothing. Under the scrap - A Copperhead.

In the area I was in the Northern and Southern Copperhead ranges overlap. I'm not sure if they intergrade but I would guess they do, I will just call this one Agkistrodon contortrix. It was a smaller one at about twenty four inches. It sat nicely for a few pics. I re-positioned and it did pretty good, but started to get feisty. It bit a few times at my tongs and after some wrangling kept on the move and would not calm back down. I got my pics and let it go back under it's tin. It was early and I was encouraged by the first find.

After seeing a few fleeting Black Racers on the road too fast to even stop for I finally did get another herp. It was a Yellow-Bellied Slider (Trachemys s. scripta).

They were very common in the area, but stayed in the swampy ditches.

This one happened to be on the road. It was about eleven inches long. A pretty decent sized turtle. I got some pics and let it be on it's way. A little later a second one was saved on the road, although I must say I did see a car actually swerve and did not hit this one.

I was glad to see that. I put the second one in the ditch, and moved on.

After a long day of walking power lines, turning what little junk I could find and walking levees I struck out. I did see some water snakes bolt into the water from the levees. I could not even get pics as it was pretty grown over and they were warmed up and on the move. I also managed to spook one of the local mammals. A young Raccoon ran across my path, into the water and up the closest tree. I didn't even know what it was until it was up and peering at me from behind the trunk.

I did get one alright pic. I think part of having a "bad day" was being in the wrong place at the wrong time of day. That's the way it works. We were heading back on Sunday to Virginia and I needed to stop and see my great aunt in Rocky Mount so at the end of the day I headed out. That was all for day two. I got back to the cabin at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning...


Trip Details

Start Time: 10:30 a.m.

Weather: Sunny with some clouds. Around 72 degrees. Low wind.

Location: Wilkes County, North Carolina

Herper(s): Matt Ricklefs, Janie Ricklefs, Chase Clemments

Account written by Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: Love is in the air

After sleeping in on Sunday, it became time to pack up. A few of the family went into Merlefest so Janie, her mom and I stayed back and relaxed and got things ready for the ride home. I had looked around the cabin the days before we were there and the time and conditions weren't great. Today was different. From 10:30 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m. there were Northern Fence Lizards (Sceloporus u. hyacinthinus) and Five Lined Skinks (Eumeces fasciatus) of all sizes and sexes all over the wooden ties that acted as a retaining wall.


Fence Lizards

Males were chasing males, males were chasing females, females were running all around, it was quite a sight. At this point I have seen Fence Lizards and Five Lines by the score in all areas of the country (within their range of course) but this was pretty cool. I had a lot of subjects and time to take to get some shots with not many other herps around. So that's what I did. You could see them out and they were hard to catch. HOWEVER, when in between the ties you could walk right up to them. I would take twigs and pin them off on each side. They only had one direction to go - out. Toward me. More than once I caught them on my chest. Catching Fence Lizards this way seemed understandable, but with skinks it was pretty new - and funny. My wife Janie and niece Chase even got in on the fun.

Chase got a pic of a feisty female Five Line "attacking" my finger - Ahhhhh, killer skink!!!

That was it though. After a time they simply went back in for the evening. I had been working with them all day and they would scatter and emerge, then they were just done about 3:30 p.m. Which was fine as we needed to leave. I did get pics of one other thing, not a herp but a cool pink and yellow moth.

We needed to get the rental car back to Winston-Salem where I got it. The final miles were 1,572 total from pick up to drop off. That's a lot of driving folks!!! That was all for day three.


Trip Details

Start Time: 8:30 a.m.

Weather: Sunny. Around 74 degrees. Low wind.

Location: Bedford County, Virginia

Herper(s): Matt Ricklefs

Account written by Matt Ricklefs

Thought of the Day: I'm leaving on a jet plane

Monday was Janie and my quality time. Although I was anxious to herp, It was nice spending time with Janie (OF COURSE!!!) and after all, it was a holiday away. On Tuesday I headed back out to the parkway alone for a hard core herping day. After driving the road back and down again (about 30 miles round trip) and not seeing anything I decided to head for the hills.

On a nice hillside (although covered with leaves still) I found my first herp, an Eastern Worm Snake (Carphophis a. amoenus).

I had found Western Worms before, but not Eastern. This one was about five inches and very squirmy. It was hard getting pics, but I got a few marginal shots. I let this one on it's way and moved out. I split my time between hillsides and streams in hopes of finding some salamanders also. Near a creek between the road and the creek itself in a wooded opening I was to find my only other herp of the day. A Black Rat Snake (Elaphe o. obsoleta).

In situ

This one was a medium sized one at about four feet and was generally very black even on the belly. This seems obvious, but Iowa Black Rats can have quite a bit of pattern and some (the "Hawkeye Phase" as I call it) even have a large amount of yellow and black. I did take some time to get some good shots of this one, It was rather feisty, but I was able to get some cooperation. I spent the rest of they day and found nothing. The rest of the trip was simply that - R & R. We left on Thursday afternoon for Iowa. That was day four, the final day of herping.


When going on a trip it's always good to do some reconnaissance and make any contacts you can. Sometimes people will take you out sometime not. For this trip I was unable to get with anyone at the right time, but I do appreciate the information they shared. Always be grateful of any information people share with you. Specific locations are especially generous and should be well guarded and not shared with ANYONE without the permission of the person that shared it. If they do not want you to tell, respect that. Be patient. I know the next time I go out there, I will have have more information and will hopefully do better. I got out as much as I could and did find some things I had not found before. It was a great get away and this is a beautiful part of the country. So, as always -

Happy herpin' until next time.

Read our disclaimer here...