A photographic gallery of the reptiles, amphibians of Ohio dedicated to increasing the appreciation, awareness and public perception of these often misunderstood animals.

 

 

The goal of Buckeye Herps is to glorify the herpetofauna of Ohio. Ohio is blessed with richness in reptile and amphibian diversity. Many of the current and past leaders in the field of herpetology have their roots in the Buckeye State and it is my hope that others will continue to love Ohio's wildlife and uphold the tradition of discovery. Be aware some of these animals are under extreme amounts of pressure due to habitat loss and may be more sensitive to human disturbance. Enjoy the Buckeye Herps, but please tread carefully.

 

 

 

       

   

   

Costa Rica 2014: Part 1

You can see  Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 here.


If you have read some past posts, you probably know that Carl and I try to get together for a trip once every year or two. Sometimes, it is just a long weekend, but usually we sneak away for a week or so. 

This year I wanted to do something before my son was born. Call it a "last hurrah" of sorts. My brother Brian was spending the year down in Costa Rica conducting his PhD research on leaf litter frogs and human parasites, so why not take advantage of that and join him?

We visited near the end of June, 2014. The World Cup was in full swing and Brian had been there long enough to welcome visitors. Beckett was due in late August, and Carl had wrapped up his teaching responsibilities for the semester. It seemed like as good of a time as any to make the trek.

We chose to limit our travel and mostly stay on site at La Selva Biological Station where Brian was working. We looked into visiting an ecolodge or ecoresort later in the week for a few days, but ended up camping out at La Selva due to the cheap cost and ease of it all. We did commit to a night at another site on the last day, which was a nice change of pace.

I flew in a day earlier than Carl, sorted out the rental car, and fought my way through the back roads to La Selva. 

La Selva Biological Station was our home for the week.

I settled in, grabbed dinner and met some of Brian's friends. I was eager to hit the field though, and shortly after night fell, Brian and I headed to a stream he thought would harbor glass frogs.

Right outside his office I noticed this Masked Treefrog,  Smilisca phaeota.


We set out on the trails and quickly were seeing many of the typical subjects. We flipped this sleeping Central American Whiptail  Ameiva festiva.


I was elated to spot one of this frogs though, something I had missed four years ago.

Warszewitsch's Frog  Rana warszewitschii
Almirante Robber Frog  Craugastor talamancae
Almirante Robber Frog  Craugastor talamancae
Almirante Robber Frog  Craugastor talamancae
We were working our way to our destination, a nice first order stream, when Brian spotted two really stinking cool lizards in the trees.

Casque-headed Lizard  Corytophanes cristatus
Shortly after arriving in the stream, Brian found one of our targets, the Spiny Cochran Frog  Teratohyla spinosa. We would see 12 of these frogs this night, and hear many more calling.


More spinosa.




We also saw one Emerald Glass Frog  Espadarana prosoblepon.


Chirriqui Robber Frog  Pristimantis cruentus
I was photographing a glass frog and looked up to see this cool snake moving through a tree.

Stejneger's Snail Sucker  Sibon longifrenis
We saw a couple Cat-eyed Snakes, a large Fer-de-lance and various frogs on the hike back out. A nice first night!

On the second day we got up early to head back into San Jose and pick up Carl from the airport. Both trips into town and back out went without any major issues. We were soon showing Carl around La Selva and photographing the "common" stuff. Carl and I were housed a little farther off site in a row of cabins that were more tradition "rooms" with private bathrooms. Brian had a cabin to himself most of the year, but did share a bathroom. I forgot the name of our cabins now... It was cool because it forced you to walk 3/4 of a mile to and from the main cafeteria and lab clearing and you ended up herping/birding more. After two days of hiking our asses off and essentially stumbling into the lab clearing very late at night, we started driving to and from the cafeteria. "Lazy" Gringos!

After settling in, we headed to la comedor (dining room) for lunch. We took our time on the walk in and kept our cameras out for some of the daytime animals that were out and about.

Strawberry Poison Dar Frog  Oophaga pumilio
Neotropical Green Anole  Norops biporcatus
a young Salmon-bellied Racer  Mastigodryas melanonomus
Redback Coffee Snake  Ninia sebae
Noble's Robber Frog  Craugaster noblei
We then set out to a few of Brian's study plots.  A very quick and dirty version is that Brian marked out study plots under different species of trees and then counted as many reptiles and amphibians, and mark and recaptured them, throughout his plots, all year long. 

One of Brian's favorite dirt frog, Bransford's Robber Frog  Craugastor bransfordii.


This frog is pretty variable in coloration. Brian asked me to try and photograph a few of the different morphs for him.


These eggs were in one of Bri's plots. Not sure what they are?



While exploring along a stream we came across this Green and Black Poison Dart Frog,  Dendrobates auratus. These seem to have an expanding range at La Selva.



Wet Forest Toad  Bufo melanochlorus
We hiked up on a swamp that had two calls in an active chorus. One of the frogs was an unIDd Smilisca species. The other was a large breeding congregation of Southern Narrow-mouth Toads  Gastrophryne pictiventris.




We headed back in to charge our batteries, and enjoy a hot meal. After dusk fell we headed back out to the swamp. On the hike in we walked right under this trogon. I believe it is a Black-throated Trogon  Trogon rufus.


The swamp was alive with activity. We saw a number Olive Snouted Treefrogs  Scinax elaeochrous.


There was lots of evidence of recent breeding activity, as seen by recent egg masses of Costa Rica's charismatic Red-eyed Treefrogs.

Red-eyed Treefrog  Agalychnis callidryas eggs

Fitzinger's Robber Frog  Craugastor fitzingeri
San Carlos Treefrog  Dendropsophus phlebodes
More unIDd eggs
Brian turned in for the night, but Carl and I headed to another swamp.

More Scinax were out and about.


as well as both Agalychnis callidryas and Agalychnis saltator.

Red-eyed Treefrog  Agalychnis callidryas


We also saw another Sibon longifrenes, caimen, green basalisk and the hourglass treefrog. We were pretty gassed and it was getting very late so we started the long trek back to the lab clearing, then the comedor, then hike back to our room. It wasn't totally wasted, although we could barely keep one foot going in front of the other.

Powdered Glass Frog  Teratohyla pulverata
Pulveratta eggs

We also spotted this snake sleeping along the trailside.

Dendrophidian sp, likely percarinatus?
We stumbled back to our rooms, showered, tried to clean equipment and eventually made it to bed. It was extremely late at this time, and if you can imagine, we had a hard time making breakfast in the morning.

I will leave you here for now. More to come in the future!

BH

You can see  Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 here.

Costa Rica: Part 2 More La Selva and Plenty of Glass Frogs

You can see  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 here.

Carl and I set out on a short hike to look for lizards while Brian worked on his project. Carl managed to flip this racer checking under a piece of a fallen log.

Another Dendrophidian sp (likely percarinatus?). This one was much larger than the snake last night.


We saw many Central American Whiptails  Ameiva festiva active around us. I even photographed a little one.


We got decent looks at a Slaty-tailed Trogon?  Trogon massena



In a small clearing in the forest created by a tree fall, we spotted a Norops limifrons. It took some balance to photograph it.


We turned up a Tularan Robber Frog  Craugastor mimus.



We joined Brian for a nice lunch and headed out to one of his study plots after. Unfortunately, it poured on us shortly after arriving. Nice reminder we are in a rain forest.

Pug-nosed Anole  Norops capito



Limon Robber Frog  Pristimantis cerasinus




Litter Toad  Rhaebo haematicus



Brian finished up his plots and we headed back to dry out for the afternoon, recharge some batteries and get a nice hot meal. From here on Carl and I opted to drive to dinner. We were hiking significant distances from the lab clearing out into the forest, and managing our time for that. We also were enjoying a brew or three after returning back from our night hikes with other researchers. By the time we would set out on the long hike to our cabin from the lab clearing it would often be extremely late and night and our energy levels were on empty. We figured we could spend more time in the main forest and then get back to our cabin faster by car to turn in for the night.

On the way to a froggy spot after the fall of night, we noticed one of the La Selva guards hanging out in the lab clearing. Brian jokingly asked him there was snake. He moved his flashlight and we saw this curled right by the path.

Fer-de-lance Bothrops asper


We had a hiked a way back, and turned off the main trail to head to our spot to search for the night. Right after turning, one of us noticed a small snake crawling between the feet of the first person. We had no idea what it was at first, which is usually a very exciting thing!

Rugose Litter Snake  Nothopsis rugosus



The snake was really interesting to look at. Upon close examination, you could see tons of small scales along its head. It was a very different appearing snake.



This night was starting off pretty darn good! I was very excited to be able to see and photograph more  Corytophanes. Brian and I had only seen one in my first trip in 2010 and it was after my camera had died from the moisture. Carl also tends to be a big lizard fan, and it was a species we really wanted him to be able to see.

Helmeted Iguana  Corytophanes cristatus

The frogs were out en masse.

Fitzinger's Robber Frog  Craugastor fitzingeri
After descending down, we had started working the start of the glassfrog stream. I was photographing a pretty neat frog when Brian called out that he had something we probably wanted to see. If we could find it. It took us a while to spot it.

Eyelash Viper  Bothriechis schlegelii
It was a first for Carl and I, and we took many pictures.


I went back to photographing my frog. It wasn't nearly as cool anymore. It was a little  Pristmantis cruentas.



But these guys are always cool. Warszewitsch's Frog  Lithobates warszewitschii


And then the glass frogging began. We saw over 10 of these.

Spiny Cochran Frog  Teratohyla spinosa
And even a pair in amplexus



The Emerald Glass Frogs  Espadarana prosoblepon were also out and calling. We saw four of these tonight, as well as 1 amplectic pair.




Hiking back to the start of the stream, Carl saw a flash of color and yelled "CORAL!!!" We all converged quickly and were elated to see a nice sized Allen's Coral Snake  Micrurus alleni. It was very difficult to photograph.




The hike out we saw a Fer-de-lance  Bothrops asper. I was unable to get pics, read on find out why.

At this point, the humidity again got to my camera. Pardon my rant.

When my Nikon D200 died in 2012 I had been awaiting a never announced Nikon D400 for years. It has still yet to arrive. Not fully committed to full frame, (I refuse to play your full frame upgrade game Nikon) I downgraded in some features to the Nikon D7000. It had much newer tech, a nice new sensor and fit my hand surprisingly better. It is a better camera just because of sensor technology in the many years that had passed. BUT, it does not have Nikon's pro weather sealing. Is it too much to ask for a pro-level crop DSLR with weather sealing Nikon? Clearly wildlife photography needs this. Canon has answered with the 7D and now 7D2 but Nikon continues to keep it's head in the sand. All along, knowing the type of use I would subject my camera to, this has been a concern. Well two years after purchasing, it crapped out. My concerns were realized. The camera became stuck in Liveview mode, and would also not take any pictures. I stuck it in a dry bag with silicon packets. Later that night after much troubleshooting, I figured out that if I popped the battery out while the camera was on, and then place the battery back in, the camera would be on but in an error mode. I could then press the shutter release, and the camera would function in normal mode, but now my LCD review would not work. I could shoot blind, similar to the dark ages of film, but without the instant review or histogram access. I was elated I could still shoot though! After a few hours of keeping the camera on in this mode, the LCD would start to work again, and I could review the pictures from hours earlier. If I turned the camera off at all, this whole process would start again. The trip was not ruined, but how long would it last like this?

The rest of the hike out was fairly uneventful. We may have just been too exhausted to notice anything though. Our nightly ritual became convening in the lab clearing near Brian's office and shariing a brew (usually Pilsen) with other researchers on some hammocks and rocking chairs.  We were doing this tonight when one of the girls started to walk back to her room. She yelled snake a few yards away and crossing the path we saw this.

False Coral Snake  Oxyrhopus petolarius 


We eventually called it a night and wearily stumbled to our car. On the short drive back to our cabin, Carl and I did roadcruise a new species for the trip though.

Canal Zone Treefrog  Hypsiboas rufitelus
What a couple days in the field... More to follow!

BH

You can see  Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 here.

Where does time go?

I can't believe I haven't updated the blog since spring. Well, actually I can totally believe it. It was a busy year and I just find myself spending less time on-line and on social media. I read less blogs, and in turn have less interest in blogging myself.  August also brought the arrival of my first child. Life has changed for the good, and my little man Beckett is very good.

This is not farewell, I just will likely use the blog for big trips when I get around to writing them up. The good news is Carl, Brian and I had an awesome time in Costa Rica last June. Photos to come shortly.

Be safe out there,

BH

Spring? The salamanders are trying!

With a few days in the mid 40s and 50s the last couple of weeks, we are finally almost defrosted here in SE Michigan. I spent some time scouting vernal pools for my goal of a Macomb Co tiger salamander. All week, despite the warm temperatures, I was hiking on inches of ice, and a few of the vernal pools were over half frozen and still covered with snow. Unfortunately, it hasn't rained much at night, and when it has, it has still been really cold. Well it rained most of the day on April 4th during the day, with temps in the mid40s. Despite knowing the pools were still frozen, I decided to try them at night anyway.

I met up with another local (hardcore baby, hardcore) herper Chris B. He was thankfully up for being a good sport and trying something new with me. We headed out to the place I had scouted shortly after dark. It was a cold and very windy walk to the woods. I asked him how warm it was - the phone confirmed it was below 40 here. Still hopeful and desperate, we continued on. It had been a very long and cold winter after all.

Some phone pics of the area from scouting this week.



We walked up to the first of four vernals and were greeted with silence. Well the frogs are smarter than we are. I took a few steps out, and looked down in the beam of my flashlight to see my specific target. An eastern tiger salamander from Macomb Co. Well, that was easy.



We made a few jokes about how easy that was. Chris even joked that if he didn't photograph it we wouldn't see any more. I'll save you all the suspense, it was our only tiger of the night. We searched that pool and 3 others extremely hard, fueled by early success. Within a few minutes it started to "precipitate", by which I mean a freezing cold sleet that later turned to snow. Awesome. We searched the four ponds, two of which were more wooded and, oddly were completely clear of snow and ice. The other two were still very frozen. The water temperature couldn't have been much above freezing. We hiked icy trails, and trudged through ice in the ponds, leaving trails like Antarctic sea vessels. We finished with six salamanders. One tiger, four bluespots, and a small newt. All but the last bluespot were found in the icy/frozen ponds. The last bluespot was actually moving through the leaf litter a ways from any water. All that we checked were males, we didn't disturb a couple of them (Edit: I was reminded by Chris that the salamander pictured below was in fact a female, which makes sense, as it looks like a unisexual from the laterale complex, which are typically all females)




I had flipped a spotted salamander at this location last year, so they are likely still smart enough to remain below ground. We saw no spermatophores or egg masses. I bet this place is just awesome under good conditions.

It will remain a night for the memories though. Can't say I enjoyed the cold, it took me a few hours to defrost at home. May the warmer rains come soon. Thanks to Chris for joining me and being a good sport.

These actually were not my first Michigan herps of the spring. More on that when I can get through pictures.

Island Living - Bimini, Bahamas Part III

Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.

Today I spent my morning herping, and as hard as possible. I was up at the crack of dawn and on the ferry over to South Bimini. I decided to spend as much of the morning walking the roads on South Bimini and exploring. I was hoping to find old homesteads, rock piles, trash, boards, etc. I also was planning on scanning the trees every step of the way to find my last elusive anole species, the twig anole. Quite the agenda for the day!

It started off fast. Right when I got off the land taxi to start the walk, I was able to find 3 out of the 4 anole species in one tree. Of course, there was not a twig anole.

Bimini Bark Anole Anolis distichus bimiensis
Bahaman Brown Anole Anolis sagrei ordinatus

I think this is a dark Bimini Green Anole Anolis smaragdinus lerneri

Things got real slow for a long time after that first tree. I flipped enough trash, palm fronds, and rocks to turn my hands raw. I explored random side roads and trails. I had a virtually impossible time spotting more anoles as well. Roadside in the thick bush just wasn't a great way to try and spot them. Finally, after slogging miles in the hot sun I flipped a piece of cardboard to find a nice little racer. This one did not give me the slip!

Bimini Racer Alsophis vudii picticeps



There was also a large DOR racer in the road to finish off my morning. Molly and I enjoyed a nice lunch and decided to rent a golf cart to explore North Bimini. We traveled all the way up north to the Resorts World resort. This place "seemed" real nice, and was the only place on island that took credit cards for small items. We enjoyed some nice gelato here and I was able to photograph a Palm Warbler calling from one of the trees.


Unfortunately, Resorts World is creating quite the controversy. It is making jobs and helping bring an influx of tourists. The resort is upgrading and enlarging the airport (destroying herp habitat!) to allow for larger jets. They are putting money into upgrading the islands sewers and water infrastructure. For an island culture based on fishing, diving, drinking and Hemmingway, some people think too many tourists may ruin a good thing. I don't really have much of an opinion there. What I do know is they are destroying the vital mangrove ecosystem that is so important to Bimini and the oceans. The fish, sharks, lobster, conch, and sea turtles all rely on the mangroves as a nursery. They talking about putting in a golf course (no room!) and they have already started construction on a major jetty for their large cruiseship/high speed ferry from Miami which has raised concerns over the reefs it is destroying.

We worked our way back south along the beach and I took the chance to flip rocks and logs when able. I was able to find another example of the sphaero species that eluded me earlier, and this time I made the grab. I shot a quick voucher shot for ID purposes, then tried to photograph it in a more natural environment. It disappeared immediately into the rocks. I am starting to hate sphaeros at this point. Lesson learned though - photograph in a room studio! A few more were seen but I couldn't bring any to hand.

There is a neat old shipwreck along the beach we stopped to check out.



From here we returned our cart and headed back to the room to get cleaned up for dinner. We took the taxi over to the south island to try some new dinner spots out and enjoyed a different view of the sunset than we were accustomed to.



This day would be my last dive day. I opted to skip one of the wrecks and stick to shallower water. Somehow, I was the only diver most of the days and essentially got private diving. This had been working to my advantage so far. I like to stay on shallower reefs to optimize bottom time and more photographic opportunities. We dove turtle rocks (hoping for a turtle), and the dive was full of life. The dive guy sketched out though and had me finish the dive at 45 minutes, with 1200 PSI left. What's the point of a shallow private dive then?


Goldentail Moray Gymnothorax miliaris

I guess turtle rocks is actually named because at very low tides the top of the coral formations are visible and look like the backs of turtles. They do sometimes have turtles too. Unfortunately, not today.




 I think this is a Southern Stingray  Dasyatis americana, but I am not positive. It has small tubercules along its back and tail which may make it a Roughtail stingray  Dasyatis centroura? Any stingray experts out there? Sergeant Major  Abudefduf saxatilis, Rock Beauty  Holacanthus tricolor

The second dive was a caribbean reef shark dive. It did not disappoint.

Caribbean Reef Shark Carcharhinus perezi









That night I was able to convince Molly to go on a short night hike. She wasn't super excited about me walking around alone so joined me in the search for another Sphaerodactylus species. After about 10 minutes of searching I spotted our quarry, but it quickly disappeared. Luckily, another one was found under a rock and stayed put long enough to get a photo.


Black Spotted Dwarf Gecko Sphaerodactylus nigropunctatus flavicauda
A Centruroides was also hanging around. Anyone able to help me with the species?


Our last day I went for a last ditch effort hike in the early morning. I was hoping to catch basking snakes and slow lizards in the early morning sun. A great idea, except I chose a location on the west side of the island. It took a few hours of hiking before the lizards even started to come out. I was able to flip this sickly looking Sphaero though. My third species of the trip.

Sphaerodactylus notatus
I also flipped one of the ameivas. My closest look of the trip. This was proof I was out there too early for lizards!




My time was running short though as I had to make the trek back to north Bimini. Boas and twig anoles were just not in my cards. I was seeing and hearing more rustling in the trees though, and branches that were without lizards a couple hours ago now had them. One in particular caught my eye...

Twig Anole Anolis angusticeps oligaspis


I was beaming to finally knock off the last of the anole species on the island. Unfortunately, my time was now very much up and I had to hoof it back to the ferry quickly. Walking back through north Bimini though I spotted this on one of the streets near my hotel.

Bimini Dwarf Boa Tropidophis canus curtis
Pretty tough to find one this way. It was on a small side street, with houses on either side. I couldn't help myself by trying to flip a few items of cover in the last few blocks. My persistence paid off. I finally was able to photograph the north Bimini Sphaero.

Ocellated Gecko Sphaerodactylus argus


A few more items of cover ticked off another one of Bimini's snake species for me.

Typhlops lumbricalis

That afternoon we visited the Bimini Shark Lab. If you like sharks, you should check it out. They have a ton of really fascinating research ongoing in an effort to learn more about these fascinating creatures. At this time, the visit was free, but they asked for a donation.

A view of their lemon shark pens.
Speaking of lemons...
When we visited Bora Bora last year, a diver was attacked by a sicklefin lemon shark (different species, but very similar) the day we had arrived. It was all the buzz on the island, and Molly didn't deal with that too well. She saw many sharks while diving, but we never did see a lemon, and she never had a chance to conquer her fear after hearing the story of the attack.

Conquering old fears!
The Bimini islands were a pretty fascinating place. For such small islands, with tons of cover, they were suprisingly hard to herp successfully. Great company and some nice diving made the trip more than enjoyable though. The weather was amazing the whole time.

Even the dogs enjoy the blue water. Farewell Bimini!
Hope you enjoyed!

BH

Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.

   

 

"Also, there were many objects to overturn, and there was always the chance of finding something unusual beneath any log or rock.... Southeastern Ohio was unquestionably our favorite collecting area." Roger Conant

 

If you have any suggestions or comments please feel free to contact me