Monday, December 24, 2012

Dreaming of a Herp Christmas 12-22-2012

Inspired yet again by our friend Steve's herping tenacity (his webpage is here), we found ourselves taking a cool walk around one of our favorite ponds in Norfolk County Mass... but on December 22nd??!

It was a crisp 38°F, far colder than we like. But intrepid herpers never complain!


We set about poking through some icy streams... DSCN3045

I saw a couple of sleepy Pickerel Frogs, possibly the same ones as a couple of weeks ago... here's one. DSCN3046

An area further down the stream had some lovely 2-Lined Salamander larvae hanging out! DSCN3051 DSCN3053 DSCN3057
I saw the golden back of an adult 2-Lined breach the muddy water after a stone flip, but I was never able to find him after that!

Andrea had wisely packed some wading boots to get down and dirty in... DSCN3060 But that mud really SUCKED! DSCN3063

Undaunted, we carried on! DSCN3068

After a couple of hours, some cutting winds had whipped up and we started to remember why we don't go outside in the colder weather. Faces were freezing! A chubby Redback found on a flip warmed our souls, if not our bodies! DSCN3069

It dawned on me that I was herping with my Christmas bonus in my pocket, so the next Redback got to pose unlike any other Redback before it... DSCN3073

These guys were waiting for their handouts... DSCN3075

We'd reached our destination stream, cold and snotty. Still, we wanted to find an adult 2-Lined, so in we went. I saw the golden breach on an adult but, as often happens, he eluded me. He was still fast despite the ice water... DSCN3081

OK, now it was getting painful! Our hands were burning with cold from sifting through the icy water and our clothes were wet and muddy. We headed back. We saw one more Redback on the way back to the car. Crazy mofo, too... we couldn't get a good shot, he was so active! We had to settle for this: DSCN3084

Man, the heater blasting in the car never felt better! When people ask if we ski, I always say "no, we never make ourselves uncomfortable on purpose", meaning... go outside in the winter?? No way! But to see a dozen herps in the winter? Yeah... it really was worth it!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

December Herps?

In a word, yes.

You just have to work much harder!

On December 4th (a Tuesday), with the weather in the mid-50s, I tried some after-work herping at Allendale. I got there around 4PM, which is dusk these days. I did the whole run (alone), flipping everything in sight. And everything out of sight for that matter; it got far too dark to see within a half hour and I was using the camera flash to see what was underneath logs and stones. No herps.

So I went up to my friend's stone wall to flip for Redbacks. Nuthin'.

Undeterred, Andrea and I went out late Saturday morning to walk our favorite pond in Norfolk County. It was barely 50°F, foggy and rainy. Surely we were nuts.

But at 11:40AM, Andrea was straddling a small stream and flipped a rock, waking up two resting Pickerel Frogs!
They were pretty groggy, so we replaced them right where they were and carried on, happy with our success! December herps!

We continued around the pond (in the opposite direction of our usual route) and found nothing else. It might well have turned out to be another case of immediate success followed by nothing else. But then, I flipped I gigantic rock and we saw our first Redback Salamander! I said to Andrea "Get it! Quick!" and she snapped the picture!
It turned out that she needn't have been so quick, as the salamander very slowly meandered into the nearby hole.

Two species in December! Well, now we were chuffed for sure! And as we neared the spot we'd both been waiting for (a Redback-heavy haven), we started spotting many more!

Wow!! Though some of these photos aren't as clear as we'd have liked, all of our Plethodon Pals are accounted for here!

So, we got to the place where Andrea scored a bunch of Two-Lined last month... I started flipping. I saw one golden and black back sailing through the muddy water and sifted through the mud, but missed him. BUT, I had some sort of salamander larvae... then lost it. Andrea flipped and missed another two 2-Lined guys! ARRRGH! A further sifting of the mud got me this guy... what I believe to be another 2-Lined Salamander larvae... about 5/8 of an inch long!
2-Lined Larvae

I then went across the bridge and finally scored an adult Two-lined who did not hand us our asses!

So, we were covered with mud and both had double-soakers, but we'd found three herp species in December!

We added this fine Redback to our count.

We continued around the pond, happy with ourselves, despite the temps still being low and the place looking like this:

We found no more live herps, though this dead Wood Frog was in the path. He might have been gone for a few days...
DOR Wood Frog :(
A shame.

But still... a dozen herps in December!! Hot damn!! Many thanks to Steve NewEnglandHerps for inspiring us to get out and herp despite the chill in the air!! Check out his recent finds here

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful for Salamanders! 11-23-2012

Ah, and what a lovely Thanksgiving it was this year! We had much to give thanks for! And instead of joining the stupid section of America by participation in a Black Friday fistfight-spendathon, we went herping!

Calling for temps in the mid-50s, we decided on Ponkapoag. Nothing like our old mainstay; a place that we know well and know what to look for! Being post-frost and still cool, we figured we'd have a shot at some Redbacks (the most tenacious of herps!) in the 4+ mile hike!

Sure enough, our first sighting (which also breaks last years lateness record of Nov. 20th) was this fine Redback!
Check out the gorgeous patterning on this fella!

Admittedly, we walked for quite a while after we saw him and didn't see anything else. We got to a spot which is heavily Redbacked on a normal day (and Ringnecked, too... but I wasn't expecting miracles... or frozen snakes!) and I was flipping stones and thinking "that one Redback might well be it for today" when I heard Andrea call... "which are the yellow-bellied ones again? Two-Lines?"

It turns out she'd hit the Two-Lined motherload and had a handful of three crazy ones!
These were her first of the year, too! As you'll recall, I saw some here earlier in the year on my trip with my friend Ryan, but she wasn't there.

Subsequent flipping produced more, but they were too fast to photograph. This guy, however, slipped into the mud and poked his wee head out for this shot!

The best thing about this Two-Lined extravanganza is that is was in a spot that we had never seen this species before!

The other great thing about it is... it seemed to turn the tide; we started finding tons of Redbacks after that!
And Leadbacks!
That's a dime!!


One large rock was hoisted by yours truly and there were 4 Redbacks under it. They scooted away quickly, going into little salamander sized holes. Here's an action shot showing their quick retreat!

All told, we saw well over a dozen Redbacks, with still a mile to go!

The last leg of the journey produced no more herps, but we did find a couple of iridescent earthworms...
Iridescent worm!

So, November 23rd and we can still have productive herp trips. Color me happy! And make that color Red... for Redbacks!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Too early for cabin fever? Nov.17th, 2012

A cold Saturday. A need to herp. Surely 47 degrees isn't too cool to go for a hike?

Well, we're not total idiots; we knew no reptiles would be about. But some Redbacks and possibly some Spotted Salamanders might still be braving the underside of a rock!

So, we headed to Hoar Sanctuary, a place that has been rich in Salamanders for us in the past, though we seemed to pretty much neglect it during the warmer months of 2012.

Sure enough, it was cold, but after a bit of hiking and plenty of flipping, we warmed up. About half way around the short trail, we saw our first Redback! DSCN2856 A robust fella!

We got to a watery area and tried looking for frogs, but there didn't seem to be any. Further along, however, a noggin seemed to be poking up! A Bullfrog! DSCN2861 He was at a terrible angle; I was lucky to get this shot! I tried to get a better shot, but he slowly sloshed around... away and out of sight. Hopefully, he buried himself away for the winter. So we felt pretty good, if a bit cold!

We continued flipping. More Redbacks turned up... DSCN2865 DSCN2866 DSCN2869 All of them were pretty good sized and chubby for hibernation. The last guy, a skinny Leadback, was an exception to the rule. DSCN2872

So, we saw no Spotties, but a half dozen Redbacks and a Bullfrog on November 17th is just great for us! A quick hour and a half of pure herpin' joy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post-Hurricane herping... November 10, 11 & 12, 2012

Well, the East Coast got slammed by Hurricane Sandy as we were coming back from Chiller and as of this writing (Nov. 13th), much of it hasn't recovered. To add insult to injury, a Noreaster blew threw last Wednesday, giving us an unexpected 2 inches of snow right here in the Boston area. We're way better off than New Jersey and New York, but this Fall has sucked it! So why should we bother herping? Because fuck you, that's why!

Saturday, November 10th
With the temps in the mid-50s and wind blowing, I'm not sure what we expected to see, but we went to Borderland. We got there at 2:30 PM (we figured the sun would be at its highest... completely forgetting that Daylight Savings Time had happened...) and noticed that the gates would shut at 4:30. So, speed-hiking it is!

The usual snakey places were barren and the sun wasn't really hitting them any more. So we headed up the trail. That clump in the pond looked interesting...
Nope... that was a stick... not a turtle shell. Wait- what's that on the other clump?? To the right of the picture...
Holy crap... it looks like 2 Painted Turtles!!
Two intrepid chelonians were up and enjoying the waning rays of sunlight! Check out that hoist!

OK- Two turtles on November 10th! That gave me a huge happy!

The rest of the (quick) hike produced no more herps but that hardly mattered!


This Chipmunk regarded me...

Cold and windy, but still beautiful!

We got to poke around the farm house. We just found out on our last trip from our DCR pal that it was OK to do so... its not occupied.
Nothing there, but I'm gonna herp the shit out of that place in the Spring!

I almost got a great shot of this Downy Woodpecker...
Downy Woodpecker

So we saw some reptiles on a cold day and got a good walk in. Not too shabby, sez me!

Sunday, November 11th
I had to work Sunday morning and afternoon (a record show) but with temps projected to be in the mid 60s, Andrea decided to go it alone and take a look at the Arboretum. She got there at about 1:30 and it was a beautiful sight, for sure!

Approaching the ponds, she heard some startled frogs leap in, but they were too quick for pictures...
Still, it was a lovely walk...

I got home just before sunset (about 4 PM) and we went up to Kate and Snag's yard in hopes of a last minute Dekay's Snake. No snakes, but we saw a half dozen Redbacks!
(Check out the tip of worm to the left...)

Monday, November 12th
We were both stuck at work on Veteran's day (observed) while the temps were supposed to be scraping the 70s. Indian Summer and we were going to miss it. I hurried home after work and headed straight to my friend's house... hoping for Dekay's again! Nope... it was, in fact, pretty cool back there by 4 PM. Perfect for Redbacks, though! I saw a dozen easily!


Too slow for this tail-less guy!


Big ones and small ones, fast ones and slow ones... I love me some Redbacks! They keep me happy, herping into November! And I must say, it is a privilege and an honor to have friends like Kate and Snag. They let us herp their yard... they understand our need!