Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Shoes!! Let's break 'em in! 7-15-2011

Since we are so keen on getting into the woods and doing long hikes, yet we both have painful, crappy feet, we decided to take the plunge and get some actual hiking shoes. God help me, we went into an LL Bean and spent some money! Take away my lifelong punk credentials right now!

Before heading out on a long walk and risking new-shoe-blisters, we decided on a short break-in hike through Allendale Woods. I picked Andrea up from the train station after work and we headed over, getting there by about 5:45 PM.

The shoes felt OK and the woods were cool and pleasant. We found this dragonfly molt in pretty good condition...

We didn't expect to see any snakes, though we did some flippin'. To our surprise, this chubby little Garter Snake was still out and about, probably looking to stuff a few more tiny toads into it's gullet!
It's hard to guess how many toads this might be in his belly, but this is a satisfied snake, for sure!

One of the American Toads he missed was hopping nearby...

The early evening is always a good time to hear and see Bullfrogs, and the pond was active!

This guy was great... first he just looked hilarious...
Then he climbed out of the water a bit to try to look threatening to Andrea, puffing himself up and looking formidable!

Along the path, we found this massive brute!

And this lovable American Toad who was lumbering along gracelessly!

I tried to film his sloppy hopping, but it didn't come out very good. The picture of my attempt is, however, hilarious!

So, the shoes seem OK and we saw some herps in a whirlwind quickie of a hike (under 2 hours!!)... and saw what we considered to be a "bonus snake"!

Luckily, we enjoyed ourselves for that brief hike on a Friday evening, because it proved to be our only hike for that very busy weekend!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Back to familiar... Boyden 7-9-2011

Well, we had been trying out a lot of new spots of late and since we got lost at 2 of them, we decided to go to one of our favorite places, one that we're very familiar with... Boyden Refuge in Taunton. We hadn't expected to be able to herp that day, but plans changed so with a late start, we headed out.

We arrived way later than normal... we hit the trail at High Noon. We got things started with a few nice Redbacks!

Surprisingly, there weren't many turtles about, save for this Painted Turtle who was doing his yoga, face hidden to the camera.

It's still the season for tiny toads and Boyden was positively hoppin' with them!

It was very moist there, having had heavy rain for two nights prior, so it was good n' shroomy!
There was even a rare Butt-shroom!

Further along, we found what looked like speedy tiny toads, but were in fact tiny Spring Peepers!

This guy wanted a closer look at the detailed ink on my arm...

American Toads continued to pop up in all sizes!

No matter how small they are, toads always look so put-upon!

Andrea got this nice snap of a dragonfly at the waterfall...

We'd seen many Pickerel Frogs along the trails, but were unable to photograph them. This Green Frog sat for his portrait, though.
I think he might be the same guy that we found here. It must be his crib, yo.

Again, with so many toads, it was surprising that we didn't see any snakes! But then, we had arrived late... they might have already eaten and were resting. Digging through some soggy carpet, I proved my theory!
This fella had some real girth, like he'd just eaten a dozen tiny toads. He musked audibly... right up my arm, but luckily, it didn't stink much. Even if it did, how could I have gotten angry at this face?!

He was very interested in getting a close-up from Andrea!
close up!

Andrea, who has excellent eyes, managed to find this TT... ridiculously small!

This guy posed so beautifully, we took many pics! Such regal beauty!

So, then we were walking along, almost ready to call it a day, when a Garter Snake shot across the path like lightning! We looked beyond a log into the brush behind it and didn't see him. So... I rolled the log. There he was!!!

As I leaned forward and reached for him, a sharp jagged stick stuck into my right eye at the same time! It was like fire shooting through my face! Being the intrepid herper (read: idiot) that I am, I held the snake over my shoulder for Andrea to take and get the shot, while I lay with my face in my hands, writhing in pain.

This is the culprit.

Through the searing pain and not knowing if my eye was even still inside, I heard Andrea say that he'd musked the camera. I chuckled despite myself.


Eventually, I determined that my eye was in fact still intact, though it was sure in a lot of pain, and leaking ichor. I regained my composure after a while and posed with my new pal, who'd kicked my ass royally.

We let him go and he crawled off as if nothing had happened.

Well, my eye really hurt, but we'd already planned on Chinese Buffet (Beige Food) so we hit the Mandarin Restaurant on the way home. Then I drove home. At times, there was such white-hot stabs of pain in my eye that I almost drove off the road. But I didn't.

At home I showered. Rinsing my eye was a big mistake... the pain was unbearable. I napped for a bit. When I woke up, I couldn't go a few minutes without those shooting pains. I couldn't watch a Hicksploitation movie!!! I decided to go to the ER to have them take a look and give me something to slather on it. Second big mistake...

OK... we knew it would take forever. And it did. The Faulkner Hospital was hoppin' with drama at 9:30 on a Saturday night. I finally got a room and they brought in the wondrous Eyebox!
Maybe I'd get an all-new orb!!

EVENTUALLY... a doctor graced us with his presence. He looked, then decided I needed a cat-scan. We had to wait more. Andrea did her BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE impression...
the brain that wouldn't die

Eventually, I went for my cat-scan. I had to stay on a stretcher, which the orderly (a self-confessed Jerry Lewis fan) kept bumping into doors and walls. Andrea wasn't amused with the wait.
andrea bored shitless

The cat-scan showed evidence of wood stuck in the eye, as well as a scratched and bruised cornea. Their treatment? Send me over to Mass Eye and Ear! By ambulance! They couldn't find an eyepatch (so I'd look cool) so they taped a flippin' urine cup to my face! I looked like a low-rent cyborg!
low rent cyborg

OK... long story short, since I'm out of pictures. I had another cat-scan at ME&E, they saw something too, though the attending doctor did not. They poked and prodded and generally tortured me (when they weren't completely ignoring me). A specialist was brought in and she said the thing should work it's way out with some eye-goo. (That had been my plan... 11 hours earlier!!!) At any rate, by 8:30 AM, with only a few dozes of sleep, they sprung me... with a prescription for goo.

The whatever-it-was stuck in my eye does indeed seem to have worked its way out... no more stabbing flashes of pain, and the swelling and redness are much better. As is the pain. The bruise is yellowey, so my eye looks stupid, but at least I don't have a fucking urine cup taped to my face! The scratched part is still pretty red, but it's getting better every day. Vision is fine. 4 days later, I'm very pleased with the progress.

So... 2 emergency rooms, two cat-scans, an ambulance ride, untold amounts of pain and money spent... was it worth it?

Hell yeah!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just kill me... I MISSED A HOGGIE!!!! 7-3-2011

So... we went to Myles Standish State Forest in Carver, MA, near the cape. The place is loaded with ponds and trails and we wanted to see what it has to offer. We hit some Cape traffic, but nothing so bad that we had to retreat.

Once inside the MSSF, we pulled off in one spot to flip a little. Sandy soil. Hmmm... not what we're used to in town. Electrical towers buzzed over our heads. Flipping produced some nice, colorful Fowlers Toads!
We were really impressed with their yellow legs! They're now known as the Electric Toads! (Didn't they have a hit back in '67?)

We headed further down the road and decided to park ($5) in the College Pond parking lot. We'd just passed a small pond where I could see stacks of turtles, so it looked like as good a place as any! Here is that stack...

Though Plymouth County is where you can find the endangered Red Bellied Slider, I'm pretty sure that all of these (and subsequent turtles) are Painted Turtles.

Across the street from that pond was another one, where the above Painted was basking. Nothing we did seemed to bother him at all.

Looking down, we noticed a familiar sight of late... tiny toads!!!

So yeah, we were poking around the pond, looking for tiny toads. Someone else was, too. At the same time, Andrea and I both noticed a portion of snake body, hidden in the bushes. It was yellowish/ tan with black splotch saddles on it. Keeled scales. Heavy bodied. I hesitated for a moment, being a new skin pattern to me. I thought... Hognose! But I also thought, despite the completely wrong habitat, that there was a shred of possibility that it wasn't... Timber Rattlesnakes have a similar pattern and color in the light phase. I wanted to get a better look.

I lifted another portion of the bush to try to see the head. I saw only a slight bit more before it disappeared. Unbelievably pissed at myself, I spent the next 10 minutes digging through that brush looking for what I was now positive was a hoggie. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!!!!!! We returned to the same spot 3 or 4 more times in the next 2 hours. Nuthin'. FUCK! Not even a picture.

What the hell happened to Hognose Snakes acting like a cobra or playing dead??? This guy just (slowly) crawled off??? AND I FUCKING DIDN'T GET A PICTURE!!!! I'm still (5 days later) so pissed at my moment of hesitation. Now I'm obsessed and WILL find one this year. Or die trying!!!!

After calming down a bit, we continued on. The beach area of the main pond (College Pond) was littered with humans, so we stayed around the sides, flipping logs and staying out of the way of noisy, filthy, despicable humanity. One very good thing then happened... I flipped a board and what I first had thought was a Dekay's Snake turned out to be our first Redbelly Snake!!! A lovely golden brown phase!

That made up for the Hoggie miss... a little.

As we kept poking around, I was telling Andrea that there is another color phase of the Redbelly... a charcoal color. Guess what was under a piece of bark?

So at least we managed both Redbelly color phases (and there are interim colors as well), even if I was a huge failure with the Hoggie.

To go with the Redbelly, Andrea found a Redback Salamander, who was (I'm pretty sure with this one) guarding her eggs!

Of course, we never really strayed far from the sight of the Hoggie-miss, but Painted Turtles didn't seem to mind our return... they kept stacking in the sun!

This is that same solo guy from before, but with a friend... looking a bit like a two-headed turtle...

Some avian friends were about too... this duck was hanging on the beach with her babies, being far less obnoxious than the humans doing the same thing!

We finally decided to move to a different area and packed up and moved to a non-beach trail area. There was a lovely paved trail, but we were grateful to find lesser trails, where we might see some herps.

The soil was still very sandy... in fact, the trail broke into big sandtraps at times. We saw someone buzz past... it was this little toad!

It's interesting to note how light he is. Blended right in with the sand. In fact, all of the Fowlers Toads that we saw in this stretch, even when they had designs, had a very light base color. Darwin, I ain't, but this was pretty cool!

The absence of Garter Snakes was once again surprising... so many tasty little toads.

Then we got really lost. For about an hour and a half! Our map was pretty useless on the trails. Trails were marked, but the map didn't have those numbers on it. So, we trudged through the woods (and fuckloads of poison ivy... guess I'm immune!) looking for the right path. We did come to a lovely clearing...
But that was little consolation. I kept wondering if the powers that be would at least throw us a bone and let us see a Hognose (toads, man! So many toads!) or a Box Turtle, but no... such was not our luck.

We finally hit the end of a trail and... the parking lot was there with our car sitting alone... everyone else had left. Ahhhh, I knew it was there all along!! (yeah, right!)

So, we were completely exhausted. On the way home, we summed up our bitter sweet day. Missed the Hoggie... found 2 Redbellies! Saw lots of herps... got lost. I'll have to give this day a thumbs up, but with a huge asterisk.

Andrea makes a good point about the Hognose. At least we know where they are now. Plus, with the Redbellies, we've now seen and photographed 8 of the 14 Massachusetts snake species this year. Not bad.

But it should have been 9...