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.

 

 

 

       

   

   

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 II

Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.

Today was the big day.


Nurse Shark Ginglymostoma cirratum and Great Hammerhead Shark Sphyrna mokarran
I had been trying to photographing this nurse shark in the sand flats when I noticed the looming shape in the background. The game was on! Technically, not a great shot by any means, but I just love it.





I wish I could have spent all day with the hammers. My limited bottom time just didn't cut it. Looking back I realize this is ridiculous, and I should be extremely thankful to even get a second long glimpse of this regal and magnificent fish. As it was, I got to hang out and get multiple looks. It was hard to convince myself to take a few passes to just focus on the shark and the moment, and to leave the camera pointed down, but it was worth the imprint in my memory of the grace of the shark cruising underwater.

The next dive was much less eventful, but I had my WA lens loaded, and I enjoyed trying to photograph the large schools of fish on the shallow reef. Since returning, I have really gotten a kick out of trying to ID all the fish that were photographed in the picture. It has proved difficult, but rewarding and my fish identification skills should be much improved on future dives.

French Angelfish Pomacanthus paru, Porkfish Anisotremus virginicus (top right with vertical black bars), White Grunts Haemulon plumierii, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, Black Durgon Melichthys niger (top left), Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, Yellowtail Snapper Ocyurus chrysurus (top left), Tomtate Haemulon aurolineatum
Spotted Goatfish Pseudupeneus maculatus, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, White Grunts Haemulon plumierii

Gray Angelfish Pomacanthus arcuatus
Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, Tomtate Haemulon aurolineatum, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, Squirrelfish Holocentrus adscensionis, White Grunts Haemulon plumierii, Spotted Goatfish Pseudupeneus maculatus
Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, Tomtate Haemulon aurolineatum, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, Blue Tang Acanthurus coeruleus, Squirrelfish Holocentrus adscensionis

Atlantic Trumpetfish Aulostomas maculatus, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum, Tomtates Haemulon aurolineatum, Spotfin Butterflyfish Chaetodon ocellatus, Sergeant Major Abudefduf saxatilis, Ocean Surgeonfish Acanthurus tractus, Squirrelfish Holocentrus adscensionis, Blackbar Soldierfish Myripristis jacobus, Doctorfish Acanthurus chirurgus 

The pythons in south Florida may be getting much of the bad press, but another hugely problematic invasive species introduced by the pet trade is the Red Lionfish Pterois volitans. The fish have become widely established on reefs in the caribbean and the gulf. They grow very large, very fast, and eat many of the native reef fishes. They reproduce extremely quickly and have enormous clutches. A recipe for disaster. So far, it seems they have no native predators. Luckily, very strong efforts have been initiated to attempt to help keep their numbers in check. We know they can't be eradicated, but are working hard to provide some form of natural predator - humans! Reef.org ( check out their site for wonderful information and ways to help) is helping lead the way, organizing lionfish hunts and contests and even publishing a lionfish cookbook to provide safe cleaning methods and delicious lionfish recipes - Eat 'Em to Beat 'Em!

Unfortunately, I saw lionfish on every reef dive. My divemaster usually brings a small spear along to do his part, but we didn't have one today. He was pretty sure he had taken care of them all at this dive location. Guess not...
Red Lionfish Pterois volitans, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus, Bluehead Wrasse yellow initial phase Thalassoma bifasciatum (yellow fish to left center), Longspine Squirrelfish Holocentrus rufus (two bottom right, better IDed from photos earlier in sequence), and maybe a schoolmaster Lutjanus apodus

Red Lionfish Pterois volitans, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus (top center with black tails), French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum (bottom center), White Grunts Haemulon plumierii (intermixed, mostly bottom left), Blackbar Soldierfish Myripristis jacobus (left center background), Goatfish Sp. (Red Goatfish Mullus auratus???? - left center red fish in sea of grunts)
I spotted a nurseshark on this dive, which I left to his slumber.

And finally I will leave you with a couple eels spotted on the reef. This was actually quite an enjoyable dive.

Goldentail Moray Gymnothorax miliaris
Green Moray Eel Gymnothorax funebris, Bluestriped Grunts Haemulon sciurus (all over with black tails), French Grunts Haemulon flavolineatum (bottom left), White Grunts Haemulon plumierii (intermixed, mostly center left and center right), and maybe a Blackbar Soldierfish Myripristis jacobus (partially hidden bottom center)???
More Bimini (and sharks, and snakes!) to come very soon.

Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.

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.

Island Living - Bimini, Bahamas Part I

Bimini Part IBimini Part IIBimini Part III.

You might remember from about this  same time last year that I entered the world of underwater photography? I haven't had much of a chance to dive and practice my new hobby since our trip last February. With winter fully upon us, Molly and I decided it would be a nice time to escape the ice and snow. Sounds like a great time for another dive trip!

We decided to stay a little more low key than Bora Bora. We wanted someplace close and easy to travel to quickly. I wanted good diving, (and maybe a snake or two) and Molly wanted warm weather, and a beach. Armed with our wish list, we looked at the Caymans, Utila and the Bahamas. Utila and the whale sharks were our first choice, but we decided it was a little more travel than we were looking for. We decided to try the Bahamas. I was fueled by some amazing images of Great Hammerhead sharks coming out of there, and Dick Bartlett and Jake Scott had some interesting stories of foreign herps.

Bimini was easily reached. We flew from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale, and then picked up a 25 min plane ride for the 50 mile trip due east. There is even a highspeed ferry (cruise ship?) that makes the trip from Florida to Bimini in about 1.5 hours. We had an early flight, and were to land on the island a little after noon. There were some rain delays, but we still got in early enough that our day was not wasted.

I may not be up on the most recent nomenclature for the fish or the herps. I used Reef Fish Identification to Florida, Caribbean and the Bahamas for the aquatic stuff. For the herps I used www.caribherp.org and Island Lists of the West Indian Amphibians and Reptiles from 2012.

Greeting us upon our arrival were the resident bull sharks that hang out around the docks of the Marina. 



Seems like we were at the right place! The next day got off to an early start as there were a couple dives planned for the morning. It was going to be one of my only dive days where sharks were not the focus, as well as I my first time shooting with the camera in a while. I decided to try my hand at macro and focus on the small(er) critters.

I'm still pretty new to trying to ID many of these fish. Corrections welcome!

Squirrelfish Holocentrus adscensionis
Yellowhead Jawfish Opistognathus aurifrons
Blue Chromis Chromis cyanea
Whitespotted Filefish Cantherhines macrocerus
Spotted Moray Eel Gymnothorax moringa



The resort we stayed at had plenty of trees and some of Bimin's herps were easily found on the grounds.
Bahaman Brown Anole Anolis sagrei ordinatus



Bimini Ameiva Ameiva auberi richmondi




Bimini Curly-tailed Lizard Leiocephalus carinatus coryi





Bimini Green Anole Anolis smaragdinus lernerii


Bimini Bark Anole Anolis distichus bimiensis
I also explored the streets around North Bimini a bit, flipping rocks and debris when possible and trying to not be too intrusive of people and their homes. Places that looked inhabitable definitely had inhabitants... More of the species above were seen, as well as a Sphaerodactylus sp. that escaped without definitive ID. I was able to find my fist snake though, the biggest blind snake I have ever seen, flipped under a small board.

Typhlops bimiensis


After, Molly and I enjoyed a decent Valentine's Day sunset facing Florida.


We planned to explore North Bimini a bit the next morning, and then rent bikes to explore South Bimini in the afternoon. North Bimini is where most of the population lives and works. We wandered the local streets and made sure to check out a "museum", The Dolphin House. A native Bahamian has been working on this house for many years now, building it out of reclaimed materials. He has a ton of patience and creativity.




Says he found these washed up on the beach...
I believe this is a loggerhead turtle shell.

I believe this a green sea turtle shell,

He talked about protecting the bimini boa, and even mentioned he had a "baby". It was actually the smaller, dwarf boa species.


We don't miss cold Detroit at all...

That afternoon we rented craptastic bikes and took the ferry over to South Bimini. Plenty of anoles were visible on the trees, and we even got a glimpse of another snake.

Bimini Green Anole Anolis smaragdinus lerneri 


Bahaman Brown Anole Anolis sagrei ordinatus
I had now seen 3 of the 4 anole species. Much of my time was now being spent starting at small branches for the elusive twig anole, and searching low for the boas. It wasn't a boa, but seeing this basking got my blood pumping!

Bimini Racer Alsophis vudii picticeps

Attempts at capture in the midafternoon sun were widely unsuccessful. Further exploration on bikes turned up one more DOR racer.

More to come soon, I promise!

Bimini Part I, Bimini Part II, Bimini Part III.


Dusting off the Cobwebs

Wow.

I knew it had been a long time since I last posted, but I did not realize it had been since March! This year my field season kicked off quickly and I haven't been this active in recent memory. Between hitting the trails, rivers and wetlands harder than ever, my work environment evolving for the good and a new found love in running, my time dissappeared fast. The blog unfortunately took a back seat. It was real hard to justify spending time inside when there were so many things to do outside. I did miss the opportunity to share my experiences and interact with my (very) small viewership.


The weather has taken a turn for the worst here in the midwest though. Days are short and frost is coming. I have been lucky enough to travel a bit this year since March, and while none of my destinations were as exotic as Bora Bora, I have some really cool animals and trips to share. So if you haven't given up on me, stick around. Some new stuff is finally on the way, as well as some new experiences with some of the old Michigan favorites.






See you soon!

Buckeyeherper



   

 

"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