Especially now that the herps are active, as I'll have more to talk about in between camera trap photos!
As a little background, let me tell you about this project. I have two study sites that I'm comparing mammal and herp communities at. The camera traps are part of that project, but I've also got a suite of other survey equipment deployed for small mammals and herps.
At each site we are surveying three habitats. In each habitat we have a transect of 10 cover boards and a drift fence (200 ft of fencing with three types of live trap: funnel traps, box traps and pitfalls).
So, for those of you keeping track, that's 60 coverboards (hauled out on the back of your's truly last year) and 1,200 ft of fence dug in (again, by your's truly). The boards create cover, and a microclimate beneath that are attractive to herps and small mammals. They are passive, so you can go out and flip them whenever. The drift fences also capture herps and small mammals. Problem is, they are not passive. If the traps are engaged, you have to check them every 24 hrs and release the critters captured.
We are also supplementing with sherman traps (only for small mammals).
So, I run the surveys in the summer and off semesters, and in the semesters that I teach Wildlife Ecology, the students run the surveys as part of their lab exercises.
Two weeks ago, the drift fences were opened for the first time (no class this semester...so it's done by me, or any student willing to volunteer). Because the semester is still in session, time is limited, and we are only opening them for one or two 24 hr perios per week.
In the first week: no captures.
In the second week: a single cricket frog and a white-footed mouse (and that's it for ALL of that survey equipment!).
Clearly, stuff was not ready to start hopping yet.
Today, I had the first good haul of herps to indicate the season is upon us (I hope!).
First, in one of the grassland coverboard transects, got a cute little juvenile racer (Coluber constrictor).
In fact, Uhler et al. (1939) reported the prey occurence (by volume) in the stomachs of racers surveyed in Virginia as follows:
- caterpillars and moths=10%,
- moles and lizards=6%,
- other insects/arthropods=5%
Interestingly, a different trend was observed in Illinois by Klimstra (1959):
- insects = 48%
- mammals = 43.5%
- birds = 16.5%
- THEN reptiles= 12%.
- Insects = 77%
- mammals = 15%
- snakes = 5%
My next coverboard discoveries occurred in the woods, specifically in lowland deciduous woods. There is a wooded riparian area (stream corridor) nearby, and a number of ephemeral wetlands in the general vicinity. That means one thing! GREAT SALAMANDER HABITAT!
The first volunteer was a very young white-spotted slimy salamander (Plethodon cylindraceus). He was under a board located within 15 ft of an ephemeral pool. He was so small that I actually almost didn't see him.
Luckily, in my particular part of the state, I only have to worry about one (P. cylindraceus, the white-spotted slimy salamander). Whew!
I round out this post with another coverboard encounter: the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).
Drift fence captures to be reported in the future!
Beane, J.C., J.C. Mitchell, W.M. Palmer, and J.R. Harrison III. 2010. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia (2nd edition). University of North Carolina Press.
Brown, E.E, 1979. Some snake food records from the Carolinas. Brimleyana 1:113-124.
Fitch, H.S. 1963. Natural history of the racer Coluber constrictor. University of Kansas, Publications of the Museum of Natural History 15:351-468.
Hamilton, W.J., Jr., and J.A. Pollack. 1956. The food of some colubrid snakes from Fort Benning, Georgia. Ecology 37:519-536.
Nussbaum, R.A., E.D. Brodie, Jr., and R.M. Storm. 1983. Amphibians and reptiles of the pacific northwest. University of Idaho Press.
Klimstra, W.D. 1959. Food of the racer, Coluber constrictor, in southern Illinois. Copeia 1959:210-214.
Uhler, F.M., C. Cottam, and T.E. Clarke. 1939. Food of snakes of the George Washington National Forest, Virignia. Transactions of the North American Wildlife Conference 4:605-622.