Friday, September 18, 2020

Target Practice. 9-12-2020

 First off, let me say that this new Blogger system is total ASS.

Sadly, like it or not, the season is dwindling down. There are still a few snake species we'd like to see before it's too late and two of them reside in the Plymouth County area. So, Triple E threats aside, we headed over to try our luck. It was sunny and beautiful out. 

We got there late morning and eagerly headed to our first stop. It was a great Redbellied Snake spot last year. This year, not so much. Today was a not so much day for Redbells, but our first find was a small Spotted Salamander, probably from the vernal on the other side of the road.

Nearby, a wiggly Redback made for a tough photograph.

We crossed the road and headed towards the vernal. On the way, Andrea spotted this gorgeous and tiny Peeper.

The vernal itself has shrunk a bit but is still full of life. This Bullfrog had no problem with me walking along next to him.

The float behind a very lucky person's house was filling up with Painted Turtles.

Heading back to the car, we noticed a snake skin. Upon closer inspection, there was a snake there too. At first, I was like "wha...? That's not a Milk... Oh shit! Baby Racer!"

As I tried to get a better pic, the snake kind of backed up, the whoosh... back into the hole.

So, we call that "off to a good start". Six species in the first stop. Next stop: cranberry bogs.

The bogs started off like they should... with frogs. Here are a couple of Bulls.

An adult Painted Turtle found a lily pad large enough to accommodate her bulk.

On the sandy path between two bogs, another small Spotted Salamander surprised us.

More bog frogs... a Green, a Bull and a Pickerel!

OK, that's two more species! Surely we'll hit double digits today!! Next stop, our most reliable Hognose trail. This is the reason it's a good Hognose trail... Fowler's Toads. Watch out, buddy!

In the half dozen times we have walked this trail this year, it has kicked our asses. This day was no different... long, hot walk- no snakes. But a few Fowler's brought our count up to nine species. 

Next stop... the surefire Redbellied Cooter spot. The taste of success was on our lips...

OK, well those are all Painters in the distance.

Looks like our rosy-plastroned pals were not going to throw us a bone this time. Meanwhile, Andrea found a successful nest next to the pond. Empty Snapper egg shells in the bottom of a hole she dug up.

We sat on the edge of the water, snuggling a bit and relaxing before the drive home. We knew there won't be too many days left to enjoy the sun like that. These distant Painted Turtles were our last sights of the day.

So, we fell a species short of double digits and missed our snake targets, but it was still a very successful and happy hike. Not too many other humans in our way. Three cheers for animals.

But man, after 11 years of doing this blog, this is the (second) worst time I've had, trying to adjust to the "upgrade" and needless changes Blogger has implemented. If it ain't broke, they "fix" it anyway. Pain in the ass. It may be time for me to just write this crap in a file and keep it for myself.

(The worst time was a trip to Assabet where I deleted the entire thing by accident. Never fully recovered from that.)

Monday, September 14, 2020


It was Labor Day and it was beautiful and we wanted to see babies. You know, shoestrings and walking pebbles. We went deep into Norfolk County to a spot where we have seen both (baby snakes and turtles) in past years. Since it was nice and a holiday, we knew it would be crowded. And it was, but we figured it would thin out the further in we got.

The waterfront is usually busy so when it wasn't, we wondered what was up. But we're not people to look a gift horse in the mouth (whatever that really means) so we poked around. We saw our first two specimens of Frog of the Day... the Pickerel Frog.

The pathway was crowded enough, particularly with families. Not ideal for us, but we pushed on. At one point, we had a Garter ready to photograph but too many people stopped to look and it said "adios" and slithered off. Finally, in to spot below a bridge that is usually flooded, and I startled a Garter who was evidently hunting a Green Frog. It was not too happy with me.

His would-be lunch looked at me as I went back to the trail, with a brief nod on thanks.

I can't lie, we were a bit cranky. With too many people comes too much aggravation. And too many bags of dog shit and too much litter. And too much noise. We tried to find ourselves safe places to relax relatively unharmed by humanity. Here is Andrea in a quiet, verdant setting.

Deep into the park where few humans roam, we flipped this very plump Spotted Salamander. Eatin' is good and the Winter is a-comin'.

Turtles weren't readily available on some of the familiar perches due to the noise and screaming of some of the park's guests but a secluded pond and an excellent zoom lens got us a few Painters.
I'd love to have seen that second guy ascend that stump!

Eventually, we got to a spot where Sunfish like to beg for handouts. Yes, we have been among the folks who do some handing out. There was a family fishing nearby and we were looking into the water when this massive Snapper came swimming up.
Of course, along with us, the family got quite excited. The mom and I told the kids to get the fishing poles up and explained why... dangerous for the turtle and even potentially dangerous to the kids. One of the boys understood and related a story of getting a Spotted Turtle on the line and the trouble it was getting it loose.

All the while, a little shit of a boy kept his line in, one with an interesting lure on it and the turtle noticed it. I told the kid to pull it up and the Snapper started swimming right at it... I yelled... "Pull it up! Jesus Christ, what's your problem???" The little bastard looked mortified that he got yelled at. His mom apologized for his behavior. I said that I'm very protective of wildlife. She said that's a good way to be. I hope that little fuck-head cried all day. The Snapper gave me a thumbs up as we moved on.

I'm sorry, but come on. Control your kids or some mean old man is going to do it for you. And in the future, they might not be even as nice as was.

It was getting later so there were a few less people on the trails but the steady stream of human scum was still going. This brave Painter was catching some rays a mere 30 feet out.

Down where we'd snack-blocked the Garter on the way in, Andrea found another Garter. We gave him a wide berth.

We sat on a bench for a while, just looking at the water. (Well, Andrea was looking at her phone, most likely.) In the distance, I was watching a basking spot become a chelonian wrestling match as three Painters kept jockeying for the best basking position.

Heading back to the front, we finally spied our target... a shoestring Garter. I'd missed one (they are so fragile that I won't pursue them too fervidly) but Andrea gently corralled one nearby. The same one? Perhaps. At any rate, This Year's Model is a cute one!

Back to the waterfront, we took one last peek around. This large Pickerel looked very settled in and happy. I can just imagine the scritching it did to get so comfy.

Our last animal there was this extremely blue-eyed Northern Water Snake. A black beauty, for sure.

Not a bad day animal wise. All days that you get to see animals are good days. But I'm finding it harder every time to deal with other humans. This day was the closest I've come to snapping. In fact, the last few times at this park, I have had a bitter aftertaste due to idiot humans. It might be time to just pass this place by.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Release the Hounds! 9-6-2020

Well, after three weeks, it appeared to be time to take the Snaplings home. They were all eating and pooping and though they still looked very small to us, the time had come. They had all gained a teeny bit of weight... they varied from 6 grams to 10 grams and all were alert and seemingly healthy.

Ready to go?

We put them into a Tupperwear container with the towel they had become familiar with in their tank and packed them up for the mile and a half walk to the best spot to release them, roughly 100 yards from their destroyed nest.

There was no time to stop and look for snakes or salamanders or anything. It was a pretty warm day in Norfolk County and we wanted to get the deed done. We got to the marshy area where we figured they would have gone to if they hatched naturally. It was a bit too dry. It was very muddy but not enough puddles or cover. This Leopard Frog was hoping we'd drop them off, though.

The other side of the river's edge looked perfect, though. Unfortunately, we had to cross a train trestle to get to it and Andrea is not fond of heights. It took a bit but with a lot of courage, she made it over and we scoped out what we thought looked like the best spot.Muddy, easy access to shallow water and plenty of cover. Many small Green Frogs scattered as we approached the spot. It was time.

You guys ready?

All of our worrying and concern quickly evaporated as they let instincts take over and took to the new environment like... turtles to water.
Some dug right into the mud.

It was really a wonderful experience to watch them becoming wild turtles. Here is a video Andrea managed to make.

Here is a look at their new home. Beats the hell out of a 10 gallon aquarium, though I bet they'll miss the turtle-pellets.

Here are some of their new neighbors... a small Green Frog...
A pair of Painters out in the deeper water...
and a snoozing Garter that Andrea flipped under some cardboard on the way back to the trail.

Andrea crossed the trestle back with no problems and we visited the sight of the predated nest. What a mess. It was here that I started to get a bit "misty".

But all is well... this is their new world. We hope some (or even one) will make it long enough to come up here to nest themselves in the future.
This is the sight from the nest area. They were released to the far left of this shot.

We took a long hike after that, with the Snaplings still on our minds and very much still in our hearts. We saw just two more animals during the day, a small American Toad and a pretty Redback.

2020 has been a weird one to say the very least. We're not sure what the Sea Turtle Rescue Season will be like in the time of pandemic, but we're super happy to have been able able to help these nine chelonians.