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...


  1. I love this blog. I come by way of Andrea's knitting blog, and I wouldn't pick up snakes myself, but I love the pictures and reading about the adventures. Thank you for sharing them. Condolences on your disappointment on this trip.

  2. Love the eye candy. Sorry about the hognose (potential/unverified) miss. But all those lovely pale yellows, mmmn

  3. Thank you both! I'm (almost) over the Hoggie-miss by now. I vow to photograph one this year! But then I vowed to get a photo of a Garter Snake biting my nose last year and still haven't produced one, so...

  4. I'm also a new follower, by way of Jef Taylor's blog. Your photos are amazing and I am in awe of your ability to find these creatures! Do you ever herp in Dedham? I saw one blog about Cutler Park, but most people stick to the Needham side. I'm organizing a BioBlitz on July 23, wanna come herp in Dedham for the day?

  5. We don't have a specific place in Dedham, but are always on the look-out! Shoot me an email, Steph... if possible, it sounds like a great time!