Saturday, April 23, 2011

Patriots Day April 18th 2011... too cool?

Low Sixties. Bleh. BUT, this gift holiday to the people of Boston is traditionally our first herping day of the year, so we wanted to get out... even though it wouldn't be the first.

We wanted to check out Boyden Refuge in Taunton to see how it fared the winter.

It was very cool... almost breath-seeing cool. We went through quickly at first. The weather was cool for us, but the redbacks were enjoying it.

If you ever got the feeling that Redbacks are the most common herp in our area, you'd be absolutely right!

It should be noted that the forest was very wet... vernal pools were plentiful and deep, popping up in places we'd never seen them before. We had to alter our usual trail. knowing that certain spots would probably be impassable.

This lovely olive Garter Snake made himself known to Andrea. He took a little bit of work to track down, but we got him to photograph pretty well!

His body was warm to the touch, so I guess he'd found a nice basking spot. Overall, the weather was warming up a bit.

Not far from him, we found a Geo Cache...

A few Redbacks later...

we found our first Green Frog of the year, hanging out in a vernal pool.

Heading back, I saw a flicker of movement and saw a snake tearing up an incline. I lunged and landed full-out on my stomach grabbing a fistful of leaves. Andrea said that there was a tail in my hand... I reached further ahead and had a Ribbon Snake!

Really living up to his name, this guy was pencil thin, but about 18 inches long, with a beautiful shade of copper-red mixed in with the black of his sides.

Not bad... 2 Ribbon Snakes already in 2011... we didn't see ANY all last year!

On the way out, I was flipping warm stones in the Fragrance Garden and was greeted by a very weird thing. A tiny, hovering thing with a long beak. Was it a tiny hummingbird? I'd never seen anything like it!

Turns out is was a Large Bee Fly:
Large Bee Fly

New to me, though I guess they're very common! Moved like a hovercraft. Very cool.

Auf weidersehen!

Friday, April 22, 2011

April 10th, 2011... back in Mass.

Twas a Sunday with temps in the mid-60s. Not exactly a heatwave, but it was as warm as the week before in North Carolina, so we went to Ponkapoag. At least the redbacks should be out, maybe more.

We got to our favorite vernal pool, which I guess should just be called a tiny pond... it's usually there, even when it's been very dry. Since it is usually very Phibtastic, we looked for egg masses.

We found this one, which I think is a Pickerel Frog mass.
Pickerel frog egg mass

This was near it. It looks like Spotted Salamanders, but I've never seen them in that area of Ponk. Anyone?

Along the dam, we found our first snake of 2011, and imagine our surprise that it turned out to be a Ribbon Snake!
1st snake of 2011... a Ribbon Snake!
He crawled up Andrea's sleeve and was just a beauty in every respect!

So... snakes were up and about in Massachusetts! Good to know!

Further up the pond, there was a behemoth Snapping Turtle just under the water.
To make sure we weren't repeating ourselves from the week before (by photographing a dead turtle), I poked his shell with Andrea's walking stick. He retracted his back legs, so we knew he was OK, if a little cool.

Like golf? Nor do I, but I like animals that live around the course! Andrea looked down and saw this lovely yellowy Garter Snake partially hidden by leaves.
A very beautiful specimen!

We continued and did the full walk around the pond... ambitious for early April... before our herpin' legs were ready to go!

Hey, is it suspicious that we hadn't seen any Redbacks yet? Never fear!

First up was a Leadback, followed by many many Redbacks. We lost count! Let's just show some pics, shall we?
1st redback of 2011... a leadback


Until next time... try to enjoy the daylight...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

North Carolina Tart Poo... err... Part Two! 4-2-2011

We slept in a bit but the wedding was at 11 AM, so we had to hustle once we got up. We took a walk to the gas station/ convenience store for a coffee and Diet Coke. OK... I bought 3 Diet Cokes. I am what I am! On the way back from the store, we saw another possible feral kitty...

While other people showered (cleanliness is for sissies), I went into the backyard to poke around. The stripey anole was still there, but nothing else was about. There was a great squawking in the air and I looked up and saw 5... no, 6... nope... 8... holy crap- there's a dozen birds of prey circling around up there!
Impossible to photograph, but memorable as hell!

So, we went and got my Mom hitched...

The happy couple disappeared shortly after the ceremony, so we changed (though I'd love to herp in a suit someday) and took a short drive to the Croatan National Forest... a place full of wonderfulness.

We were herping from the car, as there is a series of dirt eoads there. When we saw potential good habitat, we pulled over and poked around. It should be noted that the temp was in the mid 60s, but the wind was ripping.

Andrea saw some turtles basking on the bank of a creek so we pulled over and stealthily crept back to the spot. I only got a quick peek before they both slid into the water... nary a photo got taken. They were more than likely River Cooters. Discouraged, we looked around. I saw a shell! I alerted Andrea and we got some pics...

It posed quite well. We were happy. Then I got suspicious so I got a stick and poked it. It was dead. Oh well, judging from the size, it had a long life!

Finding animals proved problematic. We found a few piles of tar paper baking in the sun... perfect for snakes, but all I got as a couple of dozen red ant bites on my hands!

We found one place to pull off where there was a posted map and bathrooms. I dug under a piece of particle board and promptly had my ass handed to me by a medium sized skink! No blue tail, but fast as hell. I just couldn't get a hold of him to photograph, even though he gave me 4 tries!

We walked around the perimeter of the lot and lo and behold... a Green Anole! In the cool weather, he was hardly green... but check out the red and chocolate of this beauty!
I got him to relax and almost fall asleep in my hand!

On the next tree, another guy was jumping around! He gave me a sly look before jumping onto Andrea's coat!

We kept on walking and I heard Andrea exclaim that she'd found another Green Anole!
She put him down on a log and he seemed content to hang there for a while.DSCN0743

I found a mealworm and put it in front of him. Then I caught up with Andrea who had moved on.

On our way back past the log, the anole was still there, but he was licking his chops!! Mealworm lunch!

Then we saw some hopping and found a lovely Southern Toad.
Disaproving Toad disaproves

Man... toads are so photogenic!

As he was our last herp of the trip, I'll leave you with a lovely portrait of what I'm sure will be the only Southern Toad of 2011!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

North Carolina Part One: April 1st, 2011

When planning our trip to North Carolina to marry my mom off, we tried to work in as much herping time as possible. We caught a 6:00 AM flight from Boston to Raleigh/ Durham and hoped that along our 2 1/2 hour drive to mom's house, we'd have some chances to look for critters.

Upon getting into NC, we realized that it was cooler than expected. After all, it was only 9 AM! So we tried to put some miles behind us. We passed many interesting spots... piles of tin, abandoned buildings and the like, but we didn't feel like trespassing and getting arrested, so we passed them by. After a couple of hours, we decided to hit a "rest stop" just to stretch and poke around. Besides, we had to pee!

While Andrea was still incarcerated in the lil' ladies' room, I started poking around the outside of the spacious rest area, about 10 miles outside of New Bern. I saw some movement in a pot of flowers... Green Anole! Luckily, though he was green, he was cool enough for me to nab him!

While walking him back to his flower pot, Andrea said, "We should keep an eye out on the building...". Prophetic. There was a larger Anole right there, still in her brown jammies!

Of course we had to take advantage of the 2 green anole photo op!
The smaller green guy was checking her out. She said her name was Nina Grohl.

We put them back and modeled the male (whose name was Buck Dharma) amongst his flowers.

Encouraged, we took a look around the grounds. We saw this massive wasp, whose wing span must have been over 3 inches!

But no more anoles, until we got back to Buck Dharma's pot. There were 3 or 4 running around that one, hiding down the sides when we approached...

Encouraged, we went on our way!

Upon reaching my mom's house, we had a little lunch, but peeked in her backyard while waiting... there was a stripey little green anole hanging out...

After eating, we were going to go to her husband-to-be's property to look around. He lives near a creek and swampland, so we had some good chances. Sadly, it was still fairly cool.

In a lot next to my mom's we found some pine-cones from the rare Vag Tree,

a purple finch (that was in the grass and I almost stepped on!),

and a possibly feral tuxedo cat!

So soon we piled into my mom's speed machine, I mean car, and she zooooomed us over to her intended's land. We met the man who was going to be related to us in less than 24 hours, and started herping his property!

First up was probably an Squirrel Tree frog, hiding on some plastic floaties.

Moving around more floaties, we uncovered a quartet of hylids!

Next up was a large (wolf?) spider!

With Jim(my mum's sweetie)'s permission, we started peeling back bark from some fallen pine trees. There were some brilliant green tiger beetles in there, which we neglected to photograph. Then we saw a flash of bright blue. A tiger bettle? Nope! A young 5-lined Skink!

He was squirmy as hell and I was afraid of him dropping his tail, but everything stayed cool...

We also found another tree frog inside the bark...

After that, we were beat! (Hell, we got up at 3:45 AM!) We went home to rest up for the excitement of the next day!