Friday, March 8, 2013

Something new... and a big surprise! 3-3-13

Andrea has spent much of the winter sampling satellite views of local wilflife places. One location that looked promising from the map was a Wildlife Management Area in Plymouth County, MA. Of course, the thing that most excited us was a big pile of debris... visible from far above!

We wanted to scope the place out before committing a lot of time and energy to it in herp season. So, we headed on out on this cool Sunday.

We got there at about noon and had to drive very carefully up the access road... ditches and puddles were everywhere. An SUV in front of us had given up, but my Corolla was up to the task. I have nightmares about this very thing, so it felt good to not take the bottom of the car out!

So, would we be able to find the debris pile? Well, we never did, but just at the first crossroads of the first path, we saw abandoned furniture...
One person's trash is another person's epic flipping spot.
Rugs, chairs... this stuff could be great come snake season!

The path (road?) was about a foot deep with water...
Toads are going to love this shit!

The bowling ball yielded nothing...

The terrain is called "swampy" in online descriptions. Will these roadside pools last into the summer?

We walked along for quite a while, hopping over downed tree limbs and scuttling over fallen trees. The ground is very flat and the soil is sandy. This looks promising. But we weren't finding anything this day.

A couple of miles in, we saw some burned logs. Burned logs are always good to us... this time too!
A Redback!

That lone salamander was our only find for quite a while. After hitting a point a few miles in, we turned around. Andrea started to treat the downed limbs as an Olympic Obstacle Course...

I found a phone pole behind some bushes; it was buried half way deep. I flipped it and had a Redback... two... multiple... all told there were about 13 Redbacks and Leadbacks under there!
Corralling them was useless!

A nearby rock, also half embedded, had another dozen! They were falling from the dirt on the underside, so plentiful were they!

One of the stone's occupants of the stone was this very red (though not quite erythristic) fella.

Nearby, we flipped another rock... over a dozen more!! An embarrassment of riches was upon us!

We left satisfied, knowing we'd not only had a good and successful hike, but knowing we'd found a new place with great potential!

It wasn't until later, while watching a dull episode of The Walking Dead that I grabbed the camera to look at the tangles of Redbacks. I noticed that two little curly guys in the last picture seemed a little different! They are! They're Four-toed salamanders!
4 toes
They are almost in 4-toed defense position (tails curled over heads), the guy on the left has his tail-perforating joint visible, and the guy on the right has the jowly, squared off face of a male 4-Toed! YAY!!!

I had seen some white with black spot bellies when I was corralling them at one point, but whereas Redbacks have a salt & pepper belly, it didn't occur to me that I had another species. A species which, by the way, I'd suggested to Andrea on the previous day that they might be our toughest species-repeat from last year!

So, our third species of 2013, the Four-Toed Salamander, rare in Massachusetts, was found on March 3rd! We're off to a good start! Of course, we're in the middle of a blizzard that is supposed to drop 18" of snow on us as I write this, so...