Ohio Reptiles and Amphibians, 2021

Here are some reptiles, amphibians, and a few other things that I observed in southeastern Ohio in 2021. There is also one out-of-state photo buried in here. For the rest of my out-of-state stuff and years gone by, visit Carl's Photos Etc...

We had some warm rains in late February, so Roxanne and I went out and did some amphibian looking. We were not disappointed.

A Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).

A Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum).

A very green Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens).

A Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris).

A Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer).

My buddy Todd visited in early March. We did a nice hike that I had not done in over 10 years. I have no idea why I waited so long to do it again.


Opal Falls.

Another look.

Interesting ice needles.

This looked like Mud Salamander habitat.

Indeed it was. A larval Mud Salamander (Pseudotriton montanus).

A closer look.

Once upon a time, this was the site of Camp Ophir Falls, a Boy Scout camp in southeast Ohio. Farther back in time, it was a private retreat. Before then, there was an iron furnace located here. And I am sure the native Americans thought this was a special place as well. One of the old timers at Chief Logan explained to me several years ago about this location being a former Boy Scout camp, and he was quite surprised that I had actually been there. I have no idea why the scouts moved their camp from here to Chief Logan (several miles north), but I bet Mead Paper was involved. It's a good distance from any road and pretty well reclaimed by mother nature nowadays. The late afternoon sun was kind of harsh, but it is still beautiful.

A closer look at the falls. It was a great hike.

When hiking around in the woods this time of year, I often see these odd plants on the ground with rather large green leaves. I finally decided to figure out what they are. Rox and Harvey Ballard had a hand in helping me i.d. these things. It turns out they are orchids. These two species grow large leaves in the late fall. Then in the late spring the leaves die and the orchid flowers. The timing of the leaves is pretty much backwards compared to a typical plant. Apparently, they do this to take advantage of the sun that can come through when the trees do not have their leaves.

Puttyroot Orchid (Aplectrum hyemale), with a hand for scale.

Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor).

Breeding habitat for Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica) and Mountain Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris brachyphona). It looked to me like somebody drove the vehicle up the ravine as far as they could and then they torched it. Kind of funny hearing all of the frogs calling from around it.

A Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona), with mud on its face (big disgrace).

Another Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona).

A Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) larva.

An adult Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber).

I also did some looking around at night.

A couple of Mountain Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris brachyphona).

A Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica).

Amplectant Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer).

Amplectant Mountain Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris brachyphona).

An American Toad (Bufo americanus).

A Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona).

A Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona).

Finding the critters out at night is always fun. Now back to various odds and ends.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. An old Box Turtle shell.

The Pennsylvanian sandstone in SE Ohio tends to form large blocky outcrops.

This particular outcrop is known as Chimney Rock and is said to be haunted.

A Long-tailed Salamander (Eurycea longicauda), as found under a rock. This is the first adult I've ever seen in March.

Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana). You might be wondering about the blue speckles in the background. It is overspray from the forestry people recently marking trees in the area. I didn't notice it when I took the photo, but now I think it's kind of funny.

More Round-lobed Hepatica. You can see the rounded leaves on this one. These were in Ross County. Closer to Athens, I tend to see the Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba).

Yet more Round-lobed Hepatica.

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria).

A nice seepage-fed pool. It seems that Four-toed Salamanders do not occur in this particular area. If they did, they would surely find this spot to their liking. Note the long shadows from the early morning sun.

A Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona), found near the seepage.

A spring-fed pool.

A Northern Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus porphyriticus) found in the pool.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).

A pretty stream. Two-lined Salamanders and Red Salamander larvae were seen here.

A Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) larva. This individual was quite light colored.

A closer look. It has an interesting “ghost” look to it. It's neat how well you can see the eye balls through the skin.

The Wilson Tunnel in Meigs County, Ohio. Over 100 years old and still in service.

My first Ohio snakes of the year. Two Black Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula nigra), as found under a board. Not a bad way to get started.

A Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum), as found under a board.

Peak redbud in southeast Ohio.

A Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta), as found under a large sheet of industrial roofing tin.

A closer look. It was likely entering a shed cycle.

It took a moment for my brain to unpack this one. At first I had a flashback to a Speckled Racer that I flipped in Belize... Shown as flipped.

The Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra) and Black Racer (Coluber constrictor), after they had separated a little bit.

A Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta), as found under cover.

After I nudged it bit, so it would show its face.

A Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra), as found under a board.

Star Chickweed (Stellaria pubera).

This is a spring-fed pool in the floodplain of a creek. Several female Four-toed Salamanders (Hemidactylium scutatum) had recently laid their eggs in the moss along the waterline. The pool also had a gazillion (to use a scientific term) Wood Frog tadpoles in it. It probably also has Mud Salamander larvae, but having to sort through all of the tadpoles makes searching for them difficult, so I did not really try. Unfortunately you can also see on the right where some ATVs have driven through the pool recently.

There are two Four-toed Salamanders and their eggs in this photo, where I had peeled back the moss for a moment to take a photo.

This pool lies just above the confluence of two creeks. Note also the sandy soil at this location, which is reminiscent of many creeks in the southeastern U.S. I had searched this ravine extensively for Mud Salamanders in the spring of 2007 without any success. However, it seemed to me that they should be here. And if they were, this sort of pool would be the place. I will also mention that I believe Mud Salamander “spots” have an enhanced probability of being located near the confluence of creeks. The floodplains tends to be a little wider in these situations and there is more opportunity for the underground hydrology to do something interesting.

My intuition proved to be correct in this case. A Mud Salamander (Pseudotriton montanus) larva, from the above pool. The pool also contained an old Spotted Salamander egg mass.

A closer look.

I will take a moment here to pay tribute to Ralph Pfingsten, who passed away in March of 2021. I first encountered Ralph in person on March 4, 2004, when he gave a talk on his Ohio Mud Salamander research at an Ohio amphibians conference in Columbus. I still have my notes from this meeting. The main thing I remember from his talk is him bemoaning the poor locality information included with most of the older records. He gave as a specific example a locality that was only described as “near Byer.” Soon after, he provided me with considerable advice on how to search for Mud Salamanders. His methods for dipnetting for larvae were particularly useful. I went on to have some success in finding them, and may have even been able to give Ralph a couple of tips. Amusingly, the first Mud Salamander I ever found turned out to be from “near Byer.” We co-wrote the chapter on Mud Salamanders in Amphibians of Ohio, which was published in 2013. Ralph had very broad interests and was extremely knowledgeable about the history of this region, especially railroads and iron furnaces. Our last communications were in the spring of 2020. We discussed the occurrence of Mud Salamanders in Meigs county, where I had just succeeded in documenting them. There was an old Meigs County record that we decided not include in the distribution map in Amphibians of Ohio, because it was poorly documented (vague locality, the specimen was only referenced in a paper as being in a now long-gone private collection). All things considered, a very appropriate end to our collaboration. He will be missed.

Great White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum).

Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides).

A Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra).

A young Dekay's Snake (Storeria dekayi), as found under some rubbish. This snake was born last summer.

A Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum).

A closer look.

A young Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra), as found under a board. It was born last summer.

A Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum), found in an old swimming pool liner.

A Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra).

A Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra), as found under a board.

A Blanchard's Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans blanchardi). The distribution of this species in southeast Ohio is perplexing.

A Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus), deep in shed. It seems the shed cycle disrupts the coloration of this species more than most.

An attractive Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum), as found under cover.

A normal looking Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus), as found under a tarp.

Wild Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum).

An Eastern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus) found on a wood pile.

Fire Pink (Silene virginica).

A pair of mating Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina), as found by Rox and a friend in the woods behind our house. I'm glad to see the next generation is in the works.

American Toad (Bufo americanus), standing proud.

A Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus) found out on a rainy night. It appears to have a pebble hitchhiking on its back.

A Green Frog (Rana clamitans).

A young Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) seen out in the rain with the amphibians.

A Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum).

A Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus), as found under a board.

A Black Racer (Coluber constrictor), deep in shed. Shown almost as found under a board.

A Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra), as found under cover.

A Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus), as found under a rock. I love the iridescence on these snakes.

A Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra), as found under a board.

A Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum), as found under a board.

This is a bit of a Hatfield-McCoy-type situation in my area. One neighbor was upset with another neighbor for killing foxes and other issues, as the sign alludes. At first I thought it was kind of amusing, but it is actually rather sad. Apparently the courts are involved and there are protection orders.

A more attractive Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum), as found under a board.

An Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina), as spotted on top of a board in the rain.

A Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum), as found under a board.

A subadult Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra), as found under a board. It is in shed.

A pair of black snakes, as found under a board. The upper one is a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) and the lower one is a Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra).

A fist full of fossorials. All found under one carpet. Three Wormsnakes (Carphophis amoenus) and a Smooth Earthsnake (Virginia valeriae).

A better look a the Smooth Earthsnake.

An Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina), as spotted by my son Ryan on a rainy day.

A Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus), as found under carpet.

A Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae), almost as found under some carpet scraps.

A fawn that my son Ryan and I saw while hiking. It was under a cedar tree in a rain storm. We felt kind of bad for it, but hopefully mommy was returning soon.

An Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii) found out on a rainy night.

A another look (with my cellphone) of the same Spadefoot.

A Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis).

A young Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) that my brother-in-law and I ushered off the road along the southern shore of New Jersey. The piece of glass serves as a reminder of the challenging environment they face.

A Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), as found under a large piece of metal.

Oops. I drove a little bit too far off the side of the road to let a truck pass. The slope was super loose and the car just slid perpendicular to the road. Fortunately, the uphill tires caught the edge of the road, and it didn't go further than this. This is the first time in my life I've ever needed to call a tow truck to get unstuck, but it was well worth it.

A Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta), as spotted in an old broken stump.

A “thick” Black Kingsnake, as found under a board. I'm pretty sure it's got a good-sized snake in its belly. The loose coils also suggest this. I did not disturb it further.

A closer look. Someone on facebook remarked that this was an absolutely perfect specimen. I am inclined to agree!

A Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta), as found under a board.

I hiked up on a board and saw this...

The Black Ratsnake that was heading under the board.

A Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix), almost as found under cover.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta).

Amplectant Cope's Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis).

A pair of male Green Frogs (Rana clamitans) that are wrestling. They kept this up for a couple of minutes.

An Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens).

A Green Frog (Rana clamitans) in that awkward stage between tadpole and metamorph.

An Ambystoma larvae. It must be either a Spotted or Jefferson salamander.

With all of the amphibian life, it was no surprise that a Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) was here too.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). I do not see this one very often in southeast Ohio.

Ox Eye (Heliopsis helianthoides).

Some particularly vibrant Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa).

A spunky Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta). I spotted its tail sticking out of the weeds on the right side of road as I drove up on it.

This summer, my friend Jeff Davis offered me the opportunity to visit a remarkable salamander situation. It is a springhouse located on private property in southwest Ohio that is home to Cave Salamanders (Eurycea lucifuga). This species is restricted to areas of limestone geology and in Ohio probably only occurs in the extreme southwest corner of the state. I had never seen this species in Ohio before, so I took advantage of the opportunity and we met at the springhouse on August 4.

The unassuming entrance to the springhouse. It is over 100 years old. The structure is built into a steep hillside, such that most of the walls are in contact with the ground, which keeps the rooms nice and cool. The door to the left goes to a root cellar. The springhouse room is located behind the wooden door. Springhouses were constructed around springs to keep animals and debris out of the water so that it could be kept clean for human use. Springhouses were also used as a walk-in fridge for the storage of perishables. The lower-humidty, but still cool, root cellars were used for storing root vegatables.

It turns out the inside walls of the springhouse were covered with Cave Salamanders. Interestingly, they were seldom observed to perch on the walls with their heads pointing downwards. I count 45 Cave Salamanders in this photo. We conservatively counted 207 of them in the springhouse. Several more were seen in the root cellar and nearby cisterns.

A closer look at some of them.

A lone individual. The adults are 4-6 inches long.

Some of them, such as this one, were underwater in the outflow channel that goes around the perimeter of the floor. The salamanders in the water were much more skittish than the ones on the walls for some reason.

Apparently, these salamanders return to the spring head in large numbers this time of year as a part of their annual cycle. Later in the summer or fall, they will breed and lay eggs deep underground in the spring. Many of the salamanders, such as this one, were females clearly showing eggs in their abdomen area.

A ventral photo of a female with eggs.

I think this photo of some salamanders hanging out on the plumbing is my favorite.

I mentioned above in the discussion of Ralph Pfingsten a March 2004 Ohio amphibians conference. There was also also a talk by Jeff Davis about Spadefoot Toads and talks by Greg Lipps about Cricket Frogs, Four-toed Salamanders, Cave Salamanders, and Green Salamanders. I remember Greg showing photos of Cave Salamanders at this springhouse in his presentation. It was nice to see them in person. I am also glad that the owners of the springhouse are committed to preserving this unique resource.

A “stick” in the road.

It is actually a Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta). This is a particularly black individual for southeast Ohio.

A closer look.

Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculat) found growing in an open area that was cleared of vegetation last year. There is also some Butterfly Weed growing up in the background.

A Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae).

Another Smooth Earth Snake, as found under cover.

On August 7, a friend and I were searching for snakes in some rubbish, including this folded over cushion. It had a clutch of racer eggs between the folds. This species is known for sometimes laying its eggs in seemingly questionable places, so this was not that surprising.

The eggs between the folds. Got to love the "do not remove" sticker... I checked this clutch again on August 21, and the eggs had not hatched yet.

The eggs on August 29. All of the eggs had hatched successfully. I guess mommy racer knew what she was doing.

A Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) that my friends and I kicked up in the forest. The camouflage of these snakes in the leaf litter never ceases to amaze.

A service station of yesteryear. In Hamden, OH.

Sometimes that long blade of grass lying on the road turns out to be something special. A Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus), as found on a country road.

A closer look.

The persistence of Trump political signage into the late summer around here was something I found rather interesting. The elements are taking their toll on some of them. Others are new, where people have planted the flag for 2024.

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis).

Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

A couple of snakes, as found under a board. The one on the left is a Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta) and the one on the right is a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor).

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).

Ox Eye (Heliopsis helianthoides).

A hatchling Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum), as found under cover.

A Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus), as found under some debris.

A young Red-bellied Snake, doing its best to look like a ringneck.

Another look. It seemed to be a shed cycle.

Five species of small fossorial snakes occur in southeast Ohio: the Ringneck, Worm, DeKay's, Red-bellied, and Smooth Earth. The Red-bellied is the least commonly encountered in the areas that I visit. I feel lucky to have seen one this season. The site where this snake was found is a particularly productive one that I have been searching regularly, since starting in 2012. I have seen an excellent diversity of snake species here: Black Racer, Black Rat, Black Kingsnake, Milksnake, Re-bellied, Garter, Smooth Earth, Copperhead, Worm, Ringneck, and Hog-nosed. All of these have been reasonably abundant, except for the Red-bellied (2 seen), Garter (1 seen), and Hog-nosed (1 seen). It is likely that the DeKay's Snake is absent from this site.

My friend Ryan and a large Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra).

A recently-hatched clutch of 11 snake eggs was found under a board. There were also four hatchling Black Kingsnakes present. They were preparing to shed their skin for the first time.

A Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum), as found under a board.

A hatchling Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus).

Another look.

A pair of snakes, as found under a board. On the left is a Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra) and on the right is a Black Racer (Coluber constrictor).

Another Black Racer, as found under cover.

A Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta), as found crossing a path one evening.

A closer look.

A Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis), as found on a road. It seemed as if I was going to complete the 2021 field season without seeing a live Gartersnake in Ohio. However, I saw three on the night of October 15, while roadcruising in the rain for amphibians. The one shown here is one of them.

A Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra), as found under a board. This was one of four seen on October 17. These would prove to be the last snakes that I saw in 2021.

On Christmas Eve, Ryan and I went for a great hike in the Hocking Hills.

The head of a deep gorge. It is about 100' straight down to the bottom.

Looking up from below.

A Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) larva.

A closer look.

A Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera) larva.

A boulder with a lovely carpet of clubmoss. Looking very Christmasy. I believe it is the Shining Clubmoss (Huperzia lucidula).

A closer look.

Another Red Salamander larva. This one was smaller.

Ryan and I went on a similar hike on New Year's Eve. This time we saw a Northern Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus porphyriticus) larva.

That's it for 2021. Here is a summary of the live snakes that I saw in Ohio this year:

     species number seen
Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) 24
Black Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula nigra) 66
Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum) 19
Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) 1
Black Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoleta) 11
Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) 1
Dekay's Snake (Storeria dekayi) 10
Red-bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata) 1
Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) 3
Smooth Earth Snake (Virginia valeriae) 5
Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) 10
Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) 4+babies
Worm Snake (Carphophis amoenus) 18
Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus) 51

I cannot complain about that. As I sit here typing this on New Year's day, it's 55F and raining outside. I'm going to try road cruising this evening and get started on 2022!