Sunday, July 11, 2010

Back to Ponkapoag- July 8th 2010

After two days of working on the new house, we NEEDED to get back to nature!! We had to hang around in the morning to wait for our new washing machine to get delivered, but planned to get out after. After all... we're on vacation and this is what we wanted to do!

The washer was delivered fairly late, but we are, as always, ready to find cute animals! So even though it was after 3PM... off we went!

Of course, the heatwave was still flaming on. We doubted we'd have any snake sightings but figured that maybe when the sun was setting we'd get lucky.

We got to Ponk at about 3:30PM and hit the trails. Salamanders were still active, though incredibly hard to photograph for some reason!

Earthworms were dancing around... Crazy Worms we call 'em!

Once we got to the dam area, frogs started being really easy to find! Like this mammoth Bullfrog!
Massive Bullfrog

And his younger brother...

While walking the dam, I saw a strange sight... a Painted Turtle just relaxing in the grass. She looked a little something like this...
Put-upon Painted Turtle

Right next to her was this young Green Frog:
Young Green Frog

We put the turtle back down and she proceeded to charm us!

Snakes might have been in short supply this day but the Avian world was well accounted for! Here's a Redwinged Blackbird gaping in the heat...

In the distance, a Cormorant was enjoying the pond...

The only other hiker on the dam was this Rock Dove (OK... pigeon. Note the tag on his foot)

This family of Canadian Geese was grazing and the two adults hissed when we tried to use the path!

We'd planned to go all the way around the pond, but Andrea has a bone-spur on her foot and it was hurting badly. We doubled back at the halfway mark (to avoid tougher trails) but still saw some amazing animals on the way back!

Andrea spotted a real rarity- a crawfish walking on dry land!
This good-sized gal had eggs all over her belly.

This young Painted Turtle was trying to catch the last rays of sunlight...

Andrea got a nice shot of this Red Squirrel, a species that seems almost as prevalent here as the Grey Squirrels!

Our last animal of the day was a Pickerel Frog, who was just hanging out in the path, fearless. Andrea got this photo with NO ZOOM... just got all up in his grill!

Foot pain, late start and heat aside, this was a great day and a welcome return to Ponkapoag Pond! Plus, we got to wash our dirty clothes in a new washer when we got home!

My Kingdom for a Redback- July 5th, 2010

Heatwave continued... no rain for weeks... hey! Let's go Herpin'!

We'd quickly checked out Cutler Park Reservation in Needham earlier in the year and deemed it worthy of our Herpin' time. A fellow hiker had mentioned some "black snakes, 6 feet long, that shook their tails and stood their ground"! Always in the mood for a Racer, we decided to try to get there early, before the 90+ degree weather kicked in.

By 9:30, it was roasting. We valiantly carried on, checking to and fro but, except for an unidentified frog who jumped into some cool bushes, we saw very little of interest.

This bunny was hot (and sexy).

But really, this deer pretty much spelled out how we would be feeling before too long.

Knowing that there was a pond on the far end of the reservation, we stupidly went for it. We were melting hot and didn't see so much as a redback. Nothing. We found plenty of superb habitat, some great flippin' wood, miles of excellent trails... but no animals stupid enough to be out.

After a few hours and a couple of miles, we found the pond... an oasis amidst the dust bowl that we'd just clunked through. We saw our herp of the day... a lone painted turtle off in the distance baking itself in the sun.

This beetle was so hot, he just left his skin behind and found shelter! (OK... it's some kind of molt...)

This place NEEDS RAIN!! The earth was cracked and dusty, the marshland dry and empty, and the animals conspicuously absent. We'll try again in September.

This hobby can get you. Some days, it doesn't matter how tenacious you are or how hard you try. Perseverance just doesn't always pay off. This was one of those nature walks that felt like an endurance test. Tired, thirsty, sweaty and beaten, we trudged back to the car. Better luck next time.

Then we got ice cream!!!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Indeerpendence Day July 4th- 2010

We realized that we had accidentally started a sort of tradition by going to the Blue Hills (non-Ponkapoag) on the Fourth of July. (Here is last years entry) So, why not go again this year?

We were a bit baked from the day before and the heatwave was still cooking away but we are nothing if not intrepid warriors. Well, maybe a bit daft as well.

We got there at 11ish and had pretty much written off snakes again as it was hot hot HOT already! Whatever. This is our thing, so we headed into the woods.

The polar opposite the day before, we double-teamed a hapless garter snake while still within sight of the car. This fellow slid under a log I had just lifted so... well... I lifted it again!

A fine figure of a young checkerboarded garter snake! He promptly musked the fuck out of me. Whatever! We took pictures and enjoyed his cuteness. We released him and he went right back under the log, looking something like this.

Pumped up, we carried on. It was to be a Wood Froggeriffic day for sure. We'd not seen any yet this year but we found a fine specimen right away.

More soon followed.

Redbacks were also present, of course! This little guy was all crooked for some reason...

There was this guy as well, a Leadback!

While trying to find a pond that was very fruitful last year, a fellow hiker said to be on the lookout for deer... he'd just seen a few.

Hey- he was right. These tow good sized females were frolicking in the woods, stopping only to stare at us while we snapped these (poor) pictures!

Pretty exciting, I say!

We found that pond but due to the heat and lack of rain lately, it was dry. I did see a snake scoot out of sight and I couldn't find him. But we did find out why he was there... tons of mini newborn Wood Frogs!

If yesterday was the day of the Toad, then surely this was Wood Frog Sunday!

Satisfied, we started back to the car. We'd been in for about 3 1/2 hours and were getting weary. Andrea decided to check a cool drainage ditch next to the road for potential redbacks or frogs. Guess what she found?


A way handsome garter snake! (Who musked the fuck out of her!!)


OK... this was a good day! We went up to the "zoo" area (some local avian and turtle species, as well as a swell duck pond). There are some wild painted and snapping turtles in the duck pond. The painteds were out sunning and swimming.

But in the end, we were hot and tired and the captive river otter had the best idea.

We went home to find a hollow log to sack out in.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tiny Toads Terrorize Taunton! 7-3-2010

Back in the field again!!

After a month and a half of moving, painting, building and other strenuous, non-herping things, we finally got back into the wild on Saturday, July 3rd! Place of choice? Boyden Refuge!

The first thing that we wanted to do in Taunton was check out the new permanent Flea Market that we'd found out about. It was OK (needs to grow a bit) but on the grounds outside, there was a good amount of AC (artificial cover... not air conditioning, which was needed as it was in the mid-90s!). We went to explore and flip a bit and this big ol' Toad hopped by!

Look what we found at the Flea Market

This was a sure sign of good things to come!

We got to Boyden at about 11:30AM. It was already very hot and we were thinking that it might be a big too hot for snakes... maybe anything! Still, we trekked on!

Under logs, where the soil was still cool and moist, Redbacks were still around! These guys are so hardy- nothing seems to bother them! Ahh, for the life of a salamander!

But where were the snakes?

It was then that the toads invaded! Bigger ones and tiny ones! Toads all over the damn place!



At one point, we were flipping some tiles and Andrea saw a small garter snake go slithering off... she made a valiant attempt, but the wee (under 10 incher) squamate had escaped. Ah well... next time!

This Stag Beetle reared up and warned us not to fuck with it...

Andrea needed to cool down from the heat and stepped into the pond for a spell.
This ladybug had the same idea...

We carried on and it looked as though we were on the right track... we saw a skin!

Flipping the log NEXT to this one revealed the owner of that skin! We had him trapped! We could finally catch a snake and photograph it!! First one in over a month!! So we flipped the log...

And he went right past me. I chased him and he eluded me, getting lost in some bushes near the pond.

I was beside myself! The mournful Charlie Brown Failure Theme played in my head...

About the only thing that could cheer me up after that humiliation would be a stack of Painted Turtles! Luckily, one was nearby!

We went to the waterfall and there was an extraordinarily large Seagull there enjoying a dip!

Our walk back to the car, beaten, sweaty and tired, was fairly uneventful, except when walking past a part of the woods we have been calling Toad Hollow for the past couple of years. There, in the hollow of a tree in Toad Hollow... was a toad!
Putting the toad in Toad Hollow

Somehow, that made it all worth it!

OK, so we didn't manage any snakes in 5 1/2 hours. BUT, we finally got back into the woods and had a terrific toad day! I'm satisfied!