Friday, September 30, 2011

I cheated on my wife... 9-21-2011

Or at least that's what the woman at the pond in Allendale with her dog suggested.

Truth is, I hate herping without Andrea but since the weather was nice and Snake-Count week was coming to a close rapidly, I decided to take a quick solo walk. It was Andrea's suggestion. I swear!

Walking along with the camera clanging against my chest sucked. Having to keep an eye on both sides of the trail sucked. Not having Andrea near me REALLY sucked!

OK, I saw no snakes, either. I saw some Redbacks, but they were tough to photograph while holding up the log, fiddling with the camera and then pointing it... most had disappeared by the time I was ready. This guy threw me a bone.

The pond was quiet (except for a dog chasing a ball being heaved way out there by his owner, the aforementioned, scolding woman). This Bullfrog was massive... could have eaten the dog if he got close enough!

There was a tall water bird standing on the other side of the pond... I couldn't figure it out so I snapped a shot. He looked back at me in disgust...

Upon getting a better shot, I realized that it's a Cormorant... wading. I'm so used to seeing them diving or standing with their wings open that it really confused me for a bit. This guy was very big, too. A tall fella for sure.

Well, I only did an hour in there. I missed my wife. So, I went back to the car with nothing to add to the week's snake count. This Chipmunk laughed at me as I got into my car and left.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sept, 18th 2011 Massasoit. I don't have a clever title.

This guy is keeping an eye on you to make sure you're reading everything...

Second day in a row with temps in the low 60s, so we figured we'd get to Massasoit early to see who would be waking up.

First up, we saw a Green Frog taking his morning bath! Sexy! There was a Pickerel frog nearby peeking.

Hey look! A Redback!

Of course, we came for the snakes. We only found one... this gorgeous, dark Milk Snake.
He was decent sized, too. We thought at first he was getting ready to shed, because he was so dark, but he was shiny and iridescent. Beautiful chocolate brown saddles that showed some red in the sunlight.

Know why I love Andrea so much? She holds snakes while wearing SUSPIRIA t-shirts and a leather jacket!

He was very well behaved... just a quick nip when I first picked him up, though he, like many Milks, struck at the camera. Must have thought his own reflection was a menace. We let him go and he crawled back to his hiding place.

Nearby, an American Toad who was resting in a discarded car floor mat looked relieved that the Milk Snake was gone. The inchworm on his leg didn't care either way.

Hey look! Another Bufo Americanus! Nice to see these guys still out and about!

This snail was large and cool...

Not to be outdone, this chubby Fowler's Toad hopped into our lives.

Andrea found this fatso American Toad half burrowed into some dirt under some bark. He looked so put upon...

This tree, broken in the storm a couple of weeks ago, was sportin' some fine fungi!

I got a really up close look at a Pickerel Frog!

So, down by the pond that we love so much, we were disappointed by the lack of turtles. Then we took a shot of a log in the distance and saw this...
A shell! We slowly moved closer, while Andrea hissed "it's about fucking time we see a fucking turtle..." And not just any fucking turtle! It's a Musk Turtle basking! Maybe it's the same guy as our trip in July, because these guys are not supposed to be baskers!!

So we were happy to have seen a fucking turtle!

On the way out, we found a Fowler's Toad and a Pickerel Frog at the same time and it afforded us the opportunity to do a side by side comparison...
Please refer to these shots when someone asks what the differences are between toads and frogs.

Lastly, I present a shot showing a Fowler Toad's excellent camouflage...

OK, so we ended snake-count week with only one more addition. The sad last weekend of summer had come to a close, but we'd put in 11 1/2 hours of hiking time, so we have nothing to whine about come January.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Let's Count Snakes! Cutler- 9-17-2011

Having not herped the week before, we were rarin' to go this weekend! The temp was supposed to be chilly (low 60s) but since it was National Snake Counting Week, we had so saddle up! Plus, it was the last weekend of summer.

We headed over to Cutler Park, knowing full well that we get frustrated there every time out. Oh well. We figured a cool morning (we got there at 9 AM) would be our best bet for Racers. I stand by our decision.

On the way there, in an empty church parking lot, there were 4 wild turkeys strutting along in line, looking very much like the Abbey Road cover! This is Lennon-
It was tough to get a good shot... moving birds from a moving car... As we got closer they split up and acted like turkeys instead of Beatles.

So, we got there, sprayed down and hit the trails. When we got to the supposed-Racer area (eyewitnesses and a skin find last year), it was flooded! The recent storms must have done a number on something. It wasn't just flooded... water was running and one side of the path was about 8 inches deep! We made our way by and looked for Racers. Nuthin. But we did see this lovely American Copper enjoying the early sun!
American Copper

A mile of Racer Path yielded the usual... nothing, so we went through the tunnel (Racer Path runs next to an elevated train track) and into the wilds of Cutler.

At the very same time, on different sides of the path, Andrea and I both found salamanders! Andrea's was a Leadback that looked like this:
Mine was a Redback that squiggled away before I got my camera out. Bleh.

I redeemed myself with a Leadback of my own.

Cutler Park has a lot of marshland and boardwalks that go through it. One meadow area has a lot of discarded planks in it, which always looks like terrific snake habitat, but it has never before had any snakes! It did this day! A wee Garter!
Very photogenic was he!
He determined that Andrea's diamond was real.

I moved to another pile of boards and found a coil of two. I picked them up and realized that I actually had a handful of three baby Garters!
Feisty ones, at that!

Medic Alert!!
Medic alert!!!

Andrea put one back as I found yet another shoe-string Garter!

She is hard-core. Here she is with 2 snakes in her hand while she photographs the new one!

This guy turned out to be feisty as hell, too!

So, we let them go
and went on, figuring we'd go to the Pond, at least. We'd only done that once before (on a really horrible, hot, herpless day) and figured... what the heck!

We found some Redbacks that we were actually able to photograph!

We also saw (in a very shady, cool puddle) these two Green Frogs!

The pond was quiet and we saw no turtles but a swan was hanging out!

We relaxed and had some trail mix, which we shared with this Chipmunk-

We decided to go all the way around the pond. Despite getting nearly CREAMED by bikes. To be honest, the pond area is way more populated by humans, bikes and dogs than we'd like. But we'd never done it before, so... around we went.

This Great Blue Heron shot is awesome. Andrea is a goddess.
But the Heron didn't think a silhouette shot displayed all of it's beauty, so it stepped into the sun. A diva always finds her light.
Great Blue Heron

Frankly, we were a bit disappointed with the whole, exhausting pond area and have decided to not do it again. Leave it for the humans with kids and dogs. We'll stick to the woods where we only have to battle the bikes.

"Should we flip through the boards again on the way back?"
"Yes, but we can't pick up any shoe-string Garters... they might be repeats."

Such is our logic. We lifted some boards and Andrea grabbed this shoe-string Garter... definitely new... it's eyes were blue, ready to shed!

While she was *ahem* otherwise occupied behind some rocks and trees, I found this little guy-
Should I count him? Is he a repeat? I dunno. I counted him.

Back on the trail, we saw this Viceroy Butterfly!

Frogs were hopping along the flooded Racer path. I knelt down to see about catching one, lost my balance and fell in. I caught myself with my arm, but it went in up to the elbow. Redemption came with a Green Frog catch!

Along the boardwalk on the way out, there were some beautiful Beginning-of-the-End style grasshoppers.

So, we're calling our snake count 7. Sure that last guy might have been a double, but he earned being counted twice if he did in fact scale 3 feet of piled wood to get to where I found him.

6 1/2 hours of Cutler. Frustrating as always. But at least the meadow-boards produced. At least one female Garter agreed with us that it was a good snake habitat! This will be our last trip to Cutler for 2011.