Friday, March 26, 2010

The 1st Day of Spring! March 20th, 2010

It seems almost surreal to be documenting a wonderful nature walk from last weekend...while snow falls outside the window!!! It's less than a week later! But OH! Last weekend was a winner!

As mentioned in the previous 2 posts, we'd made plans for a full-on Ponkapoag walk for Saturday, the first day of Spring. Weather reports said the temps might reach the 70s, so we KNEW we'd get some March herping done!

With the heavy rains that had fallen in the previous week, we didn't know how much flooding we'd see, but we knew the salamaders would be up and rarin' to go!

Once there, we discovered the flooding situation wasn't so bad... a few wet walkways and some running streams were the only signs of the heavy rain.

About 15 minutes into the walk, Andrea made the first herp catch of the year! A lovely (and large!) redback salamander!

We reached the dam and saw that there was no serious flooding on either side. Looks like that new dam is doing its job! The small pond that lies just before it was teeming with green frog tadpoles (I think), which look a little something like this:
Green Frog tadpole

Two 'phibs!! Already worth the trip! But what was that laying there next to the dam??? A good sized water snake was basking!
I admit that I wimped out and used my snake stick to catch this guy. He struck at me with a carnation-pink mouth but didn't manage to connect. Like a pussy, I held him gently behind the neck.

Well... snakes in March?? We were very pumped now!! Even the geese were psyched!

Andrea found the first garter snake... a beautiful one with reddish-orange sides. We couldn't catch her for close-ups.

We did, however, start seeing tons of garters shortly after that! We're thinking a den might have been nearby! All of these guys were from 12-16" and on the hunt. My thoughts are that these youngsters were out a bit early to get some chow before the competition gets too stiff.

We didn't forget that we'd come to look for salamanders, so we flipped a few more logs...

Taking a break next to one of the running streams that might not be there later in the season...

One lovely thing about herping in March is the lack of ticks and golfers! (The course has not yet opened.) This helped me perfect my "snake lunge"! Of course, without many leaves, I could see through the foliage and spot them through the prickers, which I stupidly lunged through... successfully!

This little fella was teeing up on the golf course, but didn't have opposable thumbs (or any thumbs), so he couldn't hold the golf club.

This guys favorite band is Thunderhole...

We found more redbacks...

and snakes, one of whom made itself comfortable in Andrea's sleeve...

She fell in love with that one...

My true goal for 2010, as lofty as it might be, is to get a picture of a snake hanging from my nose. None of these guys were bitey... until this little guy!

As threatening as he tried to be, he just wouldn't connect!
garter strike

Eventually, he got really mellow and just lay there in my hand... I didn't even have to hold onto him!
An interesting thing about this picture... the scars in his ventral area... the scars are about 2" apart, like a small mammal's bite. We're thinking a predator had him and he musked. His vent was right between the scars! Yeech!

That was our last herp, but we did see this Question Mark Butterfly on the trek back!
No Mysterions were around.

Well, we were toast by the end of this 6 hour plus romp, but it was a happy exhaustion! We never dreamed we'd see over a dozen snakes and catch about 8 of them (and March musk is way less gaggable than later in the year). The redbacks numbered in the dozens as well.

And today, March 26th... it's flippin' snowing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friday the 19th Part 2

Well, since it was so nice, Andrea decided to blow off the gym and we went to the Arnold Arboretum to take a quick walk before sunset. You never know... there might be some turtles and she too can see some winter herps!

It had cooled of a bit, but there were some avians out enjoying themselves...
Red Winged Blackbird steppin' out
Like this high-steppin' Red Winged Blackbird!

Sexy Grackles
These sexy Grackles!

Robin blorange breast
A Robin!

There were even some goldfish splashing around in the pond!
"Wild" goldfish

But were there any herps?

Why yes! A lone Painted Turtle was catching the last rays of Winter sun! We could barely make him out, but there he was!
Chelonian Thunder

We rounded out the short walk with some lovely flowers.
Crocus n' violets
Honkey crocus
White wildflowers

Crocuses, turtles and happy birds. Adios, Winter!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The last and the First! March 19, 2010

OK... I cheated, but I had to. I told Andrea in advance and she gave me her blessings. It was going to be 70 degrees on the last day of winter, so I cheated on her... and went to see if I could find a winter herp... alone.

I would never do that if it wasn't important.

So I headed for Forest Hills Cemetery, which gets chelonian action early. I drove over and parked next to the flooded pond. the 10" on rain that we got in 3 days last week had hidden most of the basking spots and islands that are the usual turtle spots. But lo and behold... on a fallen birch tree trunk, a Painted Turtle was enjoying the WINTER sun's rays!
1st herp of 2010.. Painted turtle
I didn't notice his neighbor, who is right above him partially hidden, until later.

Here's a better shot of #1!

#2, his neighbor looked a lil' something like this:

A Robin stopped by briefly and squawked a bit. My momma always said "the robin red-breast is a sure sign of the last day of winter". I always just figured she was just drunk again, but it was true today.

So, yeah... the pond was super flooded. The whole road around the back of the pond was still flooded, right up until the graves. A goose is sipping from the upper right corner of the puddle.
Flooded road

Have a seat on this one! (Perhaps some turtles have basked on this bench...)
Swim out and sit on the bench, dammit!
(That's my car in the background...)

I went off in search of the pond in the newer section of Forest Hills Cemetery, as we had seen some frogs there before. I didn't see any, but this Mallard Duck couple were having a swim.

There was some flooding on the other side of the road that was full of geese. Suddenly one goose came running across the street, flapping and honking. He charged me, hissing!

I tried to snap pictures, but I was laughing and backing up really fast! He was pissed!

I'm guessing that I was near some eggs that might have been in the brush around the pond. Every time I walked by, even on the road, he got worked up and chased me! So now, dear Andrea... Yes! I have been hissed at by a goose!!

The real herp season starts tomorrow for us. We're heading to Ponk for a full walk! I can't wait to share a nature walk with my wife!! It's twice as fun that way!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

March 6th- What are we? Crazy?

OK- the weather this Saturday was unseasonably warm. It's not like we thought we'd see any herps or anything, but why not get our winter-fattened asses out and take a nature walk?

We figured we'd stay close to home and make our way through Allendale Woods.

It sure felt good to get into the woods again and flip some logs. The little orange centipedes were already out in force... some pals we'd not seen since November.

We heard and saw woodpeckers and Andrea got this shot, which we THINK is a Hairy Woodpecker. It's a bit larger than a Downy (almost robin sized)and has a longish beak.

With no leaves on the trees, it was a different place and some of the spots that are usually tough to reach were much more accessible.

We decided to prepare some of the snakier places for future flipping. In doing so, I found this cocoon with bulging larvae in a pile of roof-tiles.

The pond was still pretty much frozen, but lovely all the same.

The melting ice had the waterfall in action.

Right alongside the pond, Andrea flipped a log and found these... slug eggs! (Thanks to Jef C. Taylor for the ID!)

A couple of female downy woodpeckers were in the trees above us but we couldn't get them on film. But the resulting picture is pretty cool. They may be in there somewhere...

I struck my sexy coy look while crossing the stream. I looked neither sexy nor coy...

Dad-gummit, it sure felt nice to stretch our legs and take a nature walk! It was about 55 degrees and beautiful! It wont be long before those herps come back and make these walks even more special!