Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Newt Time: Like a Present! May 26th, 2012

I love newts. Let us please refrain from all of those hilarious, fresh and new Gingrich and Rockne jokes, shall we?

We spent the morning enjoying yarn and fiber animals at the Mass Sheep and Wool Fest in Cummington, Massachusetts, 2 1/2 hours west of home. It's always a fun show and we've made it an annual event... hitting the show, then having lunch and ice cream at a local yummy-shop, then herping at Windsor State Forest. Last year, we had the incredible toad-porn day that we wrote about here: http://hitmewithyournaturestick.blogspot.com/2011/05/may-28th-all-out-toad-orgy-in-windsor.html

 At the show, I flipped a few things but turned up nothing. A Daring Jumping Spider jumped on to my leg at one point, though!
Daring Jumping Spider

After the Festival, we went for some lunch. Behind the Creamery, I flipped and found the year's first Red Eft!
Red Eft

Efts are the second stage of the Red Spotted, or Eastern Newt. They start as mini-aquatic larvae, then leave the water to be Efts for 3 or so years. Then they return to the water as adults.

Upon hitting our place in the forest (in Williamsburg, MA), Andrea found another Red Eft! Smaller, but no less adorable!

Not to let the newts get all of the amphibian love, this thin Redback made his presence known!

Now, the place we herp at USED to be a campground, was staffed and it was sometimes fairly crowded. Last year it closed. We weren't positive if we were trespassing, but there were no Posted signs, so we took our chances. A DCR officer showed up and assured us that we were OK! *whew*

Andrea saw a Garter Snake whoosh off into a pile of rocks that I was perusing. She could still see him...

He was easy enough to gently extricate for a few close-ups.
Obviously, he'll be wearing a new suit of clothes very soon.

It was buggy as hell, so we wimped out and didn't go into the woods TOO deeply. A lucky flip provided something completely new to us... a Redback Salamander! What, you say??? Redbacks are in every post, you bald-headed shit slice! Not like THIS one, though!!
Erythristic Redback Salamander
This is an Erythristic phase Redback... no black on the sides! We have never seen one of these in our many years of herping!
Erythristic Redback Salamander
Erythristic Redback Salamander

OK, now THAT was cool!

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were abundant...
In fact there was an orgy going on!!
Sexy Eastern Tiger Swallowtails

I flipped a rock and found our first Wood Frog of the year; a species that always gets under-represented on this blog.

Next, we saw this Fowler's Toad hopping along...
He had some bumps on his belly and trilled and peeped (and peed) in my hand.

He was to be our only toad here... a far cry from last year's visit! (See link above...)

BUT, they were at it not long ago... the Westfield River that chugs through the park was filthy with toad eggs!
Toad egg strands
Toad egg strands

A couple of small Pickerel Frogs jumped into grass clumps before we could photograph them. Andrea saw me chasing a hopping thing along the rocks and I finally got our first Pickerel to photograph this year!
Pickerel Frog
He was calm enough to just sit in my hand!

Along the top part of the rocky beach, I saw a small tail slip by... a young Garter Snake (also in the blue) was up there!
This shot shows you just how beautiful the area is!

A couple of more normal-phase Redbacks ended our time there.

Driving in, we had seen some pull-off areas and decided to check a couple of them out. At most of them, the river was too strong to bother looking for animals, but one had some rocks that had little pools in them. Guess what was in one of the pools... Adult Red Spotted Newts!!!! We haven't seen these guys in years! This is a first for this blog!
There were 3 in this tiny pool. It has everything they need... water, leaves, food...
Spotted Newts!

These adults have retained the lungs they grew when in the Eft stage. We saw them coming up from time to time to gulp some air.

So... pretty cool, huh! We made it back in time to hit a party at the Oakland Lounge... hosted by the only person who is known to read this blog! Hi Kirsten!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Early mornin' Ponk- 5-19-2012

We were planning to visit friends on Saturday night, so we figured we had better get out herpin' early in the morning, as it might be our only chance for the weekend! We pulled in to the Ponk parking lot at around 9AM... that should be good... right?

Well, it didn't take too long to get started! First up, as it often is, was a Redback! (Only this time, it was a leadback!)

The vernal pond and the pond itself was buzzing with cute things... like a Green Frog

A bullfrog

And a goose family with a white swan (who was shooed off by the protected parents...)

We had hoped to find a Northern Water Snake, as we hadn't been able to photograph one yet this year. Sure enough, basking on the water's edge, was a nice one!

As we were photographing it, a smaller one came up to look around...

I was unable to catch either one for close ups... until I rooted around under the water, into the slime where the larger one had disappeared. I felt around and felt snake!
Seems I caught a water nymph as well... But what a beauty the snake was!

He was good natured too... nary a nibble! Andrea gently handled him before releasing him...

A little further up, we saw a dot on a rock. No way... it couldn't be...
This little guy was the smallest turtle I think I've ever seen. He was right out there in the open, waiting to be predated! We didn't see an egg tooth on this guy (Eastern Painted Turtle) but there's no way he was more than a few days old...

We put him back on the same rock, but a little more hidden, towards the back. I hope he fared well!

With a chelonian under our belts (small though he may be), we started seeing turtles all over!

Another Painted!

A couple of Spotteds!

Then a bit further along, we saw this Painted...
Who was swimming towards this (possibly getting ready to mate?) pair of Spotted Turtles!
Spotted love
I suspect that because they kept facing each other and would slide off into the water, then climb back up to face each other again. I've never seen that before, so... given the season... I thought it might be "interest" being shown...

On that same log, at the other (more hidden) end, there was this pair of Water Snakes basking! We only saw one until we checked the picture later!

Also nearby was a very large Bullfrog, which was calm enough for me to catch and photograph up close!
Some folks waling by were impressed and asked if we wanted a shot of us together! Why not? A HMWYNS first!

So, that was a dam good walk! In the woods, we saw another (well dozens more...) Redback!
(Since most Redback shots look the same, we'll just concentrate on different looking ones...)

I heard a whoosh and saw a small streak... it was a small Garter Snake!
Just to be different, this guy was easier to photograph after we released him. He posed beautifully in the crook of a tree.

At a dock area, we saw a fatherly type pointing out a snake to his kid. We inspected and we had our first up-close look at "3 O'clock Charlie", the resident Water Snake in the area. I picked him up and gave a short lesson on snakes to anyone who would listen.
3 o'clock Charlie
Charlie, a Bobby Rhodes fan from way back, liked my T-shirt!

He too posed nicely for some nature shots!

Andrea caught the next snake... a Ringneck!

Another source gave us the dynamic duo... two unruly Ringnecks who were very tough to calm down for their close-up, Mr. DeVille!
The smaller one was in the blue, which might explain his twistiness...

We wound up without many good shots of those two...

We headed out, with about a mile left, along a stretch that doesn't produce much herp activity. BUT... I heard and saw another whoosh! This one was moving fast, too!

I chased into the woods for about 10 feet and lunged. I had a skinny little Ribbon Snake... who was missing much of his tail!
He had scarring just above the vent too, which makes me think that he was saved by musking at some point!
He calmed right down and sat there for his photos...

The funniest thing of all is... when I jumped to catch him, I landed on a stick or rock or something and bruised my leg!
Ribbon Snake injury!

It's funny that this little guy...
is responsible for giving me an angry purple bruise!!

Well, what a great walk!! Thank you Norfolk County!!!