Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 10th- 2009 is coming to an end...

OK, the weather reports said sunny and 65 degrees again. We're not stupid. This is good enough for us to try and see some herps! The calendar is running out; we've gotta grab our chances when they come!

Naturally, Ponk was our destination.

The walk to the dam was very cool... it felt like it was in the Fifties so we resigned ourselves to no reptiles; maybe just a few 'phibs. But the first 1/4 of the trek produced nuthin', except for a lively display of mushroom beauty.

Along the dam, some Pickerel frogs started hopping around.

The day wasn't quite as sunny as we'd thought it would be. It was downright cloudy! (There is a heron in flight on the horizon in this shot...)

Well, nobody ever said that reptiles were smart; there were a few intrepid chelonian warriors out trying to find some semblance of sun among the gray clouds... here's a couple of young (roughly 4" shells) painted turtles!

Funnier still was the black, rubbery thing stuck in the top of a bush not 3 feet above the turtles. Nope, not a fan belt... it was the acrobatic water snake, desperately trying to believe it was summer!
This fella was getting blown around in the cool breeze and definitely gets the "wearing flip-flops in winter" award.

Happy with our October squamate, we continued around the pond and were rewarded with some beautiful redbacks...

and this bruiser

Shrooms were still poppin' out everywhere!

We got to a favorite rock flippin' place and Andrea grabbed a young ringneck, who was coiled up tight.

I flipped and found a frosty Milk Snake:

Andrea was holding the milk and it crawled into her sleeve, content enough to stay for the winter, or at least 10 minutes while we watched the ringneck come out of his rock-nest again...

I tried to lead him back in, but he wouldn't go and went right on to the path for a cool afternoon crawl.

He got perilously close to the pond, which had icy, choppy waves hitting the nearby rocks, but he disappeared under a log, hopefully to stay warm for the winter.

I don't know if we'll get a chance to herp anymore this year but I'm grateful for the chance we got on October 10th.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sept. 27th... 'shroomin' with Jef

We took a much needed class on mushrooms, taught by Boston area naturalist Jef. C Taylor, god of all things Naturey. (His excellent blog can be found here) We learned a great deal about the subject and put it to use on a short but educational walk around Drumlin Farm with Jef and the other students.

Herping in the field is often about spotting movement (when not flipping) so training the eye for mushrooms took some getting used to. We were barely on the trail before Jef brought something to our attention... the largest snapper that I had seen all year!
This bruiser was quite the beauty and didn't mind my getting into her face for that second (uncropped) shot.

In addition to some interesting 'shroomage, Drumlin Farms had a lot of beauty to offer.

After the class, we roamed the area, looking for herps and more mushrooms.

We found a peeper
and a Green Frog.
Green Frog
Not to mention a Dagger Moth Caterpillar
Dagger Moth Caterpillar
and a Red Fox (OK, this one was in a display cage... but he's cool!)
Red Fox

We also found some slugs that were as enthusiastic about mushrooms as we were!

A great day, considering it was cool and rainy. Thanks, Jef!

As the year winds down, we never know which herp trip will be our last until Spring... *shudder*

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Quick! Before the battery (and Summer) runs out! 9-26-2009

We'd heard the weather forecast... high of 65 and sunny for Saturday. Sounded good enough to walk around Ponkapoag Pond, in what might be a last chance at herps for the year. The cold comes quickly in New England and we hate it. Come February, we'll be glad we made the effort.

Unfortunately, we noticed pretty much right away that our camera's battery was dying. We could only photograph necessary animals. That said, we saw our usual fill of late season red-backs (though they weren't as plentiful or robust as last week's sallys in Taunton!)

Along the dam, I walked the rocky side, hoping to see someone warming themselves among the rocks. The sun was hitting it nicely. Sure enough, there was a small (roughly 16"), dullish garter snake visible, but safe within the rocks. I made a feeble attempt to catch him, but he scooted deeper into the dam. I got a finger on him but never really had a chance.

It was cool, so we saw no other reptiles and just a few frogs; Leopard Frogs bounded by a few times.

On the other side (after the golf course) we flipped a log and found only our second spotted salamander of the year! (See June 7- Allandale Woods) This was a small one, but we were very glad to see him! I tried to keep the LBMs in the picture.

We got to the campsites and flipped through the wall. Pretty vacant except for one rock. We flipped it and saw a ringneck in such a perfect little coil that it looked like a cookie. A double-stuffed Halloween Oreo, to be precise. Andrea picked him up and we took his portrait.

I noticed that a large flat rock was moveable so I asked Andrea to look under it as I lifted. I was probably about 60-70 pounds, so lifting it was a chore. I lifted it and asked "anything?" She said, "Yes, medium milk snake".

She grabbed, he retreated. As Maxwell Smart would say, "missed him by that much".

Andrea has now joined the ranks of the hardened snake catchers of the world. On the walk back, she was cursing herself and saying "if only there wasn't that slight hesitation"... like I do when I miss one. She now has a goal... to not get fooled again by a squamate. Meet the new snake, same as the old snake.

OK, sorry. I got off track. But I'm happy that we went out, saw snakes and a spotted and got Andrea jazzed up to catch snakes. Let's hope that there is at least one more snake for us this year!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My milksnake brings all the boys to the yard- Sept 20th

OK... I spent over an hour yesterday writing up this eventful day, then erased it accidentally when I was 3/4 done. I've finally calmed down enough to start again.

It was getting late into September and we were going to have a nice day in the mid-Seventies. We decided that all was forgiven at Boyden Refuge in Taunton and headed out there. It just felt right. We got a fairly late start (after noon).

Heading into the fragrance garden, we decided to ignore the usual waspage and flip some rocks. It wasn't yet 70 degrees and the rocks were warm. I saw some gray and rust coils peeking out from under a rock and called Andrea over to catch her first ever Eastern Milk Snake. I lifted the rock and she snatched a real beauty!

She became hypnotized by it...

While she was under the spell of the Milk Snake, I befriended a Daddy Long Legs.

Further on, Andrea saw a fat and lovely American Toad burrowing into some dead leaves...'

She wondered what he'd look like if he was on a ski-lift...

The bunk-beds were still without snakes but Painted Turtles were enjoying the almost-autumn rays.

We like this shot...

A Pickerel Frog decided to get his picture taken as well...

I must say that Boyden was filthy with Red-Backs! Most logs yeilded 2 or more of these cute lil' salamanders.

This normal-phase one was sharing space with a leadback phase (thanks to Gabe Montague for the ID)

A rotted 2X4 had at least a dozen under it. You can see 7 in this pic; some are in the wood.

Under a pile of discarded roof tiles, there was a nice young Garter Snake resting. He went into Andrea's pocket and relaxed before we released him.

OK... this is around where I lost the post yesterday... see why I was so pissed?!

In the Appliance Graveyard, we flipped an old dryer and this American Toad was nestled in...

Under some old carpet, we found this guy...

Putting him back and commenting on how there was so much snake food but no snakes, we saw some beautiful coils barely hiding under the same carpet.

This Eastern Milk is one of the most beautiful animals that I have ever seen in the wild. His base color was speckled with an almost caramel color, with bright burnt sienna saddles...
His disposition was great as he let us handle him.

He even took a tour of Andrea's purse!
(He did lightly nip her once when she removed him...)

He crawled across my glasses, over my head and into a tree.

This is a genuine happy-smile on my face...

I took him down and put him back under the carpet... he is probably my favorite snake of the year. If I saw him at a Reptile show, I'd buy him. Beautiful and sweet.

Next up was a first for us at Boyden... a Ringneck!
I never tire of the "fistful of ringneck" pictures.

It should be mentioned that both Andrea and I had see Garters on the move that we were unable to catch... mine had a meal-bulge so it's just as well.

Was this the Boyden of old? Fuck yeah!

We started out and decided, since it was cooling off and after 5PM, to check the Fragrance Garden again. After all, the rocks would still be warm. They sure were! Yay to Andrea for this suggestion!

We found a young Garter Snake who musked me but good. First real musk of the day. Man, what an asshole! He was cute though...

Andrea's pal was still there, so she recaught him just to say goodbye...

Then, just to cap it off, I flipped a rock in a partially hidden wall and nabbed our third Eastern Milk of the day!!

What a great day! I'm glad that we lifted our Boyden ban. 8 snakes, 6 catches and more redbacks than you can shake a rotted 2X4 at! Success with no suck.