Friday, June 26, 2009

June 20th- Ringneck Fever

Last weekend, I was all ready to blog FU Mother Nature.

June has sucked ass weather-wise. Very little sun and tons of rain. We hadn't been herping in 2 weeks. This Saturday looked like another crapfest.

We went out to do some errands and had lunch and thought... hey- it's not raining right now and it's in the 70s... let's just go to Ponk and maybe see some frogs or something. 100_3613
At least we'd get some exercise.

We walked along the path towards the dam and were surprised by the lack of Salamanders. I guess the have retreated for the summer. We got to the dam and there was an intrepid water snake sunning, despite the non-sunniness of the day.

A little further down the dam, there were 2 spotted turtles basking!
I'd never had two in my line of vision before ever, so this was exhilarating. A third, smaller one was hiding on some growth a little further on, with a painted lurking behind him.

We saw another water snake basking and I was lucky enough to grab him for photos. This poor guy had escaped a serious predator recently. He had a horrible slash (from a bird of prey or snapper?) on his side that was almost healed... but not quite. The darling lil' fella didn't musk or bite.

We decided, despite being tired, to go the length and headed all the way around. Birds kept us company.

We got to our favorite stone wall and were greeted by tons of ringnecks. Every stone had one under it. A camper showed us a clump of leaves that supposedly had a "snake nest" in it. I opened it a bit and sure enough... there were about 7 ringnecks in it! Snake catching was never so easy!

Now, most of these ringnecks (including one gravid female) had horrible scars and some fresher cuts on them. We thought about our water snake friend and wondered who has been munching on the snakes. Then it dawned on us... people have been sitting on the stone wall.

Hey- fatso! Don't sit your fat ass on stone walls! There may be young snakes getting squished under your heaving bulk! Fat bastard.

Of the dozens of ringnecks we saw, 3/4 of them had scars or wounds.

Another flat rock produced 2 clean ringnecks and a feisty young garter who musked Andrea pretty badly.
We wanted to wash off in the pond, but a large snapper was playfully biting at a leaf nearby. We eventually got most of the stink off.

So, a day that we had written off as shit produced more snakes than we could count! A well spent 4 hours and it never did rain!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 7 -- Allandale Woods

On Sunday, after my knitting group met and we had a little lunch, we decided to go on a hike in Allandale Woods. Access to it is a little odd (there's a foot trail entrance behind a church, and I think there is another entrance on the street), and it appears the woods are a popular drinking spot after dark, but it's proven to be a good place to see snakes in the past (well, we saw one garter snake the size of a shoelace two years ago).

We were walking down the path, and all of a sudden I felt something soft under my foot. I moved my foot before stepping down all the way, and looked down. I saw a toad, on its back, right where my foot had been.

"OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!!" I nearly started crying. "I JUST STEPPED ON A TOAD!" I thought for sure I had killed it. Thankfully, my instincts had told me not to step down all the way, and the toad did right itself and seemed to be doing okay.


After a bit of searching, some near-trespassing (the woods abut people's backyards), and dogs barking at us, we finally found what we were looking for: the remains of what must have been an old farm or estate.



Mike found the first snake, in between two big slabs of marble. Yes, there are slabs of marble and old marble pillars in these woods.


Homeboy was about to shed -- see how blue his eyes are? He musked a little bit, and I thought for sure he was going to try to bite, but he calmed down. I held him for a little bit, took a couple of photos, and put him back to his hiding place.

We went on to where we've been successful in the past -- the ruins of an old house.


Look at that thing!!! Imagine the danger! The side of it is close to coming down:


And there is stuff growing in between the cracks:


I'll be honest -- as a little kid, I would have been all over this stuff had I found it. My mom would have screamed at me about any rusty nails (tetanus) and about the danger, and she probably still would. Thankfully, my mom does not have the internet so she doesn't have to know.

We found nothing there.

As I said, there are some amazing things left in those woods though:



As I was taking the above photos, Mike was rooting around lifting things. He yelled, "Come over here, quick! I just found the biggest spotted I've ever seen!"

It was quite a large spotted salamander:


It's hard to show size in a photo, so I used my Borders Rewards card for something other than getting a good discount:


I also didn't want to touch him too much with my hands, considering (1) I'm not sure of their protected status in Mass., and (2) I had sprayed myself down with insect repellant. Amphibians, and especially salamanders, have pretty senstive skin, and I was afraid of getting some on him.

It gives you a good idea of the size:



It's great that there is such a robust speciman of a spotted salamander here. Allandale Woods is, technically, in the city of Boston even if physically the area is more of a suburb. There are some wetlands and vernal pools in the woods, and the Arboretum is close by, so obviously those are being used to breed in. I had never seen a spotted salamander in the wild before last year, and I'm 40 years old now. I thought they were in Western Mass., maybe, but have discovered them in the Blue Hills (near Ponkapoag) and here in Allandale Woods as well.

Mike went on to play in some old shingles on the other side of the rusty old tractor frame. He got up quite happy:


Two little garter snakes, in the same catch!


He then found a third one, roughly the same size as the other two (shoelaced size!) and we got a photo of a handful of snakes:


The smallest one, the one looking in the opposite direction, is nearing a shed as well. It may be his first! These were pretty small snakes.


I would give Allandale Woods a "full of win" vote on the herping scale. It's a little bit buggy, and there was some herb growing in there that, although it smelled pleasant, it bothered my allergies a bit, but we can probably walk to it from our house and there are almost no people there! It seems so remote, yet it's right off a parkway. Crazy!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

May 30th- Something new

Since we were more or less in the area (Scituate), we decided to see the sights at Wompatuk State Park in Hingham. We know there are herps there. There just weren't many today...

We had a lovely walk through the trails, but other than a wood frog (that owned me) and a bull frog that dove away, the walk was fruitless.


Just before we returned to the parking lot, a Green Frog put on a show for us, as if in apology. Thank you, SeƱor Greenfrog.



A chipmunk taunted us with its cuteness...


We hit the spring on the way out for some nice water and found the furthest pond, which looked more promising. Sadly, the smell of death was all over the place because there was a large dead snapper floating there.

Another Green Frog tried to please us again, though.


Driving home, we cut through Forest Hills Cemetery and we have good news to report... Big Snapper was still around... this time basking on an growth in the pond, exposed due to low water level. He slid in while we watched.


We also got yelled at by a Red Winged Blackbird because her baby was learning how to use wings in a bush that we were near.


We can't wait to get to somewhere snakier...