Sunday, July 8, 2012

South o' the Border Herpin'! July 2nd and 3rd!

Well, south of the Massachusetts border... we were in Connecticut! By the way- this post is brought to you by FIVE CAMERAS!! You'll see why.

My friend Ryan, a fellow herper, has been having great success finding many different kinds of snakes in a handful of places in the Constitution State, so while on vacation, Andrea and I decided to hitch up with him to see what we could find! We got to Connecticut at 10AM. With a home-base of our friend Colin's house in East Granby, we took off in search of herps. With a weather forecast of "possible T-storms", we figured on a little rain.

Our first stop was at Northwest Park in Windsor. Ryan and Colin had seen and caught many Black Racers there earlier in the year. We headed out through a meadow... and then those "possible T-storms" kicked in. More like torrential downpour! Andrea pulled out the camera to get this pic of a Redback Salamander. Not a great shot, but I include it because it's the last shot taken on her lovely Nikon before the rain destroyed it.
OK- one camera down. (And out... as I write this six days later, it's still in the shop!)

My crappy little pocket camera had to be used for the next Redback

and an American Toad

Ryan brought us another Toad to photograph...

Then, I realized I had misplaced my snake stick. It happens frequently; I'll leave it next to a log that I'd flipped by hand or something. But no amount of backtracking produced my stick. OK- one snake stick down. I still had my telescopic (weaker) one.

My crappy little camera managed to get a shot of some frolicking deer... there were three bucks out and about!

Andrea found another American Toad...

Then, finally, we found our first snake! A lovely Garter!

No racers, but a great little walk, despite our losses and the soaking we took.

On the way out, Colin flipped a stone and found a Spotted Salamander... followed by Ryan's flip that produced a bigger one!! Photo op!
This photo by Ryan

A pond near the parking lot that was full of Painted Turtles and Koi had a few local frog species hanging about as well... like this Green Frog!

The turtles were a blast!

So, no Racers, but lots of wonderful sights! We stopped at home base and dried off (I stupidly changed shoes and shirt) and headed back out to a place known as Bike Path. It runs from east Granby into Granby and has been the place of Garters, Ribbons and Waters.

Ryan saw a Ribbon and Garter shoot into some poison ivy under a bridge. I dug through, but couldn't find them. I got a decent shot of this basking Painted Turtle, though...

This gorgeous Bullfrog was there too.

Then the snakes started appearing! There were tons of Water Snakes, and they were all huge bruisers!
This guy gave me a little nip...

Ryan then found a Garter... I pushed it's head up for a better shot and Ryan gave me the whole snake. I'd been tainted by poison ivy (to which I have little to no reaction) and he wanted nothing to do with me... not even share a snake!
Andrea had no such concerns...

Then guess what... it started pouring again... out of the blue. Harder than before. We saw two large Water Snakes up on the path... Ryan advanced and got his hands on one as the other slipped down a small hole! Never seen anything like it! I was typically fiddling with my inferior camera...
Photo by Ryan

Here's the last shot I got before my crappy camera was taken by the rain...

I managed another huge guy too...
Photo by Ryan

So all in all, it was like 14 Water Snakes sighted there and all of them were big fat bruisers! What an amazing walk... and this was in about an hour. But we were completely soaked again and had lost another camera. (This one is still dead. Kaput.)

Next up, we went to a lovely place where Ryan and Colin had seen numerous Black Rat Snakes and Water Snakes, but we saw nothing except a tiny toad that we didn't have a camera for.

Down but not out, we hit Granbrook in East Granby. Ryan's camera was still working and Andrea had her phone. This picturesque little spot had been good for Water Snakes before. Sure enough, Andrea spotted one that slipped away from her as Ryan found this guy!
Andrea continued to search for her lost nemesis...
Photo by Ryan
Here's a stunning shot of the Water Snake...
Photo by Ryan

We ended the day (Nine hours after it had begun) with a walk up Racer Hill in East Granby, a place there the two had seen many Racers. Nothing this time as construction had started taking down nearby trees... it was pretty much a work zone now.

So, we had some chow and went to our hotel to try to get some sleep. I've gotta say, I didn't get much.

Day 2... Tuesday:

Our plan for Tuesday was to get up early and visit a place in Kent, CT where Ryan and Colin had seen Timber Rattlesnakes and Copperheads in May. We were a bit early, so we headed over to Racer Hill which was right around the corner. No Racers and it was busy... lots of work crews. We didn't poke around for long, but did find an American Toad...

We had to make a pit-stop at a CVS to buy a new camera. Got an $89 Kodak which isn't great, but has been doing the trick. Good thing Ryan's camera was hanging in there!

So we got ready and drove for a spell, went up a dirt road and parked. The trail was a twisty path that went straight up. It was very hot and I was very excited and before too long, my low blood sugar kicked in and I started seeing blinding bright lights, my heart was busting out and I got very dizzy. I had to sit. Of course, Ryan and Colin are both less than half my age, so I was feeling like a tool. It took quite a while to get back onto my feet. If I was smart (and I'm not) I would have bowed out. But this Green Frog who was hanging out in a cold mountain stream prodded me on.

It was not easy for me. My knees were like rubber and Andrea thought I might have some heat stroke happening, but the blinding lights had subsided so we went on. I had to take many breaks going up. (It's over a mile and a half going up and Andrea and I are used to going at a very slow pace.) Luckily, Colin was wearing Vans and he had an easy footprint to follow.

Ryan and Colin were very good about waiting every once in a while for the old man to catch up. One time I had stopped to photograph a Red Eft we had found.

Ryan soon found another...
Photo by Ryan

But what we were after was at the summit, so up we went. My heart was doing well enough to keep going.

We got to the place where the two had had such luck in May and sure enough, the same rock that had produced a Timber and a C-head in May held a treasure... my first ever venomous wild reptile... a beautiful Northern Copperhead!

We pulled him out (with a snake stick) to get a better look and he slid right back in... deeper. But damn, what a beautiful sight! I will forever be grateful to Ryan and Colin for this sight!

Having learned a bit about finding these guys, we split up a  bit to cover more ground. I thought I might have something under one rock and poked my stick around... to my amazement, a 5-Lined Skink popped out the other end! I had no idea that they came this far north! They do, but they are a Threatened species, being New England's only lizard. Ryan came up and got a picture that is good enough to prove our find! 
5-Lined Skink in CT!
Photo by Ryan
(Ryan and Colin saw another on the way down. These guys are impossible to get a good shot of!)

It wasn't long before Andrea and I were poking around some rocks when we heard Ryan yell COPPERHEAD! We went up and he had one out and we were able to get great photos!
These 3 photos by Ryan
We're pretty sure, after comparing the many many photos that we took, that this was a different C-head than the one we saw coiled under the rock earlier. It was poking around the very same rock, but some of the patterns look different and, to my eyes anyway, the earlier one was quite a bit smaller and thinner.

But wow... a fucking Copperhead! Andrea continued to look under rocks for snakes...

Ryan went on, but this old man had to sit for a bit. Andrea kept me company as we sat in the shade. I eventually got up and explored up the trail for another 1/4 mile or so, but saw nothing. Ryan also came back empty handed except for his now-broken snake stick! Two sticks down, now!

We headed down after a while and, again, Andrea and I had to go slower. Man, these kids had me feeling OLD!

Andrea saw movement in a little knot at the base of a tree... an Eft was poking his cute noggin out!

At one point, I flipped a very heavy flat rock. Seeing nothing, I let it slam down, just as Andrea said "wait"!! I couldn't look... she thought she'd seen a toad. Horrified, I lifted it back up... there was indeed an American Toad who was buried under there, safe from the crushing weight of the stone!
None the worse for wear!

Ryan spotted a Garter Snake on the way down. He had it facing him in the woods off the path. I got around behind it for the inevitable exit, but Ryan wiggled his hand under the leaves. The snake came up. Ryan caught him as Colin looked on.
Now, garters hunt by scent, but also with vision. We're thinking that maybe this guy came up to investigate the movement in hopes of finding a toad or something. 

This shot is censored for your protection.

We carried on, Andrea and I left in the dust by those young whippersnappers! We caught up to Ryan who had found an eft. Nearby, Andrea flipped and found two more! Photo-ops commenced!

Now, that was a hell of a hike! I'm so glad that I made it. I was admittedly weak for much of it, and I'd missed catching a Garter Snake, a huge Toad and even a Redback, but I feel great that I made it up and saw the animals that we did. I stuck my head into that cool mountain stream on the way down.

My old age kicked in again on the way back... I got massively carsick! I'm not used to being a passenger and with still feeling weak from my dizzy spell and the heat, I got the worst motion sickness I've had since I saw BLAIR WITCH PROJECT in the theaters! It was agony!! I felt like a total tool being all sick and wussy.

We got back to Colin's house and had some ice water and enjoyed some relaxing. You know, after all those cute animals that we'd seen over the past two days, Colin's family dog Shooz was still the cutest! Great puppy!

So we headed home. I was well enough to drive, headache and nausea notwithstanding. (The pit in my stomach lasted for another two days!)  Even though I got showed that I'm not the young buck I wish I was, I had an unforgettable trip and got to hang with some great people! Thanks to Ryan, Colin and Colin's folks! You all rule!


  1. ¿Qué hermoso Beagle,es de ustedes?¡ Todo es magnífico,animales,paisajes!Besos x dos martha

    1. El Beagle es la mascota de mi amigo, los nombres de "Zapatos"! Él es un perro dulce verdad!

      XX Mike

  2. Wow, WOW! What a trip. I'm so impressed with all your finds- skinks- how cool. I'm glad all's well that ended well, with your heat exhaustion, but be careful out there, you!

    1. Ah, thanks my dear lass! All is back to OK!