Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On the Road to Rhinebeck- October 19th thru 21st, 2012

Every October, we take a trip to the Rhinbeck Sheep and Wool Fest in Rhinebeck NY. It is a knitter's Woodstock. Some years, the weather is cool and grey. This year, the forecasts called for milder weather. We decided to herp on the way up if at all possible. Well, the Friday morning weather was cool and rainy- not conducive to finding herps. So we drove along and, for the most part, recounted our successful herp year!

When we were almost to our hotel in Poughkeepsie, NY, we noticed a lovely stream with a field around it... it looked inviting. On the spur of the moment, I pulled off the road and up a small side street, hoping to find the park. I did... it was right there! It turns out that it was Sarah Taylor Park and we were in Fishkill, NY.

It was still raining lightly and most of the area was flooded with puddles, but we needed to stretch our legs, so we looked around this beautiful place, flipping here and there...

Such a lovely place, but surely it was too cool to yield any herps. Not even a salamander under those rocks! We got to a spot where there was broken up black-top and I stubbornly kept on flipping. Much to my surprise, one flip had a coil under it!
This Garter Snake was as startled as I was to be seen under that slab! He rapidly calmed down and we got some good shots of him.
Sorry Anon, I just couldn't control myself!

So, what a wonderful spontaneous half-hour success story! Seeing this little guy made me so damn happy! All aboard the gravy snake!!

When we reached our hotel room, the nature trip wasn't yet over! There was a stink bug in our room!
Hotel Stink Bug
We carefully corralled him and put him outside.

Saturday's weather for the Festival (October 20th) was excellent... in the low 70s!! We decided to herp the next day instead of doing the Fest for 2 days, hoping that the weather would be as nice. On Saturday, we saw no herps but there were many Wild Hoars!

So, on Sunday (October 21st) after breakfast, we trekked over to the near(ish)-by Minnewaska State Park Reserve in New Paltz NY. Research showed us that there are many resident snakes, including our two venomous favorites. The car ride was longer than expected, but we pressed on. When we got there, we found that it was very crowded. It seems we were not the only folks looking for a sunny hike!

Outside the car, it was far cooler than expected and very windy on these hills! We hiked on but it became clear fairly soon that we might not have the good fortune of spotting any herps! Still, the place was gorgeous and with the colorful leaves and dozens of tiny streams and brooks cutting through, Andrea couldn't help but document the walk!

We got to a sort of summit, where there were huge tables of rock exposed to the sun...
Seemed like a good place to poke around; at least we'd stay warmer even if we didn't see any basking beauties! There were many rocks to flips, though it was moist underneath them. Eventually, however, we found herps up there! Redbacks!
The above fellow lost his footing on Andrea's hand. To those who are concerned about such things, we often pick up the salamanders before replacing the rocks so as to not squish them. Careful we are.

When the sun went behind the clouds (which was a frequent occurrence) it got pretty damn cold!
We decided to go head back down the hill, already planning a trip here in the warmer months.

By the way, we saw signs of the very scary Wild New Paltz Hippy, but were lucky enough to not see any live specimens!

On the drive back to the thru-way, we saw these three small trees who summed up our feelings about each other, herps and nature...

The year is almost over, sad but true. But what a great year it has been! And we're not closing up shop just yet!

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's never too late... 10-14-2012 in Boyden

October is usually a time of real change for us. Of course, it gets colder so herps are not as common. Also, we usually have big plans, like the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Fest and Chiller; our weekends (hike time) get pretty filled up. So this Sunday, with a forecast of temps in the mid-60s, we took a trip to Boyden.

Again, we didn't hurry getting there. Things have to warm up a bit! Plus, it was raining. We pulled in at roughly noon. It was still cloudy and cool. I didn't spray down, even. Dumb, because I got a tick that I didn't find until Wednesday!

We went up to the house and it was covered with No Trespassing signs! Oh crap! Well, just a peek won't hurt! I was heading towards some boards when Andrea found this fella!

She even got dog poop on her hand grabbing this beautiful Garter Snake!

I hadn't seen him, but the board I was heading to had a couple of Redbacks, one of whom looked like this:

Could this beauty be our last snake of the year?

Flipping in the garden produced no snakes, but here's a pair of high altitude Redbacks-

There were also dozens of Short Winged Blister Beetles (aka Oil Bugs) that were very beautiful. Not sure if these two are doin' some foreplay or not...
Short Winged Blister Beetles

I tried to pose a few on my hat and stuff but they lay limply... upon researching, I discovered that they were playing dead!! Cool!

I was chasing a Spring Peeper who was about to escape our camera until he landed in a spider web. Thank you, Mr. Arachnid!
Spring Peepers... now in Autumn, too.

Shall we now enjoy a plethora of Plethodons?

Walking along some sandy soil, I saw a toad sail into an excavated turtle nest... it looked like somebody sank a nice putt! I pulled him out for his close-up.

This could be Andrea's finest shot of the year...
Might as well jump...

Howza bout some more Redbacks? Hey, that one on the far right is an imposter!
One of these things is not like the other.

Large Leadback!

Three Pack Shakur!

A wee American Toad!

The carpets had many things in it again. Besides the toad, there were some salamanders...

And a Grass Spider carrying a huge, blue egg sac!
Grass spider with blue egg sac

Hey, for mid-October, we'll take it!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Once upon a Plethodon- the Blue Hills 10-13-2012

Let's face it, this season ended abruptly. But does that mean we're done? Down and out? Givin' up? Well, it should but we're hardy souls with never say die attitudes, or at least folks who would be bored on Saturday morning if we didn't try.

We decided to head to the Blue Hills and search for Salamanders. These hills are also reportedly home to Timber Rattlesnakes and Copperheads. These venomous beauties might be up basking in the sun on the rocky outcrops at the tops of the hills. But I doubt it. The temps were going to be in the mid 50s, so we waited until about noon.

Well, as expected, Redback Salamanders were about... and very easy to find!
The funny thing is, there was often a Redback phase and a Leadback phase sharing real estate under a log!
Why can't we all just get along... like the Plethodon do?!

Some more sexy Redbacks... solo!

We ran in to another hiker and she'd said that there was a sunny spot atop a hill with some rocky outcroppings. Sounded good enough to us... we needed to warm up!

The terrain looked pretty good, and it was warm. Snakes, however weren't present. Andrea discovered this, though...
They look like snake eggs to us... stuck in some moss outside of a large rock... from under which they probably came.
Snake eggs?

I flipped an agonizingly large boulder to find... an eft!
Andrea picked him up and he took a walk...
right into her mitten!
Gotta love the warmth!

So, the Dome was pretty cool and it's a place we'll definitely check out when it gets warmer.

More Redbacks followed...
Even some more racially diverse couples!

The Gods of the Hills watched over us!

So, we took a stroll up Wampatauk Hill, a place with a wonderfully sunny summit! We poked around for a while and it was there that I saw the most beautiful Copperhead!
But no snakes.

On the way down, a flip produced a surprised American Toad!

The Blue Hills Reservation actually has a good map (we wish other places could claim that).We were looking at it trying to decide which way to head back. Andrea suggested that it might not be too late to check the ponds for basking herps. I doubted it, but we went that way anyway.

She was right. I saw a shell. We silently approached, nary uttering a breath. I got this shot and only this shot...
A non-native Red Eared Slider. Funny, after last week's diatribe against fools releasing Red-ears to their imminent deaths, this chap was the only turtle up warming himself.

The last animal we saw was this Heron, who Andrea saw landing at the very top of a very tall tree.

He had to hurry home because there was an Oktoberfest Party goin' on at our friend's house... the ever-wonderful Kate and Snag! Readers of this blog (Me, Andrea and Snag) know that there is a wonderfully happy colony of Dekay's Snakes in their yard! We just had to check, even though it was very nippy out!

Yep- two shoestrings were there, shivering in the October chill!

Like the Spotted Newt earlier in the day, they made a B-line to the warmth of Andrea's sleeve!

All in all, a pretty good day. Being able to herp at all in October is reason to rejoice. Let's hope we can squeeze a few more in before we're forced to call it quits for 2012!