Monday, June 18, 2012

A Day Fit for a King

After several brutal trips to the pine barrens last year in late July and early August, I decided that I need to get my trips to the pines in as early as possible this season. Late may through mid June is arguably the best time of the year for herping the pines, as many species are out in search of nesting sites, particularly the snakes and turtles. On Sunday morning, I swung down early in hopes of finding some pine snakes excavating nests. In one of the first locations I stopped at, I came across this beginning of a nest which was extremely fresh, likely from the evening before, more on this in a separate post.

The drag marks were quite large in terms ventral scales, indicating that this test dig was made by a sizable female pine snake. In early to mid June, female pine snakes seek out open sandy areas where they use their fused rostral scales to help dig nests into the sandy soils of the pine barrens. Unfortunately, the snake that made this dig was nowhere to be found. I moved on and hit several other sites without seeing any snakes at all. In the heat of the afternoon, I decided to explore an area I've been meaning to hit for kingsnakes. Although I've seen Florida Kings, Black Kings, and the Shawnee Kings from southern Illinois, a true Eastern Chain Kingsnake had eluded me. Within a few minutes of exploring this new location, I noticed a large snake coming onto the road and was greeted with this fantastic serpent.

It was in the middle of the afternoon and temperatures had soared into the high 80s with high humidity, yet here in front of my car was a large adult Eastern Kingsnake on the crawl. The snake was hot and made a run for it, but I was able to apprehend this big male for a short photo session, completing my New Jersey Lampropeltis trifecta and adding species to my life list.

Eastern Kingsnake - Lampropeltis getula getula

A truly beautiful snake, this is a species that I've wanted to see in the field since I was a kid. I remember reading book about snakes and seeing the glossy black and white chain pattern and thinking, "what a cool snake!" Jersey kings are special and unique, both in their location and appearance. The Eastern Kingsnake reaches its northern range limit in the pine barrens and individuals have much more thin and more numerous white bands than individuals from farther south in their range.

I was stoked to finally find my Eastern King, and went home a happy camper. The pine barrens is a daunting, yet wondrous place to spend time in, and in the last few weeks I've had several more exciting finds. Stay tuned for that in a few upcoming posts. That's all for now, cheers!

1 comment: