2015 Herp Year in Review - Snakes

I've reviewed everything else, and of course saved snakes for last.  I had a nice year full of lifers in three different states, including PA!  In my other reviews, I've limited it to one photo per species.  I'm gonna go all out on this review because let's face it - there's not many readers (yet), and I'd love to look back on this for myself.

...For I am a collector, but that of images and memories.  Yet hopefully, the animals soon forget me when I'm gone.  

I'll start with Pennsylvania, my home state, and work my way South to the tip of the Everglades National Park and with no rhyme or reason, circle back North, and will eventually get to them all.  These photos probably won't represent 1/3 of the snakes I've found.  But I will include a heavier sampling of the more intriguing species.

1.  Eastern Gartersnake

Eastern Gartersnake - I'll start out with this classic-looking individual.

Eastern Gartersnake - Sometimes they are darker.

Eastern Gartersnake - This blueish individual was cruised in South Florida.

Eastern Gartersnake - This reddish individual was flipped by a friend on a group trip to the  Poconos.

2.  Northern Ring-necked Snake

Northern Ring-necked Snake - I get these in the piedmont and mountainous regions.  This individual, as is obvious, was just beginning to shed when I found it.

3.  Southern Ring-necked Snake

Southern Ring-necked Snake - Truth be told, I live in an intergrade zone.  However, whenever I find a ringneck with a broken ring and belly half-moons I am fine with calling it a Southern.  I flip these with ease in the Pine Barrens.

4.  Northern Black Racer

Northern Black Racer - These are very successful in all habitats in the areas I herp.

Northern Black Racer - I flipped this little guy at a new spot in the Pines.  ...hoping the spot produces some other things.

Northern Black Racer - This guy gave me a run for my money and normally I wouldn't have chased him down but I was with a friend who doesn't get out for herps much.  Upon capture, he did his best ball python impression - weird.

5.  Queensnake

Queensnake - One spot to the West of me produces these regularly.

Queensnake - More from the above spot.

Queensnake - This queen from York County was a bit feisty but settled down  quickly.

6.  Mountain Earthsnake

Mountain Earthsnake - I have made an annual trip to a spot for three years now to find these.  It's a great spot for tons of species, but I can find those other species elsewhere.  I may be crazy to drive 4+ hours for a shot at one of these guys, but the area is gorgeous nonetheless.  A good friend originally told me about this spot.

7.  Northern Copperhead

Northern Copperhead - One of my great triumphs of the year was successfully roadcruising one of these guys in my own county.  I was with Julie and pulled around for a quick snake and ran out of the car without a light or hook.  I yelled frantically at her as I didn't want to lose the snake without a voucher just in case this was the first successful AOR Copperhead in Bucks.  She got what I needed in time, and the rest is history... same snake posted below.

Northern Copperhead - Scale detail of a cruised snake in Lebanon County - another new county for me.  :)

Northern Copperhead - From a group trip in Central PA.  We ended up seeing four of these and 14 Timbers on the same cut.  Not bad!

Northern Copperhead - I inched closer and closer to this guy, for certain he would retreat into his crack, but he didn't.

8.  Eastern Wormsnake

Eastern Wormsnake - I flip these in the Pine Barrens with ease.  I also find them in PA, which is neat, but not this past year.

9.  Northern Scarletsnake

Northern Scarletsnake - These are found primarily in one county in New Jersey.  I tried a handful of times in a different county with no luck yet, but I have a lot of promising spots for the future.  Maybe 2016 will be my year.

Northern Scarletsnake - I flipped this skink with eggs a few cover pieces down from where I let a scarlet go.  The opportunity called for a predator/prey shot. 

10.  Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake - I love ventrals.  I have seen way better, but I liked the red on this anyway.

Northern Watersnake - Baby season made for some fun on a local walk with the family.

Northern Watersnake - It only took like four bites to get this guy to stay still.  New record!

Northern Watersnake - It only took like four bites to get this guy to stay still.  New record!

11.  Smooth Greensnake

Smooth Greensnake - I find these in the Poconos a lot.  They are a snake I always look forward to.

Smooth Greensnake - I'd love to know how many eggs this girl popped out.  These was long and fat.

Smooth Greensnake - This was a hatchling I found on a 50-degree day in late October.  It was a warm Autumn.

12.  Black Ratsnake

Black Ratsnake - This snake shot out in front of me after midnight in the pouring rain somewhere in Virginia while taking my daughter on her birthday trip.  Somehow, I managed to miss it.

Black Ratsnake - A simple profile shot, showing off some nice detail on a gorgeous serpent.

Black Ratsnake - I've been seeing this snake for a few years now.  I've never touched her but have gotten one of her sheds two years ago that measured over seven feet.  I'd love to know her full length, but I'll leave her be.

Black Ratsnake - This gorgeous juvenile rat came meandering out onto the road while roadcruising for amphibians in Maryland.

13.  Northern Brownsnake

Northern Brownsnake - I can see a bunch of these (or dozens) per year if I hit the right spots.  Somehow I managed to only take this awkward shot (other than vouchers) all year.

Ok, I'm gonna break up the regions and post what we were able to turn up during our five day South Florida trip.

14. Florida Green Watersnake

Florida Green Watersnake - I turned up one young one during the trip.  This is a neat looking nerodia and I hope to find a larger individual during my next trip.

15.  Florida Cottonmouth

Florida Cottonmouth - This big guy was found at night while roadcruising through South Florida.  I love cottonmouths. 

Florida Cottonmouth - This young snake was moved off the road.  As you can see, they are every bit as dangerous and aggressive as most people think (sarcasm).

16.  Eastern Mudnsnake

Eastern Mudsnake - This one was hit and dying.  I didn't take anymore than a voucher shot on this snake.  We saw four DOR's through the week.  Sad.

17.  Florida Watersnake

Florida Watersnake - We saw many of these.  Some were better looking than others.  This was a drab adult.

Florida Watersnake - This was a more colorful juvenile showing off some nice bands.

Florida Watersnake - This probably had some mangrove saltmarsh in it.  Either way, look at the color!

18.  Mangrove Saltmarsh Snake

Mangrove Saltmarsh Snake - These can variable and stunning.

Mangrove Saltmarsh Snake - Here was a different colored individual.  I regret not getting better photos of others.

19.  Southern Black Racer

Southern Black Racer - Unfortunately, we saw three living specimens dart off the road in front of us through the week.  This is the best photo I have of one on my resort in Disney.

20.  Florida Scarletsnake

Florida Scarletsnake - We cruised a few of these.  Florida people take these for granted, seriously.  Even if they say they love scarlets, they can't love them as much as me.

Florida Scarlet - The largest one I've ever seen.

Florida Scarletsnake - One of the coolest experiences of the trip was night-hiking these in a mosquito-infested trail with a good friend.  Shining and seeing a flash of color among the vegetation is an adrenaline rush like no other.

Florida Scarletsnake - In a weird turn of events, one of the scarlets took offense to being handled.  Scarlets never bite.  

21.  Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake

Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake - We walked canals for these in some agricultural areas to no avail, but luckily we cruised one late in the day.  This was the size of a 50-cent piece curled up.

Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake - To give an idea of the size, Zach is taking a photo of it about a foot in front of his phone.

21.  Burmese Python

Burmese Python - One of the four we saw.  The first one was roadcruised and honestly, if it weren't for my son I would not have seen it.  Invasive, but beautiful animals.  This blog isn't about what's right and wrong.  ...just the snakes I saw.

Burmese Python - We estimated this to be about 9.5-10 feet long.  Whether we were right doesn't matter... what an awesome snake!

Burmese Python - That's me with the snake for size reference.  While this may be blasphemous, I'm just going to say it.  This was the funnest snake of the year.  We cruised it half onto the road.  We looked in disbelief as I slammed on the brakes.  The snake doubled back into the vegetation.  I ran after it and grabbed it.  I wrestled it out of the tangles and the thing turned and bit me on the leg.  I didn't feel pain, but I felt it.  It struck a few more times before it settled down.  Later, my leg had bled through my jeans.  The natural high hid any inkling of a bite.  In the end, it was no big deal, but like I said - it was FUN.

Ok... I'm gonna move back up North and mix it up a bit.

22.  Eastern Milksnake

Eastern Milksnake - This was the first milk I found of the year.  This was a weird year for me.  I usually obsess over milks, but i really slacked on my Easterns.

Eastern Milksnake - I found this adult on the crawl in the middle of the day at a spot in the Poconos I hadn't been to in three years!

Eastern Milksnake - I cruised this guy in South Central PA on a warm July night.

Eastern Milksnake - This was my last milk of the year.

23.  Coastal Plains Milksnake

Coastal Plains Milksnake - I'll get this out of the way right now... If I found the milk in the Pine Barrens, it fits this category.  This was the first snake of the year, roadcruised.  It was 37"!

Coastal Plains Milksnake - I have a lot of luck flipping these at night.  This guy felt like a superstar, I'm sure.

Coastal Plains Milksnake - I found this guy at a boardline I created a few years ago.  I hadn't been to it since because I was without four wheel drive.  Now that I have a better vehicle, I'm back in business.

Coastal Plains Milksnake - My good friend hung out with this until I could catch up and photograph it.  This is a classic looking coastal in my opinion.

Coastal Plains Milksnake - I actually hiked up this hatchling at a spot I have been to a million times before.  This was the first milk I've ever seen there.

Coastal Plains Milksnake - From a group trip... this snake was found in a rotten log.

Coastal Plains Milksnake - From the same group trip... this awesome snake was found in a small shingle pile.

25.  Northern Red-bellied Snake

Northern Red-bellied Snake - I added this to my list of snakes night cruised in the barrens.

Northern Red-bellied Snake - This DOR, also in the barrens, had a harvestman drinking its blood!

Northern Red-bellied Snake - While they are an uncommon find in South Jersey, in the Poconos they can be plentiful.

Northern Red-bellied Snake - As I said... plentiful.  This shot of three different variations was "as flipped" all under one rock.

26.  Eastern Ribbonsnake

Eastern Ribbonsnake - I only found two of these all year... both in the same spot.  This individual was crossing a path on November 17th at 53 degrees.

27.  Red Cornsnake

Red Cornsnake - This nice adult was cruised in the ENP and he was booking.  We couldn't get a good photo of it, but I wanted to include it.

Red Cornsnake - This little guy was hiked up in South Florida, making me 0 for 2 on decent FL cornsnake photos this year.

Red Cornsnake - Endangered in NJ... I find these with consistency by road cruising at night.  I have now found them on three different roads!

Red Cornsnake - I promise they won't all be at night.

Red Cornsnake - Ok, maybe they won't all be at night.

Red Cornsnake - Ok, last one I promise, but his guy was cruised at 57 degrees!  I beat that record with a 53 degree cruise a week later, but there were a couple snakes on the road so I didn't get great pictures of that one.

Red Cornsnake - Ok, there we have it.  I walked this snake up in the drizzle in September in an area I had cruised one a few weeks before.  This new spot is one of my favorite accomplishments of the year.

Red Cornsnake - This is one of two small corns flipped next to a den in December.  Very exciting!

I'm gonna hop down to three North Carolina species from my daughter's birthday trip in April.

28.  Brown Watersnake

Brown Watersnake - This was actually my lifer and although beat up, deserves a spot in the review.  We saw maybe a dozen hanging out on branches that day.

Brown Watersnake - This was cruised in Florida, interestingly about 20 feet from a cottonmouth on the road as well.

29.  Eastern Cottonmouth

Eastern Cottonmouth - Lily with her first cottonmouth find.

Eastern Cottonmouth - Another juvenile.  The only two adults I saw both got away from me, and I'm not in the business of grabbing such a potent snake by the tail.

Eastern Cottonmouth - This good looking juvenile is showing off its caudal lore (yellow tail).

30.  Common Rainbow Snake

Common Rainbow Snake - One of the most sought out snakes around, I was heartbroken to walk up this dead juvenile, but...

Common Rainbow Snake - My good friend delivered a gem of an adult!  Words cannot describe it.

Common Rainbow Snake

Common Rainbow Snake

Common Rainbow Snake - I'm trying to keep the kid photos light, but this is a lifer Lily will enjoy having over her brothers for every second it stays that way.

31.  Smooth Earthsnake

Smooth Earthsnake - I almost missed this species this year, but a late season road cruise in MD produced one hauling ass on the road in the rain.  I usually find multiple in Southern MD when I strike out every year on Mole Kingsnakes, but I never tried this year.  Myself and a good friend have also flipped one in PA in 2014;  that year was the first time they had been found in PA since 1953!  ...I only tried once in the region in 2015 and came up empty handed.

32.  Eastern Kingsnake

Eastern Kingsnake - Two individuals were cruised in NJ at night this year.

Eastern Kingsnake - This individual was walked up on Lily's trip to VA/NC.

Eastern Kingsnake - Lily loved that snake and this crappy cell phone shot ended up being my favorite photo of 2015, hands down.  We were getting a ride from a ranger in the back of his pick-up to release a different snake where it was found.  This snake went on a little ride but was also returned to where it was found.

Eastern Kingsnake - This thing was MASSIVE and while we didn't find it, I was there for it being returned into the wild after being used in an educational program for a few days.  

Eastern Kingsnake - I know I said I was trying to go light on the kid pics, but I guess I love my daughter more than I love promises.  This is the same snake as above with her holding it for size reference.

Eastern Kingsnake - This was my only daytime king found in Jersey while on a group trip with some all-star herpers.  Too bad it was in shed, but a king is a king.

33.  Short-headed Gartersnake

Short-headed Gartersnake - This was one of those snakes I was just never in range for. It seemed another year would go by and with PA lifers being a hot commodity, I decided to get up at 2:00 one day and flip for them at sunrise before meeting some friends back in central PA at a more reasonable 9:00 AM.  It was brutal but worth it for my only PA lifer of the year. 

Short-headed Gartersnake - I found a few in a short time.  Some were gravid.

Short-headed Gartersnake - I loved their clean lines and ate up a new species that's range is almost all in Western PA.

Short-headed Gartersnake

Short-headed Gartersnake - This was a sub-adult.

34.  Rough Greensnake

Rough Greensnake - This was spotted high in a tree by a friend in VA.  We tag-teamed it and let me tell you - I've never worked so hard to NOT catch a snake.  It ended up in my hand with 2/3 of it into gabbion.  I had to succumb to its wits and let it go with only this capture to show for it.

Rough Greensnake - Back up in the Pine Barrens, I proved to myself for the second year in a row that I could shine greens sleeping in trees at night.

Rough Greensnake - I found this guy hanging out in the vegetation during the day .  He didn't know it, but he'd become one of my favorite photos of the year.

35.  Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake - My first of the year was found by a den in the Pines.

...the whole song and dance.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake - This thing was downright sick to look at!  Found on Lily's trip to VA/NC.

It was cute too!

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake -  This was a snake my good friend had become acquainted with and it was a beast.  ...the largest hog I had ever seen.

Nate with the hog above for size reference.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake - This large girl was found on a group trip and delivered some pretty nasty mustard colored feces and musk all over me.  Even in shed... WORTH IT.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake - This silver beauty was flipped under a railroad tie on the same trip in the evening.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake - This was a gorgeous Halloween phase hog I found with a good friend.  This was how it was laying when spotted.

Unfortunately it was nervous and pulled the death feign without us even touching it

36.  Timber Rattlensnake

Timber Rattlesnake - My first timber of the year was surprisingly on the crawl on April 13th.   Very strange.

Timber - My first PA timber of the year was found crawling across our path on the way to a nice basking spot.  We ended up finding eight that day in May.

Timber Rattlesnake - A nice big adult in the Pine Barrens... this was flipped at 53 degrees!  *Yes, I know 53 degrees comes up a lot. I swear that's just a coincidence.

Timber Rattlesnake - The kids and I found a new spot in the Poconos for timbers this year.  Here they are with the snake that proved the spot.

Timber Rattlesnake - Sometimes you can peer under boulders in good habitat and get lucky.

...this is the same snake laying out later in the day.

Timber Rattlesnake - I took this self-portrait with a snake we found in the Poconos on a group trip.

Timber Rattlesnake - This big adult was cruised by some friends and I had happened to be heading in that direction, so they hung out with it for five minutes so I could see her.  

Habitat - The kids and I checked this habitat out.  These brush piles looked great and sure enough, we found two sheds.

Timber Rattlesnake - On a different day, I would find a snake nearby the above photo.

Timber Rattlesnake - A trip out to central PA to herp with good friends netted us 14 timbers in one spot.  I didn't get many photos as it was pouring half the time.

Timber Rattlesnake - With a meal that it had no interest in... at least while we were watching.

Timber Rattlesnake - Another successful barrens cruise.  I believe I cruised four this year!

Timber Rattlesnake - Back into the Poconos, we had this timber curled up snug in a hollowed out tree stump.

Two Timbers

Timber Rattlesnake - My last timber of the year came in October and was the best looking barrens specimen I have ever encountered.

37.  Northern Pinesnake

Northern Pinesnake - My first pine of the year was a little one near a den in April.

Northern Pinesnake - It was a cold morning in early Spring.  On my way home from a birding trip, the sun popped out and it hit 50 pretty quickly.  I was nearby a spot on my way home.  As luck would have it, I spotted this gnarly looking adult within five minutes.

Northern Pinesnake scale detail

Northern Pinesnake - This was the best looking pine of the year.  The photos can't do it justice.  We would find three that day on a group trip, but none would hold a candle to this snake.

The same snake as above, but to show off how white it was...

Northern Pinesnake - This was a Christmas Eve snake with a good friend. 

...There's something romantic about finding snakes during the day, going to a family party that night, and knowing Santa is coming for your kids the next morning.  I remember the hour long ride home.  It was almost 70, drizzling, and the windows were down.  The air felt amazing.  I called Julie to tell her of the excitement of finding a pine - a story she has heard numerous times.  I listened to my favorite music, felt the gift of the weather over my skin, enjoyed that high of just finding one of my favorite snakes, and anticipated Christmas morning for my kids 16 hours away.  I said to myself, this is the happiest I've been all year.  And it was genuine and true.

...step into the outdoors.

2015 Herp Year in Review - Salamanders

Salamanders are my second favorite group of herps.  They are far above #3, and I couldn't tell you what group holds that spot.  I like everything besides snakes and salamanders equally... probably.  All that said, I didn't get to travel for any salamander lifers this past year.  I'm glad I'm doing this review because it helps me set my goals for the upcoming year and that will definitely include some salamanders I've never had the chance to meet.  I certainly enjoyed all my Northeastern buddies though!

Eastern Red-backed Salamander - Walk into the woods in Spring or Fall and you can flip 1000 of these if you wish.  This particular individual was gorgeous.

Spotted Salamander - I find these guys in Spring migration across multiple states, often by the hundreds.  This particular one was found recently and I got to shoot it with my new macro lens!

Northern Two-lined Salamander - These are ubiquitous steamside salamanders that I take for granted every year.  This year, I want phenomenal photos.  Good news is I can do it during the Winter.

Long-tailed Salamander - These weren't posed and I loved their positioning in the mud as they were flipped, so this choice made the cut.

Jefferson Salamander - The ugly cousin of the mole salamanders in the Northeast, this guy has them all beat by being the first to the vernals in Spring.  In fact, males are often leaving the pools as Spotteds arrive.

Northern Dusky Salamander - Looking back, these were probably the first herps I "targeted" as my Uncle would take me to a creek when I was 5-6 to find black salamanders.

Red Salamander - The kingpin of the stream and seepage salamanders in the Northeast.  These are the salamanders everyone wants to see.   Who could argue?

Blue-spotted Salamander - I find these in Northern NJ where studies have been done and pure forms have been found.  I couldn't tell you if these are pure or not without a DNA test, but they look good enough for me as just a common herp-enthusiast.

Red-spotted Newt - I've seen better looking individuals, but this is my first one encountered with my aforementioned new macro lens.  I apologize for being bias towards the new photographs.

Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander - I find these when I head over into central PA.  I have been getting there for about five straight years now and they are always on the priority list.

Marbled Salamander - I find these in multiple habitats in multiple states.  Our Fall breeders, these guys are always an exciting find in September.  I've been fascinated with them since the beginning.  The way they lay their eggs at the edge of vernal pools has been a favorite story of mine to non-herpers.  ...even if those non-herpers are rolling their eyes as soon as I shut up.

Northern Slimy Salamander - Just as their name states, pick one of these up and your hands will have a sticky glue on them that will trap dirt on the surface through a few hand-washes.  

Four-toed Salamander - Our smallest salamander.  It could be their diminutive stature that makes them so appealing, I'm not sure.  They just are!

Eastern Tiger Salamander - Endangered in NJ, DE, MD, and extirpated from PA long ago, these are highly sought after by herpers.  They are Winter breeders, making them a hard find.  That said, they offer some unique earth-tones with arguably the craziest eyes of any Northeast herps... perhaps being rivaled only by Eastern Spadefoots.

Northern Spring Salamander - I find these in the Poconos and deep into the montane regions of PA.  These are a neat find and always surprise me with their impressive size when I flip them.

Eastern Hellbender - This is the largest salamander in North America.  I was lucky enough to get all of my kids to see one this year, including my daughter who was both creeped out and intrigued by them.  These guys are in trouble in the state.  We'll see what the future holds.

2016 - I will get some new salamanders.  I must!  My brain is storming already.  I'm excited.

...step into the outdoors.