Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In an unGartered moment... 5-27-2013

Sunny? Seventies?? We're all about that! With the dearth of turtles in Pennsylvania and since, we wanted some chelonian action, so for Memorial Day, we headed for our favorite National Wilflife Refuge in Middlesex County... a place of many Painteds, Snappers and the occasional Blandings!

We didn't get there until about 11:30 and there was a brisk wind. But still, it was very sunny. We started off with a few birds, including this heron, who was busy hunting and didn't pay us no nevermind!

The reeds had grown in since last time (in March... here) but we could still see turtles; teasing us with their proximty but oh so difficult to get a shot of! Still, I will post every picture that I deem good enough! Let's start with some Painted Turtles!

This wee hatchling Painted was nuzzling this blob of algae... probably catching a snack. He wasn't more than 2 inches long!

A moment later, Andrea dropped her backpack to the ground and placed her camera next to it... she approached the water... what did she find????

A hatchling Snapper!! Too cute!!!

Now that we've oohed and ahhed the cute lillte baby turtles, it should be noted that the reeds were moving about from under the water... violently at times. What I thought might have been snappers or muskrats turned out to be massive Carp (who I couldn't get a decent picture of all day!), who would munch these guys down in a gulp! They were cool, though.

This Bullfrog was surely big enough to suck them both back and still be hungry too!

Painted Break!

We were hoping for some snakes, of course, and this spot is good for for Northern Water Snakes! This guy was catching some rays!
Nerodia 1

This next Nerodia was nearer the bank and we didn't realize this pic had come out decently...
Nerodia 2
So I brought him in for close-ups. Check out the musk! He absolutley nailed me!
Nerodia 2
A real beauty none the less, even though he gave me one of those grinding bites on the knuckle before he calmed down...
Nerodia 2

The heron was up to some tricks...

With all of the snakes and herons and carp around, this Northern Leopard Frog was keeping a very low profile!

Painted Turtle break!

I managed to catch another Water Snake for pictures. Just a small bite to the finger before he calmed...
Nerodia 3

Also present were Bullfrogs. Lots of them!
great meadows bull 1
(The upper right one in the collage was photographed by me thinking it was a Green, but when I uploaded it, I saw my error!)

Another basking Water Snake!
Nerodia 4

Time for an extended Painted Break!! (Cue the bouncy, wah-wah tinged dance music)

We saw another partially hidden Water Snake (!) and snapped some pics, but I couldn't tell if he was even in my viewfinder! (The screen is so tough to see on bright, sunny days!) I made an attempt to catch him, but missed. As it turns out, I got some pretty good shots anyway!
Nerodia 5
Nerodia 5

Not surprisingly, this smaller, thin Water Snake was gone in an instant, leaving us with just this picture of his back!
Nerodia 6

Stop! Painted time!

Here's another stunning Leopard Frog!

That was all on the first leg of the hike!!! Hot damn! What would we see next? Well, the heron finally had some success, and Andrea expertly captured it on film. The world is down one Sunfish, but has gained a fatter heron.
Great Meadows Heron Chow

The opposite of me, Andrea took this shot of a Bull which turned out to be a Green Frog!!! Yay!

We were getting to the point where we saw loads of Garter Snakes in March, so we were pretty sure we'd find some. I saw one and made an attempt, but came up empty handed. He looked at me laying face first on the ground, then slithered off to who knows where. I just couldn't find him. But no worry... there would be others. Right?

A family that knew we were looking for animals said that there was a large snake about 40 meters up in the path. I thought to myself... "sure... large! Probably a Ribbon or small Garter." I now have to eat my words...
Nerodia 7
Yes, I agree. Large.
Nerodia 7
Again, small nip at first, but he became quiet and tolerated us for a while. What a beauty!
Nerodia 7

Is it already time to start finding predated nests?! I guess it is!

On a happier note, there was still snotloads of Bullfrogs out and about!
Great Meadows Bulls

Know what this party needs? More Painted Turttles!

We heard a racket off in the reeds and finally found what it was... this Muskrat was pulling up reeds and chowing down on them!
If he gets busy, maybe we can get better pictures next time!

This Water Snake showed me his butt for a while.
Nerodia 8
I dove after him, and went up to my elbows. I had the tip of his tail and reached forward to secure a grip on his body. I released the tail. I raised my hand. I had a gentle but firm grasp of a reed. He had outsmarted me!

And now for something completely strange.

We were walking up the path and saw two people stopped about 30 yards in front of us. We could see they were photographing something. We hoped it was a baby turtle or something (which we had seen along this stretch before), but as we got closer, we saw what looked like a snake near them. I called "whatcha got, a former Water Snake?", figuring it has a dead one. What they showed us was beyond bizarre!
Nerodia 9
They said as they were walking along, this had "backed-up into the path" in front of them and had been laying there since. Obviously, it was a Water Snake attempting to eat a snail. I hadn't heard of this, but whatever... there it is. Andrea gave it a light poke. It moved a bit.
Nerodia 9

We Picked him up to take a close look and noticed that the top of his head was trapped in the snail's operculum... snapped shut in a trap-door. Thank goodness for a glottus!
Nerodia 9

Andrea held his (cooperative) body while I pried the snail's door open gently. I had to get it far enough open so I could get a finger in next to the snake's head. I finally did, and helped the snake release his teeth... somewhat successfully. Finally, he broke himself free and bit Andrea on the wrist for thanks! She put him on the ground and he took off like a flash into the reeds.

Andrea was left with three Nerodia teeth in her skin for her efforts.
(Sharp littler bugger, ain't it?!)

So, as if that wasn't enough excitement for the day, we headed into the woods and into the last leg of the journey. Surely we'd find some Gareters here! Right?

Wrong! This decently Gartered place left us empty, making that one missed earlier loom large! We did see a nice bunny near the parking lot, though!

But we got what we came for... turtles! No Blandings, but plenty o' Painteds! And enough Water Snakes and Bullfrogs to shut me up and get me through the work week. But still...

It always makes me feel like herping... in an unGartered moment...

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