Thursday, June 28, 2012

Something New, at the Blanding's Strip! 6-24-2012

Well, we're always on the lookout for new herp spots. We'd tried a particular National Wildlife Refuge in Middlesex County before, but it was buggy and over-crowded and a Nature-Nazi told me I couldn't bring in my snake stick. So, we have stayed away for a number of years. I decided to lift my grudge, however, as many folks have photographed the locally threatened Blanding's Turtle there. So, off we went.

OK, there are a few different spots in this particular NWR and we headed to the same entrance as a couple of years ago. Still buggy? Check! But it was also hilly and the path was leading away from the water. We consulted our map and decided to move on to the entrance in another town. On the way out, we saw this Hairy Woodpecker.
Hairy Woodpecker

We hit a small pond near the parking lot before departing and made up for the previous day's lack of frogs!! There were plenty of Greens!
And Bulls!

All told, we spent about an hour there, then headed to the other town.

As we got close, things looked promising...

We started out on the trail and I must admit, it was far more crowded than I normally like. But the turtles didn't seem to mind. This Painted Turtle (covered with duckweed) was enjoying a bask.

There were water traps set up for monitoring Blanding's turtles, but this Painted was in it.
Or rather on it... he scampered away like magic!

Then, Andrea pointed out a shell in the water... I snapped a shot. When we looked at it, we had to catch our breaths... we could see the distinctive yellow chin of a Blanding's Turtle!!!!
Blanding's Turtle
He didn't stay up for long, but man- what a beauty! A rare treat to see one of these!

Elated, we went on, knowing everything else would be gravy.

We saw a Great Blue Heron and realized when we uploaded the picture, that a Painted was watching him from nearby!

In fact, he wasn't the only heron there... there are FOUR in this shot!
4 herons...

Painteds remained ubiquitous...
5 Painted Turtles

We saw a small to medium Snapper basking! About a 6-7" carapace...

Andrea continued along the appropriately named Dike Path...

Our fellow hikers were thinning out by this time, though not all. Lotsa birders. Oh, and this gal was walking the trail, too! (I'm holding her here... she's not floating.)

Andrea decided to get back to her roots.

Another traveler on Dike Path was this feisty little fella; a slightly larger than new Snapper!

What he lacked in size, he more than made up for in attitude! He was snapping away like nobody's business!

This Bullfrog was unimpressed...

You might be asking, "hey- why are you so cheery with no snakes?" Well, this place is notorious for Water Snakes, but we had seen none! But there were enough turtles (even a Blanding's, yo!) to satisfy our souls.

BUT, then Andrea saw this guy just off the path...

Now that is a fine figure of a Garter Snake!

So, we ended the day with a snake, which is awesome, but this day was really about our Chelonian friends! Up close and personal with 2 species and our first ever Blanding's sighting! Hell to the YES!

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