Tuesday, October 9, 2018


We went for our winter turtle walk sign-ups and saw two Box Turtles while we were on the Cape. We weighed and measured them. First, a female, #299. The second was a male, #188.

While we were out there, we poked around and saw a Bullfrog and a few Painted Turtles.

I had seen a yearling Racer in the woods but was unable to get a photo or catch it.

These terrapins are from the last hatched nest of the season.

The next day, we went to the mountain to see if any Milk Snake babies were where we suspected they'd be. It was warm and extremely humid and the sun was not out. It was great Redback weather and we saw many. Note that the top guy has to share the underside of his log with a bag of dog shit, put there by a lazy asshole.

Andrea found this beautiful Green Frog.

An Eft.

We got to the top and to the Milk Snake spot. Andrea flipped a large stone, called to me for help and I lifted it up safely for her to extract this baby Milk.
It was perfect, but not for long.

We showed it to a little girl and her mum, but there was an endless parade of people coming by. We released the snake and told the little whelps not to walk on the rocks... things live under there. When there (finally) wasn't any more people around, I relifted the rock so we could get better shots. In doing so, I injured the snake, making me the biggest fucking hypocrite on the planet.

For somebody who always advocates safety, I obviously didn't listen to my own advice and made a really stupid mistake. Andrea didn't notice the damage, but I saw the snake moving weird, saw a slightly flattened spot on its back and, going into immediate denial, I put it down to crawl back to safety. I easily busted a couple of its ribs.

So, what did I learn? That I'm a piece of shit who should listen to my own soap-box ramblings, for one. Also, I will never tip a pock again. I did the same thing to a Ringneck's tail earlier this year. If my fucking hobby endangers the life of an animal, then maybe I'd better just find something different. If a rock can't be safely  lifted, it stays in place. It is utter bullshit that I still act like such a trophy herping piece of fuck, the kind of person I hate sharing the planet with.

I'm not letting this go. I'm ashamed, I have belittled myself and everything I stand for and I find it very difficult to look anyone in the eye, especially Andrea. I have cried, punched myself in the ugly fucking face and hated myself even more than usual. Hopefully, I never get over it or get comfortable ever again. Remember the Garter I killed a few years ago? I've been called "deranged" by some little fuck about how I felt about that but it still haunts me and it should haunt me forever. If I can't do it right, I shouldn't be allowed out in the woods.

It was hard to beat a hasty retreat when you're two miles up a mountain, but we did our best. I was tired, angry, sad, mad and filled with hatred. Poor Andrea. How she puts up with me and my totally unfocused bullshit, I'll never know. Parades of people kept passing us, making me realize that I never want to come back to this place anyway.

Andrea did see another Eft on the way down.

So, where do I go from here? How can I improve the lives of animals instead of stressing and injuring them? Turtle stranding season is coming up... I don't know how often we'll be on the beaches but I expect I'll have plenty of time to consider the future.

I saved a baby chipmunk from an over-crowded Savers yesterday before it got stomped on. That made for a slightly better feeling.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Slithering Out of September.

It's hard to believe that we're nearing the end of the 2018 normal Herp Season and getting ready for the winter beach walks. At least September, which was plagued by shitty weather for much of the time, went out on a high note.

Andrea Sees Urban DeKay. 9-26-2018

On her walk to the train station, along Hyde Park Avenue in the Roslindale section of Boston, Andrea has seen Garter Snakes with some regularity but in a spot that she always thought should have snakes, she never saw any. Until this warm Wednesday morning, after a night of heavy rain, when she saw two DeKay's Snakes (Northern Brown for you boring people) laying on some leaves. That makes two species on this bustling street in the concrete jungle.

One Chance to Get It Right in Plymouth. 9-29-2018

Facing the unusual occurrence of decent weather on the weekend, we decided to give it one more shot in Plymouth County. We still needed some First-of-Years that can be found there, including Hognoses, Greens and, unbelievably, Ribbons. We got there a bit before noon, when the sun was up, though it was cool. Having had a lot of rain over the previous few days, we weren't surprised to see quite a few Redbacks. Here are some salamander samples.

Andrea flipped this extraordinary specimen. I had never seen one with yellow on it before, but this one clearly has mustard yellow splotching and dots along its back.

Walking along a wide path, we were keeping our eyes open, scanning as best as we could. Just off of the path, I spied some banding and we got our FOY Hognose. Its just a wee hatchling. It was all flattened out; obviously, it saw us first.
When we got closer for photos...
It got pretty calm in Andrea's hands.
What a pleasant surprise.

Our next animal was another snake... a shiny Ringneck.

Our last sight at this spot was this small Fowler's, who posed atop some blades of grass.

Our next stop was a bog area. I needed some anurans in my life. It didn't take long to see a mess of Bullfrogs, both small 'uns and bigguns.

This Painted Turtle was extremely patient... he sat there while I photographed him and a noisy-assed kid and his father were trying to see him.

This Green Frog was in a tough position for me to get a decent photo but I'm glad I tried... it was the only Green on the day.
I had less luck with a large Pickerel. I actually had to resort to catching it. I tried to calm it, and it jumped off, unphotographed. That loss would later loom large.

We were extremely surprised (and happy) to see this young Spotted Salamander down by the bog.

Our next stop was at a large pond that is great for turtles. Unfortunately, a fishing contest had just finished right there and there weren't many turtles who had come up since the coast had cleared. Two brave Painters were what we saw.

I lost Andrea for a bit, then looked back to see her hanging back by a sign. I called to her and couldn't hear her response. Going back, I saw she had a nice Racer in front of her.
Why, you ol' snake in the grass.
A guy on a bike and his running dog passed right by the snake before I got to it. I thanked the Racer for staying put and waiting for me.

Medic Alert... with Redbacks!

Nearing the end of our walk at this spot, I saw a black tail go over a log. Another Racer. I put my gear down and crawled intro the brush, hoping to find it. It started to come out Andrea's side and she got a good photo.
Not knowing if she got a good shot, I caught it. A small group of people who had seen me (and wondered what the crazy person was doing in the bushes) got a little talk about snakes. Of course, a small Garter or a DeKay is a better show-and-tell snake but the Racer had its good points too. "Do they bite?" Yes.
The little nipper was a good specimen.

Before leaving this spot, we spied some distant Painters enjoying the late September sun.

Our next section of hike is a shady dirt path and to be honest, it was getting cool. Also, we were both pretty tired by now. (And Andrea's tendons were bothering her, a fact I didn't learn until days later.) But we persisted and it paid off when Andrea saw a second hatchling Hognose, again just off of the trail.
My goodness, they are ridiculous.

With a little more spring in our step, we carried on but we had also decided on a quicker turn-around point. Gettin' old is a bitch. But it was all good when we saw another young Fowler's, again posing on grass!

A deep, dark burgundy Leadback.

The turn-around spot had a wonderful surprise under a rock... a tiny coil of Ringneck.

I'm not sure how elegant it really is, but this is an Elegant Stinkhorn.
Elegant Stinkhorn

Back in the car, we decided to make one last stop. There's a beach that is hell on Earth during the summer but it is now closed so we went in to explore the field and woods that surround it. I really wanted a 10th species and we'd seen Redbellies here before. (That darn Pickerel!) Well, we never made that goal but Andrea flipped the fattest, most Orca-like Spotted Salamander I've ever seen.
This fatty is not an adult or anything... it is a 2" recent metamorph. Needless to say, Andrea saw no bugs or invertebrates in the area. I never got to see it. When she brought me back to the spot, it had gone underground. I'm relieved that it actually could squeeze back into his hole.
So, we call that a good day. Nine species, one an FOY, and lots of sun. Considering we had family plans for Sunday, it was good to have such a successful Saturday.

Pre-Family Garters 9-30-2018

OK, well... you know us. It was sunny (if cool) on Sunday morning so we took the long-cut to Andrea's mum's house in order to swing by a possible Green Snake spot. The place, while is does have the difficult to find Greens, is also a great Garter spot. It is an unlikely place; tons of broken glass and salty water, but Garters thrive there and they're all very beautiful.

We saw no Greens but we started out with a shoestring Garter, coiled on the top of a rocky cliff, grabbing the warmth of the sun.

Looking down the rocky slope, we could see Garter garland laying out in the patches of sun.

The fruit of the Garter Bush.

Our last two finds were both flipped, snoozing Garters. Thery never knew we were there.

And that was that. September ended. The season is rapidly coming to a close. But we never consider it over. Soon, we'll be dipping for Two-lined larvae through some ice. Intredip and stupid. That is us.