Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pennsylvania Herping Adventure Part 2 (Saturday, May 18th, 2013)

Every time I closed my eyes to sleep on Friday night, I saw moist dirt with S-shaped salamander bodies in it, happily squirming. I'll admit that I didn't get much sleep, but it was because of excitement... both for the day I had just had and the day that was forthcoming!

Saturday started off early, at 7:30ish and we were joined by Steve, Alex and Bob, who had his 3 boys (Wes, Nate and Zach) in tow. We held back our departure for a bit as it was very cloudy. While we waited, the boys found Kyle's resident Northern Water Snake  and brought him up for photos.

Like Kyle had, Bob brought us a Gray Tree Frog to look at! This guy was so mellow... we put him on a branch for some stellar photos!

Once it became obvious that the fog and clouds weren't going to burn off any time soon, we headed to our first stop of the day, in Bradford County. Along the way, we saw a Black Bear cross the road and lumber into the woods! Tom continued his winning ways with a Ringneck!

Kyle laid a Green Snake in front of Andrea and said "Look what you found!" Well, nice try... but it was her first ever Green and her main target species for the trip!
This smile says it all! (And makes the whole trip worth it!!)

One of Bob's boys (Wes?) found this teeny Green, too!

My finds at this spot were a Slimy!
A Red Eft!
And a Redback!

Tom and Kyle each found shoestring Garters!

And Bob and the boys had ridiculous success with Ringnecks!

Down the hill was a creek. I flipped this charming little Spring Salamander larvae!

Bob, who was considerably downstream, went through great pains to safely bring this dynamic Dusky over to show us! I'm sure glad he did! 
What a stunner!

I was having particularly good luck with Two Lined Salamanders!
penn 2-lines 2

Back up top, it took 2 or 3 grown men to flip a giant rock... which had only this American Toad under it!
While I flipped another Ringneck...

Sadly, this is where Tom had to depart.

Back into the truck, we headed to a creek in Sullivan County... Kyle's place to see gorgeous Long Tailed Salamanders... way up there on my need-to-see list! It didn't take long before he landed this stunning specimen!

Meanwhile, Wes had found a nice Spring Salamander!

I flipped two of my own Long Tails, though one's tail wasn't very long due to an old break... plus, I almost crushed them when I removed the rock and pebbles spilled in... *sigh* calm down, Mike!

At this point, people split up and scattered everywhere. I found myself on my own! I found this nice sized Ringneck... about 13 inches long!

My best flip here produced a good sized Spring Salamander.
I considered it cool enough to trudge downstream to find Andrea and her good camera!

She had been having good luck with the local Two-Lineds!
penn 2-lines

Could the day get any better? Good friends, herps... Well, we headed over to a place in Lycoming County and it did! The sky was still overcast and rain had sprinkled a bit, but we were still ready for herps! And, as expected, a local resident Black rat Snake greeted us from his usual spot (according to Kyle)!
This 6-footer was so beautiful, yet in the blue... he was going to be amazing after his shed!

Near him, Andrea flipped a nice Garter!

Up on top of this area, I flipped this young Garter:
who decided to hide under my sitting butt, prompting Andrea to announce "if I flip Mike, I'll bet I can find a Garter Snake!"

Next up, I had the good fortune of grabbing a very good rock to flip. With a call of "holy shit", I looked upon a multi-snake, multi-species pile of bodies! I grabbed what I could!

I handed Andrea the Black Rat and a couple of Garters, while Alex came to hold the stone up. I barely had the Milk by the tail as he headed down a hole. Bob got the tail and dug for Milk, as I fell backwards onto my ass! 
Clumsy, but still herping, I procured the third Garter from the rock as it slid over my legs!
Andrea enjoyed a bouquet of Garters!

It takes a town to raise an armful of snakes and this was a huge team effort! Here is me enjoying the fruits of all of our labors!

One more look at that Rat... my first wild adult and my first in many years!

We saw a couple of more Garters... this flip:
And this guy that was just crawling by... the most tenacious snake of the trip... this shot is him striking at me as I walked by!

Zach had found a beautiful Redbelly!

So, with warnings from Kyle to keep alert, we headed up... into what has been known as Timber country. Sure enough, Alex called the first... Timber!!!
We photographed it until it leisurely (without rattling) sauntered away into a thicket.

Just a bit further up, Steve found another!
Check out this guy's rough and tough face.

So, we ascended a hill. On the way up, Nate showed me the first Leadback that I'd seen in Penn.

Reaching our destination, Kyle called another Timber!
And made himself comfortable nearby to keep an eye on him.

Within seconds, Steve called another!! This one was a bit more feisty and gave us a rattle.
He headed into some rocks to hide out.

While photographing him, I looked down and saw what was surely a dead Milk Snake. As I got ready to take a picture for data purposes, Steve said "it moved"! Sure enough, this dark, oily-looking Milk was alive... just an ugly chap!
He was pretty personable, though, and we enjoyed his raggedy company!

Near this pile, I flipped two Ringnecks... (thanks for holding them, Nate)
and two Garters, the larger of which was a real beauty!

After enjoying the vista (and Alex getting ready to descend the rocky outcropping...)
we headed back down.

There was one more big pile o' rocks in a field on the way out, so Steve and I hit it first. Steve flipped the first Dekay's Snake of the weekend!

Kyle soon followed with an absolutely gorgeous caramel colored Milk Snake!

Bob inspected it closely, much to Zach's amusement.

Then Kyle found another!
That's Zach's hand on the business end!

Not to be outdone, I found this shoestring garter! (OK... I'd been way outdone!)

But I found redemption in a third Milk! This one was kind of bitey too!

So, we took three feisty Milk Snakes to a photo shoot for some glamour shots! They calmed down a bit and were very good sports.

While we were in Milk heaven, Alex had found another Red Salamander! Beauty!

Now really... isn't this what it's all about?

We headed back to the car, but were missing Alex! He came up, but wanted some ID help... he'd found either a very pale Redbelly or a very pink Dekays. It turned out to be a Redbelly. While we were up looking at it, I flipped this very cute sleeping Garter...

So, we had been out for roughly 8 hours and found tons of wonderful animals. The kids (and Bob) jumped into the icy creek behind Kyle's cottage when we got back. I considered it... until I poked my feet in. OOOWWW!!! 

So, we had some dinner (Kyle cooked for us all, making veggie stuff for me! I can't begin to say how great he is!) and relaxed. Sadly, Bob and the kids had to head back Plans for an after dark excursion to look for Hellbenders evaporated when our butts hit the sofa. Movie... popcorn... bed. I slept like a log, dreaming of snakes and green fields.

And we still had a day to go...


  1. Love the play by play of everything that happened. Such a great job! That blog must have taken a long time. I don't think I realized how much we actually did until I hear you tell it back to us.

    1. Thanks, Stephen! And that's just from my memory... there are so many more animals that I wasn't able to photograph and didn't see! Our numbers were mind boggling!!

  2. Nice work Mike. 2/3 of those milks in that last pile were the only two I flipped all weekend.
    Always satisfying to me when the plan works. We had to switch gears Saturday early and reverse our route due to the conditions. Ended up being the right call.
    Gives me great joy to lead folks to lifers.

    1. Ah, OK! You found the second Milk also! I'll correct that!

      Kyle, you took such good care of all of us... I just can't begin to tell you how much it means to us both!