Thursday, July 5, 2012

Independence Day Surprise

My fourth of July was spent in a way that is much different than the way it is traditionally celebrated. Recently, a friend of mine named Alex Krohn had swung home to New Jersey for a week weeks after spending the past few years out west doing Desert Tortoise work. I've herped with Alex once before back in Michigan and we did quite well, scoring several Queen Snakes, a Butler's Garter Snake, and his coveted Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. When we made plans to herp on the fourth of July, I hesitantly asked how early he would be willing to get up. A large thunderstorm passed through southern NJ overnight and I felt we would have a good chance of finding some snakes under cover or basking in the early morning hours. After a short night's sleep, Alex picked me up around 6:45 AM and we were off. After a short drive we arrived in the heart of the pine barrens to a hot, humid morning. We drove around to several sites to flip cover with no luck. Around 8:45 AM, we were driving a sand road and came across this beauty laid out in the road.

Pine snake! We both yelled simultaneously and jumped out of the car get some shots of this five foot female laid out in the road. Alex had mentioned how long he's wanted to see this impressive species, but didn't think we would have a good chance of seeing one. As summer temperatures soar in the pinelands, this species becomes much more active in the early morning hours and just before sunset to avoid the hottest portions of the day and this snake being out early was a testament to that.

Northern Pine Snake - Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus

Pine snakes are known to have huge home ranges and some often move more than a mile in a day. It is ironic, because after reviewing photos this is the same snake I found a few weeks ago and mentioned in the post More Fun with Pine Snakes. This snake was seen more than a mile from where I had previously seen it and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. As temperatures soared, our findings were minimal with the exception of a few spotted turtles. We decided to call it a day to get home in time for some cookouts and good food. It was a great way to celebrate our country's independence day, even if its considerably different than how most people would spend it.

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