Friday, July 19, 2019

Heat is Hot, Water is Not. July 13th and 14th, 2019

We wanted to look for animals and we wanted to look for junk. Why not do both? The Brimfield Antique show had been going on all week and now that the weekend was upon us, we thought we'd visit and go treasure hunting. But we wanted to hunt the real treasures first, so we headed out as early as possible to hit a park before hitting the show. We chose our Black Rat place in Worcester County, though we saw no Black Rats.

We didn't get there super early due to traffic and general laziness and it was plenty toasty by the time we arrived. Our first sighting was a Ringneck that we flipped in a shady spot.
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This same area had a two-faced Black-eyed Susan. Cool.
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Next up was a Garter Snake hiding in the grass, also in the shade. We were noticing a trend.
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Nearby was a tricky Pickerel. Watch out for that Garter, bruh!
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We headed to "Beaver Pond Road" to check out the water action. This Painter had recently hauled up.
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This Bullfrog was seen from very far away. He was big. I love the expectant look on his face.
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Another big Bullfrog pickle.
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Some more Painters. Nobody was staying out of the water for long.
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Even Andrea couldn't stay out for long.
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Basking.
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She had a visitor.
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Our last sight before heading to Brimfield was this grumpy American Toad. He just wanted to rest under the cool rock we'd flipped.
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Brimfield was fun... we ate a lot of junk and found some good stuff... clothes and paper vapor mostly.

The next morning, we wanted to beat the again. Our goal was, believe it or not, to pick black raspberries. Animals would be fun, too, but wild berries was our goal. A goal that we met as soon as we arrived. We picked a lot. We still have some now, 5 days later.

After stowing the berries in our cooler, we started looking for critters. Before we left the parking lot, we saw a Tiny Toad, most likely American.
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Then a Teeny Wood. It was actually as small as the Tiny Toad. Remarkable.
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The Garden can be very Gartery but it was pretty hot already. This in-the-blue Garter poked its head out long enough for this sorry photograph but evidently deemed it too hot. (Or too human-filled.)
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The river wasn't exactly bursting with turtles but one resilient Painter was up.
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We didn't see much for a while until further out on the river, where a pair of distant Painters was up.
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We made it to the waterfall, unofficially our mid-way point. We sat and relaxed in the shade. There was a bunch of Black Ducks and Canadian Geese behaving like waterfowl out there and it was fun to watch them. Through my binoculars, I enjoyed this Painted Turtle drama... where three baskers were interrupted by an interloper.
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A very enjoyable time spent relaxing and watching.

Heading back, we continued to look around. We flipped a car hood that was laying right in the sun and it was scorching hot. There were some skins under it, but then out of nowhere, a pretty adult Garter went streaking across the space. We caught her for pictures.
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^ Those are Andrea's hands. Mine were covered with thick musk and a lot of poop. She destroyed me. I even toothpasted a little poop out of her to help her empty out. I was filthy.

Almost to a spot where we could cool off (and clean up) in the river, a little Garter shot into the brush. It took many many shots and patience on both mine and the snake's part, but I finally captured this beauty on "film".
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We took a dip for a while. I washed my pants and hands thoroughly. Then we continued on. Way back towards where we started, we stayed along the river and this pretty Pickerel hopped into the brush. I lay down and got my camera into the brush and got this pic that I'm pretty happy with.
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I sat there for a while as Andrea carried on poking around. After just spacing out and watching the water for a while, I peeked in to see if the frog was still in there. It was, and I saw it scritching into position, turning, scritching again and turning again. Then it settled in and relaxed. I'd never seen that before. It was cool.

Heading back, the turtle log was occupied by two fabulous Painted individuals. The second one is molting.
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A last ditch effort for squamates in the woods behind the Garden got us a gorgeous adult Woodie.
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We went for Mandarin Buffet and decided that we'd carry on a bit more. After eating, we headed over to the old Mill site. It wasn't too crowded but it was hot. Andrea spied this small Water Snake down in the flowing water. I didn't get to see it.
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OK, I had one more stop in me, so we drove a few miles to our Musk Turtle spot. There were people fishing but we still dipped in to look around and noodle for Musks. Andrea saw one swim out and I'm pretty sure I poked one way under a rock underwater but we got no evidence on camera. We walked the edges looking for Water Snakes, too. At one point, we started seeing many Tiny Toads, most likely all Fowler's this time.
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My back was in pretty sad shape that day but I was determined to find my bride a Musk Turtle. And when all seemed to be at its most bleak, I finally unearthed a wee one (yearling?) on the lake's edge and handed it to Andrea. She put it in her collapsible water dish.
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Since it was so hot, we didn't keep it out for very long at all.
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We put him down on a rock and like lightning, he bolted back into his cool, safe place on the edge of the lake.

That was our weekend. Hot, sweaty, poopy and fun.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Last Day Off... Sunday, July 7th, 2019.

My 9 straight days off (and Andrea's 6) was ending on that Sunday. We were going to just stay home and hang around the house instead of going out into the heat again, but when the forecast said it would be sunny and in the low 70s, we changed our minds and went to Plymouth County. We figured we'd hit a spot where we'd have a chance to see a diverse bunch of animals.

We got there in the late morning and a cool breeze greeted us as we got out of the car. Nice. Even better was finding our first Massachusetts Redbellied Snake of the year.
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Field guides say they're all over but anyone who goes out to look for them knows that they're a tough species in this state.
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This beautiful charcoal guy had a small set of scales that were chocolate colored. It's not a scar, just a neat aberration.
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A Fowler's Toad looked surprised to see us.
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We visited a vernal pool that is still huge and stretched across a large trail. It is still very full of life. There were teeny tadpoles that had legs sprouting. Peepers or Grays, perhaps.
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Next stop, the bogs. Frogs in bogs are always a treat. Right away, we had two Bulls.
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Since these are working cranberry bogs, there comes a time during the year that they bring in boxes of bees to pollinate and keep everything running. We'd been on the wrong side of these bees before so we always peer up the trail to see if they've been delivered. They had been, so we took a trail through the woods to avoid that particular path.

That diversion worked out well for us, as Andrea spied this, our first Massachusetts Hognose of the year.
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Unfortunately, it saw us too, and we got the cobra act. Luckily, it didn't "die".
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Andrea pulled it out of the brush and into the trail in hopes of getting a clear photo and it took off back into the woods like lightning. With the kind of speed that snake showed, it makes me wonder why they do all of the dramatics.

Back out on the bog path, we saw this female Painter plopping out some eggs.
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We didn't hang long watching her. Privacy. Did you ever notice that a nesting turtle looks like you would if someone was watching you on the toilet?

Green Frogs were calling like mad but I only got shots of Bullfrogs. The Greens were sneaky. At least these Bulls are beautiful and green.
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Ride 'em cowboy!
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A little bog Painter.
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Hey... it's a bog turtle!

We sat down for a while at the edge of a pond next to the bog, just enjoying the breeze, the birds and each other... and this mini-Pickerel. (Thanks for the heads up, son!)
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We'd decided to skip one of our usual spots in this state forest since we'd already seen some trophy snakes and just go to one more spot to look for turtles. Driving along, I thought for sure I'd seen a massive turtle up basking, so we pulled over to look. It was a trick of the light or something, but we got a consolation Bullfrog noggin.
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Just a bit down the road from there, we really did see another turtle, this time in the road. This Snapper was stupidly trying to cross between two ponds.
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Andrea was all too happy to lend a hand.
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Reason #4,386 why I love Andrea... she loves Snappers. A lot.

Our final destination was fruitful... there were Painters up basking, both near and far.
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It gets tougher when the water warms up and the sun isn't needed as much to stay toasty, but we had one Plymouth Redbelly up and looking elegant.
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We had a nice long chat with the ranger there, a very nice guy who is as enthusiastic and animated about nature as my dear friend Dave is about Euro films. We talked for a while about many subjects, including Coydogs, Coywolves, Coyotes and Wolves and what may or may not be present in this part of the world. Very interesting.

While Andrea was looking for Wood Frogs in the facilities, getting ready to head home, I added another bird to the life-list... #187, the Pine Warbler. (#92 on the year)
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I'm sure I'd seen them before but had most likely thought they were Goldfinches or something.

Sure, we had to go back to work the following day but finally having some tolerable weather was nice and both we and the animals appreciated that.