Sauntering through the Sandhills

Jefferson

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Well, it's that time of the year again: February. When I lived in Michigan, it was the most miserable month of the year, the month where spring started to seem tantalizingly close but the anticipation of new herping, new birds, new life made every single day get longer. Now that I'm in Virginia, February has some hope. Sometimes it's warm enough to herp right here, and if it's not, it's a short four-hour drive down into some of the most biodiverse herp country in North America: the Sandhills.

So it was that this Tuesday, the 21st, I loaded up the herp mobile and chugged southeast across the mountains, bound for North Carolina's verdant sandhills to get a few lifers and see a good friend, Bethany. Upon arriving at my destination, an RV Campground, I met my friend and we met our host at the campground, a woman who owns and regularly fires AR-15s, socializes with the local Lumbee Indians, and is a religious independent. She's an American original to be sure, like Charles Lindbergh, the Oreo Pizza, and atomic warheads. After we searched a lakeside finding only cricket frogs and masses of amphibian eggs for a few hours, the owner took us out on her golf cart to give us a tour of the property. In so doing, we happened upon a seep so muddy and slow that it looked like moving chocolate cake. Luckily, the seep had some cover in it, old plywood boards that used to be golf cart bridges. Under these, we saw two salamanders: an Eastern Mud Sally and an Atlantic Coast Slimy, both lifers for Bethany, and both of which I needed better pictures of anyhow. After that, we rounded out the herping day by setting some minnow traps in the ponds and lakes of the campground, baited with shrimp and glow sticks. Side note: herpers are the only people on earth who would try to bait something inedible into a trap with some of the most expensive seafood!!

The next morning, as the dew evaporated off pine straw and turkey oak leaves, we started by checking our traps, which had turned up nothing over night and then proceeded to some public land, where we started with a small Sandhills pond so clear it looked like a stationary mountain stream, the bottom lined with assorted oak leaves. While I flipped logs around the edge, Bethany dip-netted, and before long, called out, "Got ONE!!" It was a Broken-striped Newt, the most important target species of the trip for me. Before leaving the pond, we had found three more of these red-lined beauties, the last one appreciably larger than the first three. After that, we checked some tin for snakes, but there were none to be had despite the unseasonably high temperatures, only a few Little Brown skinks. Then, we ventured north to a park reputed to have Sandhills Eurycea, Dwarf Waterdogs, and a few snakes, but found only another Slimy and some skinks beside a switch cane seep. After discussing trap designs with a gregarious naturalist, we set a few new ones on a different part of the RV camp owner's property, this area a bottomland swamp, which rounded out the day's herping.

Day three started with another check of the traps, again empty, before we ventured west toward where the Sandhills and Piedmont meet. We walked along a small lake looking for turtles and checking the Brussel sprout-odored seeps for Eurycea, with no luck on the salamander front but spotting multiple Yellow-bellied Sliders along the trail. We also spotted some Cricket frogs in the seeps and skinks along the trailside. With that, we broke for a fish hatchery supposed to have Cottonmouths, but no such luck. We did find a young slider in the hatchery's channel and I passed through a southern right of passage when I accidentally sat down on a fire ant nest to photograph the turtle...ouch! Besides a fishing spider big enough to take down a toad, this spot yielded nothing else and we went to lunch with one last shot at snakes to come, which yielded nothing once again.

The next morning, we checked out of the campground and retrieved all our traps, one of which had finally caught something: a Carpenter Frog an asparagus-green frog with handsome tawny stripes on the sides, a lifer for both of us. With this, we headed across the South Carolina border bound for our last spot, stopping at the Doghouse Diner in Hartsville on the way to get a taste of the Deep South. Our last stop yielded a few cricket frogs with bright red stripes but no salamanders, as most of the seeps were dry. With that, the trip was over herping-wise, and I drove back to Virginia with 3 lifers bagged: Carpenter Frog, Newt, and Little Brown Skink. Not a bad way to start the year! Happy herpin' y'all!

Jefferson
 

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Jefferson

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Thanks for the kind words Sith! It sure was a blast down there in the Tar-Heel State. The newts are Broken-striped newts, though, a subspecies of Eastern Newt. The fully "Striped Newt" is much rarer and is only found in North Florida and South Georgia to my knowledge. Happy new herping year to you!
Jefferson
 

Cloppy

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Is that a ground skink? I look for those all the time in Georgia.
 

Biev

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That's one blissful-looking turtle! Kinda makes me want to be her right now...
 

AdvythAF

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Wonderful finds! Really wish I could be in the East herping for those species haha.
 
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    The tank is still running, I am cycling it (for 2 weeks) with guppys
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    Probably too soon, I read it take 6-8 weeks to cycle
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    How can I upload a pic?
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    hey! Don’t blame it on yourself. It happens. Is this your first axie? I’m a newer owner as well if so (I’ve had mine since Oct). I know how scary it can be
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    He's my first yes...
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  • Paige1warren:
    if you have the API water test kit, check all the perimeters in the tank. We can check the cycling process with the perimeters. And I’m actually not sure how to upload a pic lololol I thought it would be easier but I tried it myself and now I’m confused! It says to attack a link, I’m not sure how that works
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    Dont beat yourself up over this, your little guy will be ok 😊
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    I will do that for sure this afternoon! I really hope he pulls through :( He's so freakin cute
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    Thanks for your help :)
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    You’re so welcome! Keep a close eye on him and try to offer food a couple times a day. Maybe try some pellets too for a different smell, might get him interested. Keep me updated!
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    Will do, thanks!
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  • Josiane:
    @Paige1warren, turns out my pH was spot on, the test strips I had used were no good. I bought an API kit and the levels are all fine. So not the issue :( I just posted in the forum
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    Hey @Josiane ! I just responded to your post. Your little guy actually looks fairly decent for his size despite not eating well. I think it is stress from the environment
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  • Paige1warren:
    Also I forgot to add to my response on ur thread, keep trying to feed him bloodworms and see if he will start to take them. If you get a turkey vaster you can suck up dethawed bloodworms and dangle them right infront of his nose, might get his interest.
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    I rotate between blood worms and brine shrimp. He's in my bedroom and will stay there for a while, I closed the light and just left a salt lamp on. I will bring him a hiding place right away! Isn't he the cutest thing! 😂
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    Thanks for the reassurance!!
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  • madcaplaughs:
    @Josiane An axolotl of your's size should be on a diet of chopped earthworms or live blackworms (if they're under 3"). Bloodworms and brine shrimp are not a sufficient diet.
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    @Josiane Based on the photo, I believe there is a chance your axolotl may have become impacted from ingesting sand. Axolotls under 5" should not be kept on substrate for this reason.
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  • madcaplaughs:
    @Josiane The nearly diminished gill stalks are also indicative of poor water quality. You need to test your tap water's parameters using a liquid test kit (not strips! Those are inaccurate). The slime coat coming off may also be due to water quality or the water conditioner.
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    Hey guys! Could anyone tell me like the span earth worms are good for once cut? I’m wondering if I can prepare worms for days in advance or no? I normally will cut the worm the day I feed it to my axie, but I really hate the cutting and was just wondering if I can do a few at a time so I have them already prepared. Do they lose nutritional value once cut?
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    Im not sure to b honest. Id think once dead they aren't good anymore. Also I think0
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    I'd avoid feeding dead earthworms.
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    Kk thank you I’ll just suck it up with cutting the worms :D
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    My Axolotl just laid eggs!!! I have had Axies for years, but this is the first time I got eggs. I know that I can not handle them all because I was not prepared. Is there anyone who would like to buy some? Mother is Golden, Father is Albino
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    My Axolotl just laid eggs!!! I have had Axies for years, but this is the first time I got eggs. I know that I can not handle them all because I was not prepared. Is there anyone who would like to buy some? Mother is Golden, Father is Albino
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    Genie SynahMoon: My Axolotl just laid eggs!!! I have had Axies for years, but this is the first time I got eggs... +1
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