Saturday, June 30, 2012

Beat the heat at Boyden! 6-30-2012

With temps climbing into the mid-90s today, we decided to have an adventure... we got up a bit after 4AM and got to Boyden at 5:30 AM!! Herping at sun-up! Would it work? Are we insane? So many questions!!

It was still fairly cool when we sprayed down. We headed to the house and found a small Garter Snake sleeping under a board.
Yes, Andrea WAS still partially asleep when she made this catch.

We released him and luckily he moved away from the board. His board-mate wasn't so lucky. He had been squished weeks ago... KIDS- CHECK UNDER BOARDS BEFORE CYCLING OVER THEM!!!!!!!!

Speaking of dead things, it looks like a hawk had eaten a meal in the fragrance garden...

It was actually kinda tough to search the trails in the forest as it was still dawn and not really bright. Nearer the water, it was good enough to see this dark American Toad!

Across the water, standing in the first rays of sun, was a Heron... probably looking for dark American Toads!

Hard to believe, but I was full-on excited to see a Redback! I figured that in a few hours time, he'd be back WAY under ground!

This is a lovely dragonfly, eh?!

Next up, Andrea found this wonderful golden Bufo Americanus!

Howza 'bout some tracks? I think we just missed these nocturnal critters...
And deer...

I flipped some rusty metal and cut my finger. Hope that last tetanus shot was within the right time frame! (I think it was.) I did it again a while later.

Andrea's next catch was a beautiful Milk Snake!!
He seemed right at home in her hands...
That's a nice little wishbone on his head!

As the sun warmed things up, we figured we'd see some guys on the move. It took a while, but sure enough, Andrea caught a very feisty young Garter- and has the snake blossoms to prove it!
He remained fairly cranky (and nearly impossible to get a good shot of... because I kinda suck with the camera).

So, with Andrea at 3 snakes and me at NONE, I had to step up my game on the way out...

Walking the lawn of the Fragrance Garden, I saw a garter trucking along through the grass and I made a very dramatic (and unneeded) lunge to grab him. He was a real mellow sweetie.
He had a damaged tail... looks like musk saved another life!! He didn't musk me at all... I wonder if he's still able to.

We checked up by the house again. A mouse that had been there at 5:30 was still there 4 hours later!

Andrea found a nice toad who decided to walk up her body and get on to her shoulder!

Andrea saw a thick black tail disappear into a thicket... perhaps Racer? I saw a large garter disappear near the same place. The heat was up and everyone was on the run for a little while longer...

Then we made the best discovery of the day... ripe black raspberries!
We picked plenty of them for tomorrow's breakfast!

I spilled some in the car and sat on them. Andrea found this hilarious.

In the parking lot, this little Eastern Phoebe was sitting on a sign with a bug in his beak.

We made a run to Oliver Mills to see if any Water Snakes were out, but it was almost 11AM and the sun was baking already.

When we got home, we noticed this nest of baby Robins waiting for some food!

So, a snake before 6 AM and home before 1PM, many errands run and 5 1/2 hours of hiking! They say it was going to get really hot, but we were napping in a cool air conditioned house by 2, so I'll have to take their word for it! Nice!

(And as a side note, Andrea was covered in musk and snake blossoms. Not me. Just blackberry juice. And those those metal scratches.)

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!