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Herp Nation Magazine Goes Digital

Hey everyone,

 

Herp Nation Magazine has gone digital (and free), which means some of my articles will be available for free viewing online. They will be posting back issues as they come, but for now there’s an issue I did on Mangrove Saltmarsh Snakes, their ecology and captive husbandry, available in this issue: http://hnmdigital.herpnation.com/publication/?i=289755#{%22issue_id%22:289755,%22page%22:0}

 

Enjoy!

 

-JDH

 
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Posted by on 02/03/2016 in Uncategorized

 

Snaketacular! Thoughts and Thanks.

Hey folks,

 

Thanks to everyone who watched Snaketacular this past Sunday night – For those that missed it, it’s available to watch online here: http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/discovery-presents/videos/snaketacular/
To the several people that messaged me and added me on Facebook, etc., thanks for the add and feel free to follow some of my herpetological thoughts and ventures here at Field Ventures. Keep educating your friends and family about snakes – they are a valuable and fascinating part of our world, and deserve our awe.

 

There are also a great many herpers who were not satisfied with the show, and perhaps thought it foolish that the other experts and I chose to go on it. If it’s not already apparent, we certainly did not agree with a lot of what the people were doing in the clips that they showed: that was entirely why we were on there to provide balanced viewpoints and good information about snakes, as well as specifying why, exactly the people in the videos were being irresponsible. Much of our information was edited out, but that is entirely within the prerogative of the production company and those at the Discovery Channel, and I don’t have anything bad to say about any of them* – television shows are a mirror of the culture, and if you want to change TV, change the culture.

 

To that end I, and I know for some of the others on the show as well, it was all about education: recognizing others doing irresponsible things with snakes is like second nature to many of us, but is uncharted territory for much of the public. It might seem like an uphill battle, and perhaps an entirely unwinnable one to spread education and awe of snakes to everyday people. The battle is uphill, but it isn’t futile. I’ve had many friends and relatives remark to me that they don’t now kill snakes immediately when they see them, and I’m sure the same has been said to many of you: I am confident that this sort of change in attitude will, in the long term, have a greater effect than many conservation efforts otherwise could. For those who think me entirely stupid for being on the show, I can only comment that it was me or somebody else who perhaps would care less about education. We, as herpers, can either withdraw from the culture altogether or choose to engage it – coming from the Christian faith it’s something my forebearers have wrestled with for 2,000 years – I will tell you, if we as herpers withdraw and have nothing to do with these sensationalist shows, then the voice of reason will be absent and the animals will suffer. If you embrace an perfection-or-nothing mentality, (or put another way – give me O’Shea’s Big Adventure or give me death), you will only succeed in raising up a venomous generation of Herpers who are more bitter and crankier than yourselves.

 

But to those who are out there, educating and promoting snake conservation (and reptile and amphibian conservation in general) – Keep up the good fight! The animals are worth it, and the people who now hate and kill snakes are worth it so that some day they might get all the joy we do in seeing a big, scaly serpent crawl out onto the road…

 

-JDH

 

 

 

 

*Quite the opposite, I thank Discovery Channel and the production company, Pilgrim Studios, for the opportunity. I didn’t agree with all their editorial choices, and I certainly cringed when a Fer-De-Lance was unnecessarily killed at the end – but it’s a virulent lie to think that I must agree with every choice someone makes to work with them and enjoy their company. A horrid world it would be if everyone believed this falsehood.

 
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Posted by on 02/02/2016 in Uncategorized

 

Field Ventures on the Discovery Channel

That’s right – tune in this Sunday night at 10pm EST to the Discovery Channel to see me, Josh, talk as an expert commentator for the Discovery special Snaketacular, along with some other talented herpetologists and educators.

 

-JDH

 
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Posted by on 26/01/2016 in Uncategorized

 

New Field Herp Forum Post

Check it out here: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=22871

 
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Posted by on 11/12/2015 in Uncategorized

 

Equipment Review: Lumintop Tool AAA

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Welcome again fellow Field Venturers. As most of you know, I try to run this blog specifically tailored to those who do biological field work – whether that be professionally or recreationally – and obviously my main interest is Reptiles and Amphibians (though I will post a mammal or invertebrate from time to time.) In keeping with this, I like to offer gear reviews of whatever I can get my hands on, and oftentimes that means flashlights. Why? Because I’m out a lot at night, looking for critters. Usually I am interested in the big, really bright lights; but for this review I’m going to be scaling down and taking a look at the Lumintop Tool.

The tool is small – powered by a single AAA battery kind of small. Is completely concealable in the average sized male hand. Instead of a twist on/off like most mini flashlights, the Tool has a click-switch on the butt, and depressing the click switch half way controls the light’s intensity – the intensities go in order of medium (32 lumens), low (5 lumens), high (105 lumens), and there’s somewhat of a memory function – albeit a marginally annoying one – where if you turn the lamp off, it will come on at the next intensity. E.g. – if you turn the light off on high, the next time you turn it on, it will be on medium; if medium, then low; if low, then high. The memory function only ‘remembers’ for a few minutes, if you turn it on hours later it will start at the beginning of the medium – low – high circuit. The Tool’s charge purports to last 30 minutes on high, ten hours on medium and 60 hours on low. So far (using the Tool sporadically but regularly,) I think these are somewhat conservative estimates (although they might be more accurate if you use the light for an uninterrupted amount of time.) The Lumintop tool will cost you a mere $20 on amazon.

Overall Brightness – 9/10

Wow. Honestly, the only reason this isn’t given a 10/10 is because it obviously doesn’t compare to other lights in larger classes with a more robust power source… But, again: wow. The tool really surprised me with how bright it is given its size and AAA battery source. I’d take it road cruising for sure – in fact, it’s a really nice addition to just have in my pocket on a day-to-day basis when the suns getting low, conditions are good, but I just don’t happen to have my camera bag on me with its arsenal of lights. The high setting is actually bright enough to shine up arboreal lizards (chameleons, iguanas, etc.), albeit as a backup light, or perhaps a light that doesn’t look overly suspicious in an urban setting.

Width of beam9.5/10

Lamentably, most flashlights seem to prefer spotlighting to floodlighting. This isn’t a problem with the tool – it has what is perhaps a nearly perfect floodlight, spreading its lumens over a wide area. I’m really impressed by this; even the likes of the Fenix TK-45 (when adjusting for lumens) doesn’t give as nice of a beam width. The only light I have that does a better flood is the HP15 when paired with a diffuser, but the Tool gives even that a run for its money.

Throw 8/10

Balancing throw with beam width is give-and-take, but I actually think the Tool does the job of representing both very well. It is able to light across the field behind my house quite well, obviously not as much throw as a spotlight, but a great bit for most applications – especially those herp-related.

Water/Light Penetration 7.5/10

Listen, I really like this light after a few weeks of use, but everything has its limitations – don’t use it for shining for fish or aquatic salamanders and expect it to stack up to bigger, more powerful lights. That said, I was by no means disappointed with the way the light performed – just not overwhelmed either.

Battery 9/10

On one hand, AAA’s are a little bit more annoying than AA’s; but on the other hand, we would, by definition, be dealing with a significantly bulkier light if AAA’s were used. As is, I’m impressed with the output, and AAA’s are still widely available at most gas stations, and certainly any dollar store, Walmart, etc. – and there are plenty of both in the southeast. The torch itself lasts a goodly long time on its battery – currently I’m using a Amazon Basics AAA (non-rechargeable, though I intended to invest in rechargeables soon).

Size10/10

For a normal-to-large sized person, this light’s size is amazing given the output. Those with sausage fingers might find some problems with it and its small click-switch (I stress might, not entirely sure), but all others should love it.

Price10/10

All aluminum, 110 lumens, perfect diffusion for $20. Do I really need elaborate?

Dependability – 9.5/10

No apparent problems here.

Ruggedness 8/10

The Tool is entirely metal, so rugged overall, but I did have to dock it a couple of points for a potential problem: there is a slight gap where the tailcap and the head articulate to the body. This gap attracts grime, sand and dust. This isn’t a huge problem; it just requires a little extra care when opening the light to not allow any sand into the threading.

Other 9.5/10

Everything else checks out – it’s an attractive light. I docked another half a point because of the memory function (see the introduction) and because the tailcap seems to attract pocket lint, but I can’t really compare that to any other light, as I’ve never had one small enough to fit easily in my pocket before. Not a big deal other than a minor cosmetic consideration.

OVERALL SCORE – 90/100

 

Lumintop sent me this light for review purposes – I’d actually never heard of Lumintop prior to this and wasn’t expecting much. The Tool exceeded expectations, and it goes with me everywhere I go now. As a matter of fact, this light is one of the few lights I can recommend to anyone, even non-herpers. Keep it in your glovebox, in your pocket, anywhere a light might come in handy, and with the $20 pricetag it’s affordable to get a couple strategically placed around the house and in vehicles. If Lumintop’s other lights are of the same caliber as this guy, I can’t wait to get my hands on them and start reviewing them for Field Ventures! The Tool AAA and Lumintops other lights can be seen on Lumintop’s website, http://www.Lumintop.com; check em’ out.

 

-JDH

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Posted by on 25/11/2015 in Equipment Reviews

 

To Everything There Is a Season…

First off, to those who read Field Ventures on a regular basis – allow me to apologize for the half a year silence. In that time I’ve been doing a lot of work (two jobs), traveling, and most importantly, welcoming my daughter, Chava Elizabeth, into the world and making the first steps in parenting. Although I’m a conservationist, I don’t jive with many that see humans as an inherent problem and who scold reproduction – we humans are capable of doing some terrible things to nature, but we also have a capacity to care for and restore it that is completely different and unparalleled in the animal kingdom – so having children and teaching them to live well as good stewards of the life and Earth they’ve been given is of utmost importance to me. All that aside, be looking for new Field Ventures post that should be upcoming on a more regular basis, with more experiences from the field, flashlight and other gear reviews, and all sorts of other stuff. Also, if you’re a herper, biologist or nature lover out there, Field Ventures would love to have YOU as a guest or regular blogger. We can’t pay anything, but we can give you an audience to educate and share in your passion for getting in the field. Email JDHolbrook@gmail.com for more information!

Having just moved from the two-season South Floridian weather (wet/dry season), the seasons here are wondrous to me – an amazing cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth every year speaks to some of life’s fundamental truths. My herping season doesn’t really have to end because of salamander’s tolerance for extremely cold weather, but it really ‘heats up’ in March – and this is when I started finding many salamanders on the road with the rains, especially welcomed were the vibrant Red and Spring Salamanders:

Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber)

Blue Ridge Spring Salamander (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus danielsi)

Of course, dipnetting is a good way to see some cool critters:

Seepage Stream with dipnet.

Desmognathus conanti

The weather steadily got warmer and warmer from April on, and it wasn’t long before scaled ones began to make their appearances:

Northern x Southern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix x A. c. mokasen)

From there, things just kept getting warmer. I got out a little bit locally, but seldom broke out my camera for a long photo session – but either way, snakes, frogs, toads and salamanders were out and active, but as the summer continued the oppressive heat suppressed the salamander movement for the end of July and most of August. It was the age of snakes, and most nights yielded several individuals coupled with oppressive humidity – the kind that fogs up ones glasses instantly after stepping out of the car.

Amazingly though, the end of August began to produce nights that started to cool down to an almost chilly level. What sorcery is this? Sure enough, by the beginning of September some nights were getting downright cold. And so Fall came to western North Carolina. And with the return of the equinox came the resurgence of salamander movement, including dozens of these Bat Cave variants of the Yonahlossee Salamander (AKA “Crevice Salamanders”) in the proper locations:

Crevice Salamander (Plethodon yonahlossee, Bat Cave variant)

And others made their appearance. A typical drive at a road near my house:

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

Desmognathus conanti

Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)

Blue Ridge Two Lined Salamander (Eurycea wilderae)

But all good things come to an end, and the frost begins to threaten regularly in my little corner of the world – and it leaves me to sit, dream, and await the rebirth that is the Spring.

Thinking of the things that might live in places like this montane wetland will surely get me through winter’s icy grip…

 
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Posted by on 05/11/2015 in Uncategorized

 

Clarkii by County: Lee County

     Posts of western North Carolina interest will be coming over the summer at some point, but let’s tie up some loose ends from Florida. Clarkii – with the cold winter, this post is as much for reminiscing on my part as it is educating.

 

So, Lee County – despite the long drive from my former residence, this county was a really enjoying place for herping – the gulf coast doesn’t suffer the same degradation as the east coast so good herping spots are abundant, especially for clarkii. Interestingly, true salt marsh habitat (instead of mangrove swamp) comes down much farther south on the gulf coast and Lee county boasts quite a few good examples with dotted with the occasional black mangrove. On one area on the mainland, many dark black and green individuals can be found:

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And in nearby retention ponds, Florida Watersnake/Mangrove Snake hybrids are common despite the fact that the ponds themselves are saline:

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But some of the islands off the coast in Lee county boast some impressive habitat, with just as impressive clarkii to match them. The habitat consists of interesting lagoons lined with mangroves, sandy bottomed with seagrass. The clarkii there were reds, yellows, tans and salt & pepper. I have only herped these lagoons once with Dr. Chesnes, but it was a exhilarating experience – we had been herping long into the night without any luck. We were tired and mildly disappointed, but our disappointment quickly turned when we found the first one laying in wait among some marsh grass. It’s one of those herping sites that gets etched into your memory and fills you with that warm-fuzzy feeling – what a cool area!

 

 

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More to come – once again, be sure to check out my article on Mangrove Snakes in an upcoming issue of Herp Nation!

 

 
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Posted by on 06/04/2015 in Uncategorized

 
 
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