Monday, May 6, 2013

Racer Vs. Andrea: Clash of the Titans! 5-4-2013

We always say that going to a place with a Target Species is a recipe for disappointment. Therefore, we try not to. That said, how can we go to Cutler without hoping to see Black Racers and Milk Snakes? Well, we hadn't yet seen any Milks, so we never said it aloud, but we'd set a target species...

This would be our first excursion with Andrea's new Fancy-Dancy camera (I think that's what it's called...). We hit the trail at about 9:30 with only a practice shot or two of Gibson at home under our belts. I had decided to stay away from it! My crappy little pocket camera would have to suffice.

We saw nothing until we got to the mouth of Racer Alley, whereupon a flip produced a pair of Redback Salamanders. These are the very first herp photos taken on the new camera.
Not bad!

As usual, Racer Alley felt long and hot. We made it to the end with no herp sightings. At the end, we hopped  into a field next to the river and explored its edges. Certainly, this would be where the legendary Cutler Nerodia reside! But we didn't see any. A Painted Turtle swam away, evading my camera. Down but not out, we headed back along the Alley to resume our quest.

Just back on the trail, we heard some leaves rustle. From the left, a large Racer swooshed along the hill to the right. The hill is at about a 50 or 60 degree angle... that fucker was agile! I darted up the hill, saw him and lunged as he literally disappeared before my eyes.

Meanwhile, Andrea had thought I was chasing another, smaller Racer who she'd seen jetting up the hill. She said "its coming your way" and I saw a smaller black flash come at me! I threw my hands down, touched it, but it disappeared! I cleared away some of the brush and saw this:
This hole was small... I couldn't even fit my hand in, but these two Racers slid in effortlessly, just as smooth as butter. No amount of staring at the hole in disbelief would make them come out.

Truth be told, Black Racers are always my Target Species at Cutler. I love the damn things! Disappointment  was already setting in. It didn't help when I recalled the last Garter from last week at Boyden, the one that I had unknowingly trapped with my torso and let get away without a picture.

Cue the sad Charlie Brown music...

I got cranky, too. Andrea might have as well since she took this picture.

So, we carried on, all the while working on the new camera. A nice selection of Redbacks and Leadbacks helped us to improve our chops.

Here is a nice Green Frog!

So, we rested at the half-way point, wondering what was up. The weather was superb! Warm and sunny, with just a chilly breeze to make it not perfect. Things turned around a bit when we started back. A tarpaper flip netted us a two-fer!
The Dekay was a squirmy little fella and the Garter was in a shed!
Unfamiliar with the camera, we didn't get a ton of great shots, but these are OK. The one with Andrea in it is the my first ever attempt on it! Not too shabby!

This spider was also nearby. I want to call it a Nursery Web Spider (Pisaurina mira) but it was huge! The body must have been over an inch! Whatever. It's a beauty at any rate! (And it was also in tarpaper, with a funnel-type web)

This was the spider's roomie!

So, we carried on along a path we never had taken before and it brought us near the river. I walked right past a spot where Andrea stopped and yelled "Garter"! She'd seen one crawl into the brush. I got in front of him and grabbed him for some close-ups.
He pooped horribly in my hand. And musked.
That's OK... he was a regal beauty, despite the poop.

We thought we could get fancy and photograph some turtles on the other side of the river... the new telephoto lens is good, but it couldn't work miracles!
Live and learn!

Further on, back on familiar trails, I was about 20 feet in front of Andrea when I turned around and she was searching through some scrub. I asked what she had, but couldn't hear her answer! As I got closer, I heard "Garter"! It came out of the brush and right at me! I grabbed him! I had to take a good look! It was a Ribbon Snake!
Fattest and biggest durn Ribbon we'd ever seen!
Hey- I make no apologies- I fucking love Ribbons!!

So, we were feeling much better about ourselves. We thought about it... even though we'd been hiking for about 5 1/2 hours... did we want to go back up Racer Alley on the way out and check that hole? Why the hell not?!

Well, tenacity doesn't always pay off in herping. But it did this time! We heard some grass movement and saw a large Racer go into a bush. He didn't flee, though... he held his ground, backing up slowly... thus, I had a chance! He was hissing, striking and rattling his tail.
He slid up a tree... it actually looked as though he levitated up, smooth as silk, he just glided up into the branches. I got lucky and got a hand around him. When part of him kept ascending the tree, I realized there were in fact two racers again! I brought the big guy out for photos!

He was hissing a lot... we think we might have hemipene-blocked him, so it was understandable. He struck and got my Cheap Trick shirt, right in the Bun E. Carlos. Still, Andrea wanted to hold him.
He squirmed around a bit and got some length out from Andrea's grip... and turned and got her on the cheek!
First black racer bite.
It followed with a bite to her jean-clad crotch!! Sassy!
After I asked if she was OK, and then finished laughing a lot, I asked her to hold the snake back up by her face! Whatta trooper!

Hey, when getting one's first ever Racer bite, it might as well be on the face from a 4+-footer!

Best of all, when we released him, he effortlessly slid right back up the tree, enabling us to get these stunning shots! Racer + cherry blossoms + bright blue sky = nice photos!!

Here is the smaller one, shining blue in the top of the same tree.

So, we got our Racer revenge and Racer Guy got his too!

We laughed the whole way out, happy with the way the day turned out. At a party later that night, Andrea dressed in a very cute dress, looking as beautiful as ever... sporting a Racer snake-blossom on her cheek. I love her.


  1. Hi! Can I post the first pic of your racer in the cherry tree to my Facebook page - I LOVE IT! I will obviously give you credit and no hard feelings if you say no! I don't want to use your pic without permission.

    I was out looking at the basking red-bellied cooters at Myles Standish SF yesterday - they are HUGE!

    1. Yes, of course Amy!! Andrea got that shot!!

      We haven't been to Myles yet this year! Very soon... before May is done! We need to see some Red-Bells too!!