| herpin' NC | 5/23/02 | 5/24/02 | 5/25/02 | 5/26/02 | 5/27/02 | 5/28/02 | herpin'?

Many friends ask why I like to go snake hunting on my vacation. It's a hard question to answer when the asker doesn't have a real appreciation for the beauty and variety of reptiles and amphibians, and the evolutionary path they have taken. I usually answer with something everyone can relate to. I tell them I find it difficult to forget about work on a one-week vacation, but when I walk through a field with rattlesnakes hidden behind stumps and grass clumps, my job is the last thing on my mind.

But obviously, there is much more to it than that. It's walking down a trail with friends retelling stories of trips past, and the making of new tales. It's driving down a dirt road at dusk as the air cools, with the windows down, listening to the whip-poor-wills crying for mates. It's standing knee-deep in a pond at midnight with hundreds of frogs singing all around, and noticing the million stars reflected in the shimmering surface. It's standing alone in the woods after hours of fruitless searching, and then feeling awed by the total silence, except for the twitter of birds and soft shuffle of the wind on the dried grass.

Then there are the animals. The Red Pygmy Rattlesnake is found only in a small portion of North Carolina's coastal plain. After a shed, it is the color of a ripe Macintosh apple with satiny black saddles down its back. Its rattle is so tiny, no sound is heard when it shakes it. The Red-bellied Watersnake looks like a plain brown snake as it winds its way across the road, but turn it over and you'll see its beautiful red or sometimes yellow belly scales. The Pine Barrens Treefrog, found only in the sandy pine barrens of North Carolina and New Jersey, is a one and a half inch bright green frog with a dark lavender band across its side and eye. The dark area is bordered by white or light yellow, and when the frog extends its legs, it shows its hidden orange markings.

And so I find myself drawn once more to the highways and byways of North Carolina, for several days of wandering fields, wading through swamps, and cruising the roads at night. I hope to capture some of the many wonderful sights and sounds through digital video and photography, and share them with anyone with an Internet connection, a little time, and an interest in learning more about this fascinating group of animals.

Joe McSharry


dragonfly video

whip-poor-will call


(1) red-bellied turtle with mosquitos

(2) George with hognose snake

(3) Mark with red-bellied watersnake

(4) Jim with eastern kingsnake