Friday, December 31, 2010

What's wrong with Avians?

Twas a fine day in mid-November. There had already been a frost, so herps were out of the question. But what about their beaky, flappy and oh so airborne brethren?

We headed to Forest Hills Cemetery (honestly, hoping to see a turtle, but it wasn't to be).

We saw Hooded Mergansers! Cuter than shit, they are! I think it's 3 males and a female.

Andrea got amazingly close to a heron and got some great shots!

Then some guy and his brat came clomping up and Heron-boy took flight!

Geese were enjoying the Snapper-free environment!

We packed up our asses and went for a drive after that... to Winslow Farm! Here, we saw... shitloads of cats!

There were some odd looking wild ducks...

And I got cozy with a pot-belly pig.

I need to get out and herp again soon. But it's New Years eve right now, so my chances suck ass.

Last herp of 2010... Oct. 28th

We were cat watching for our good friends... the wise and wonderful Kate and Snag (both adjectives apply to both friends...). They have mentioned snakes and salamanders in their yard, which is a 2 minute walk from our house.

It was getting dark, but the day was balmy... so we flipped a few rocks and... REDBACK!!

He quickly scurried off into the grass... leaving us with the memory of our LAST HERP OF 2010.
Last herp of 2010

October 23rd... Getting desperate...

OK, 2010 has been a pretty crummy one for nature walks and herping. There was the house-buying thing, moving and a book in design taking up most of the summer months. Not to complain, but... it sucked! (OK... that's certainly a complaint... I'm sorry)

With the viable herping days winding down oh- so rapidly, we had a day of low-60s F temps, so we went to a new favorite place... a visit to the mostest Salamanderest place of all... Hoar!

It took a while, but we finally scored a Fistful of Redbacks, directed by Sergio Leone!

After we got our herpin' eyes adjusted, redbacks started popping up all over the place! Now that's a'what I'm-a talkin' about!

The autumnal colors were quite lovely... we tried to capture them on the digital camera with middling success...

Our worrying about not finding herps was put to rest by the abundance of Redbacks... they are hardy little fuckers!

There are at least 4 redbacks in this shot sharing their space with a slug...

Guess what else was at Hoar today... Pill Bugs!!!! Oh, and a Spotted!

It was cold enough for Andrea to wear her Bear Claws, but the Spotted Sally didn't mind!

Redbacks and leadbacks made themselves known again...

And then another Spotted!

Well, we were certainly satisfied... Sally-riffic! If these were our last herps of the year, then we went out with a bang! Thank you, Hoar!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Can Cutler cut it? Sept. 25th 2010

With the herping year rumbling towards its end, we wanted to give Cutler Reservation another chance. (Remember earlier this year? Suckage...) It was a much cooler day (though still nearing 80) so we thought we might score a glimpse of those alleged black racers that live around there...

We headed in, enjoying the boardwalk and the repairs that it underwent this year.

There were giant green BEGINNING OF THE END-type grasshoppers all over, which was very nice... I haven't seen them since I was a kid! Sadly, every time I had a really good sized one, the camera pooped out on us.

We walked alongside the rocky hill that holds up the train tracks, which is where these racers supposedly hang out. No snakes, but evidence exists! A racer skin!

So, we went through the tunnel, which leads to the trails that lace through the rest of Cutler. Midway through this cool, dark place we saw our first herp... a fine (fat) figure of an American Toad!
I like the juxtaposition between the lovely natural toadiness of the animal and the eye-soreiness of the graffiti and litter. Hey, if it doesn't bother him, it shouldn't bother me, I guess...

On the other side of the tunnel, we did some flipping and started to find some Redbacks!
This one's a lead-back. Notice the Grasshopper Tar on my hands from an earlier catch.

At this point, Andrea's achilles tendonitis was flaring up badly so, despite our newly acquired luck, we had to turn back. Of course, we had to check out our toad-pal on the way back through the tunnel...

On the way back across the boardwalk, I grabbed a few smaller grass-hoppers to try to photograph, if the fucking camera would cooperate. It did.
(I even caught one on my snake stick!)

At the end of the boardwalk, a miracle happened. I saw a fine garter snake coiled off to the right. This is what he looked like!
He didn't bite (though he threatened) but he musked the bejesus out of me! Still, a good sized and beautiful Garter Snake.

Sad to think, as I write this on October 23rd, that he might be our last snake of 2010. A busy October and cool days have made it very hard to get back out. Hopefully today.

At any rate, Cutler is back in our good graces and will be a hike we take often in 2011.

Friday, October 8, 2010

THIS is why we love Ponkapoag!! Sept. 19th 2010

Hot on the heels of a Spotty-centric Saturday, we headed for the hills... the Blue Hills. Ponkapoag, to be specific.

Our first herp sighting was just before the dam... a massive Bullfrog. With no size reference, it's tough to describe but this guy is a BRUISER!

A bit further on, Andrea spotted this smaller Bullfrog, decked out in his funkiest jammies.

A bit further down the dam, Andrea yelled out "Water"! A ran over (I was working the opposite side of the dam) and got there just as a black tail was slipping between some rocks. I grabbed it and held on, trying to coax the snake back. I could see a little noggin peeking out a few stones up and tried to clear some space but he backed up. We wrestled for about 3 minutes and I was decidedly losing the tug of war. I didn't want to damage a scale or anything so I freed him, with only this picture to show for it...
Near catch of a water snake

I had a little better luck further down the dam with this Garter Snake!

He was full of piss and vinegar (but not musk, as he'd sprayed me pretty well) and seemed to enjoy the taste of my finger!

I asked Andrea if she wanted to hold him and she said "nah- I'd rather get bitten by my own catch". Prophetic words indeed.

This youthful Painted Turtle was blending in nicely with his surroundings, but one little movement caught Andrea's eye and she got this shot!
Painted turtle

This Green Frog was also enjoying the dam.

We decided to go the whole way around as Andrea's tendons were feeling OK and the day was lovely! So... we found our old reliable friends the Redback...

And the red squirrel...
(Check out this guy's racing stripe...)

A little further on, Andrea yelled out "Milk"! Man, she was having the luck today!
She pulled up this little beauty!

Remember how she'd rather get bitten by her own snake? Blurry pix, but hilarious!
Andrea gets tagged!

Feisty yes, and such a beauty!

A little bit of flipping also turned up a lovely Ringneck snake!

We've been told that water snakes have been seen along the dock area so we gave it a closer inspection... nope, this wasn't a Water Snake...
(More like a Pickerel Frog!)

But these skins were under the dock so I believe the stories...

Then things got weird...

The pond was very low due to the dry weather that we'd been having. Therefore, there was plenty of "beach" to walk along. I was poking around looking for water snakes and Andrea squeaked... "Redback... walking"! Now, we see dozens of Redbacks on most of our nature walks, but they're always nestled under rocks and logs. This guy was walking tall along the beach!! Towards the water!
Redback on the beach

And he didn't stop when he got to the water! He took a dunk and swam a bit (undulating side to side, as one might expect) and came back to the shore!
Redback taking a swim

Then, he disappeared into some wet leaves on the shore. Weird.

Walking back towards the car, I saw a garter near the trail. I pointed him out to Andrea, who didn't see him. I nudged him with my snake stick to show her and he didn't move. (I expected him to take off.) So I bent down and picked him up. He was feisty to a degree...

But I realized that only his front half was feisty and his back half lay limply in my hands...

He was digesting a meal so he wasn't so impaired that he couldn't hunt but his back 2/3rds were definitely just hanging there. I put him down to watch him crawl and sure enough, his back 2/3rds dragged behind...
Bum tail

Injured or not (there were no open wounds visible) he was an alert and good looking specimen (on the front at least!) and when we left him, he was eyeing a Pickerel Frog that had jumped within a few inches of his head.
Long green noggin

Quite a day! I was nice to see a few different species of snakes for a change! On the final stretch of the walk, we heard a cooing in the bushes and saw this young 'un sitting there... Not sure what it is, but it's cute! (The esteemed Jef C. Taylor says what we gots here is a cat bird! Thanks Jef!)

Ponkapoag, sometimes I wonder why we bother walking on other trails... This one is just perfect!