Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Today the Pond, Tomorrow the World. 8-18-2018

It looked like we were going to get an actual hike in this weekend. Cloudy and cooler... about 75° with afternoon rain. That sounded about perfect since we had family plans for the afternoon. Andrea wanted turtles, I wanted frogs. We headed to a Middlesex County spot that has plenty of both, and its a stronghold for the Northern Leopard Frog- not always the easiest species to see up here.

We got there by 11 AM and it was breezy and cool. It felt 'bout perfect to me. Water lilies were certainly in bloom.

Our first animal leaped into view but made for a hard photograph. Still, here's a Pickerel Frog.

My personal target couldn't have been easier. Andrea spotted (hah!) this Leopard Frog right away.

While looking out over the water with that frog near our feet, we saw this Water Snake about to head into the drink.
We watched her slide out into the water and she was much larger than we'd first thought. She started towards us, veering off at the last second. She was on the hunt and we hoped our photogenic Leopard had already hopped away safely.

So, Andrea wanted turtles. We had no problem there. Painters were abundant.

We could see another large (easily 3 foot plus) Nerodia gal baking her babies but she was through the reeds and I couldn't get a good shot.
I opted for a close-up detail photo.

This little fella crawled out of the drink to pose for us.

So, remember how I said Leopard Frogs aren't so easy to see up here? They sure as hell were easy this day! Look at how beautiful and variable they are. Amazing creatures.
These are just some of the ones I could actually get the camera on. Dozens, no... hundreds more were jetting out of the path. Emerald bullets of pure love. I put a moratorium on them... unless I saw an even more stunning one.

Out on the river, we could see some distant Painted Turtles catching rays from the intermittent sun.
This old-timer was catching a nap, too.

Next up, we observed this Garter realigning its jaws. It might have just taken a shot at a Leopard and missed. There was no lump that we could see.

I had put a moratorium on Leopards but Andrea made no such promise. Here are two that caught her eye... a fattie...
and a one-eye.

We rounded the bend and I had a new view of some basking spots. They were Painter-friendly.
^This last one was huge... the shell must have been almost a foot. 10" easy.

I fought a storm of 'skeeters to get this shot of a Green Frog that Andrea pointed out.

We were out to a known turtle nesting area and we were hoping to see some ground-breaking but it appears to still be a bit early. Any day now. Looking out over yet another pond, distant Painters were doing a balancing act.

We headed back to the trails and ponds, peeking in through the brush to see some more Painted Turtles.

A few Monarch Butterflies were flitting about. They are always a treat.

We saw this guy in his green polka-dot jammies. And then he peed.

This is Andrea's chubby Leopard friend and a small pal.

I flipped a rock, hoping for baby Garters. (We'd seen one earlier that disappeared into the grass.) Much to my surprise, there was a much larger than expected Garter under it. I couldn't see the head and I was afraid to move the rock for fear of squishing her. Eventually, the head found me. A bite and a musk shower was my penance for disturbing her.

Finally, I got a better shot of a Pickerel.

I lifted my self-imposed ban on pipiens to photograph this standing-tall beauty.

It seems I brushed against beggar-ticks when taking that shot. I will be enjoying this batch well into the winter.

Andrea's weather-ap was telling her that we had about a half hour before the rains came. It is uncannily accurate so we picked up the pace. We wanted to get out to a certain spot before it hit. Not to say that we didn't have time to peek out over the river at these Painted Turtles, though.

It was coming in quickly...

Turtles didn't seem to care about the impending downpour.

This group of wasps was hunkering down in the protection of a plant.

We decided to take the wooded path rather than the open pond path. It was Andrea's decision, based on lightning strikes, and I reluctantly agreed. It turns out that it was a good way to go as we saw a Redbacked Salamander in there. They're not so easy to see anywhere else at this place.

The rain did hit and it hit hard. Fashion forward Andrea rolled with the punches.

And that was it.

Or was it?

We had made plans to go visit Andrea's Mom and we got there before 3 PM. We had some lunch, talked (more like listened) and by about 6:30 PM, we left and did some errands. It was still raining when we got home. We were pretty tired. Then, I came up with this logic. "If we stay here and watch a movie, I will fall asleep before the end. I'm not hungry for dinner, either. Let's go out and road-cruise in the rain." So we did. Our destination was a mere 20 miles away.

We went to a spot just inside Plymouth County where we have heard Grey Tree Frogs calling. As we still hadn't photographed one on the year, that was our target. First up, as it was in the morning, a Pickerel jumped across the road.

Things weren't moving as much as we'd expected, though we had heard some Greys way out. This small toad was next. I assume it's an American but in the rain, I neglected to take a close look for ID. Cute, all the same.

Another Pickerel.

This Wood Frog surprised the hell out of us.

We made a few passes but there wasn't as much in the road as we'd expected. Should we head home? Well, my logic kicked in again and I said "It's only 22 miles further out to our favorite cruising place... and there's plenty of Greys there." We headed deeper into Plymouth County.

We kinda beat the rain there but it showed up right behind us. The wet pavement didn't take long to get... ahem... hoppin'. A small Fowler's Toad was our first animal.

On the road, I thought we had our first Bull of the day but it turned out to be a Green.

Never fear, though. Newly terrestrial Bullfrogs were all over the place.
Hot diggity- that was (at least) our 10th species on the day!

One more to add... a Spring Peeper.

Right around here we realized that, except for our main target, the Grey Tree Frog, we had every Massachusetts frog species on the day. It was raining pretty hard by now but I kept my window down and we pushed on... very slowly. Hey, that's not a frog. That's a young Spotted Salamander!

Finally, there was a green glob in the road. I went out into the rain to retrieve it. Small though it may be, it brought us great joy. Our first Grey on the year. We had run the gamut on Mass frogs. It was 11:30 PM.

By now, I was reluctant to take my camera outside so I brought in this American Toad, who posed on my seat.

It's not so easy to pick up salamanders so I braved the elements and went out to photograph this Spotted. Check out that spotting.

The next Grey, another small green guy, came in and made a nuisance of himself.
He liked my door because it was soaked from having the window down.

Another wee Peeper. Under the controlled conditions, I got a much clearer picture. Yes, that is my lap.

We had turned back well before our usual turn-around time because we were seeing so many animals. (Luckily, despite quite a few other cars traveling this stretch, road-kill wasn't that bad.) We ended the night with 3 more Greys.

It was well after midnight when we hit the highway home. I had one brief lapse in sanity when I thought, "We're only a Spadefoot Toad shy of a full-sweep of Massachusetts anurans! We're not that far from the Cape!" But I was toast, as was Andrea. Fourteen species was great and finding (most of) our targets was wonderful. Yeah, this was kind of trophy herping. I really wanted that first Grey of the year and once the full-run on frogs was possible, it was fun to try to make it happen.

We got home at about 1:30 AM, showered and passed out until the next morning... when we readied ourselves to go back out.