Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Herpers Gotta Herp: ULTIMATE EDITION!

I have learned a few things in the past week.

Firstly, I am no longer immune to Poison Ivy. This is after 9 days.
First poison ivy ever!
I think I got it when wrangling the Garter in the Fragrance Garden at Boyden last week. It officially sucks.

Secondly, since we seem to still be heading out on herp trips with target species in mind, it is best to have at least three of those damn targets. Like last week in Western Mass... we went to find Box Turtles, Hognose Snakes and, since we were there, Northern Duskies. We found the last one.

Thirdly, we will do almost anything for the chance of finding a herp.

So, we got in touch with Steve New England Herps, our friend whose favorite place is a National Wildlife Refuge in Worcester County, to see if he would like to join us at that very place! We decided on a very early morning visit, in hopes of seeing some nesting turtles. This place has been rumored to have Box Turtles, Wood Turtles and Blandings, only the latter of which Steve has found.

We woke up at 4 AM, got ready and got there at 6 AM to meet Steve and our friend Matt, ready to seek the fields on the far end of the trails, in hopes of witnessing some nesting. I had warned Andrea that, in light of last week's flooded trails in Taunton and Western MA, she should expect a soaker here... there is plenty of chance to have high water levels.

Understatement of the year.

So, yeah... some of the early paths were flooded. We sopped through... oh damn! A soaker! Oh well! The sun was not yet warm, so nobody was basking yet on the few exposed logs in the overflowing ponds. Things started off normally enough with a Redback, flipped by Matt.

The boardwalk areas started to present a problem... the ponds were very high... the water was over our ankles! Oh well, we already had soakers!

Soon, it got deeper and we reasoned, "we've come this far, we might as well press on"...

As we neared the fields, which were next to the river trail, things just got silly. The river had overflowed it's banks and were flowing not only across the path, but into the woods. We were pretty much hiking in the river at this point! The current was fairly strong in spots.
It should be mentioned that by this point, Steve (whose rubber boots would only have been effective if they were 3 feet higher) was in stocking feet.

We got to the fields, but as we'd expected, there wasn't any nesting to be seen. Much of it was flooded. We did see this deer, though!

We trudged our way back to the main drag, hoping to find some herps on the drier sections of the trail. The sun had warmed up and there was some basking going on...

Matt was looking through some tall grass on the pond's edge and saw a Water Snake and a Garter, the Water snuck past him, but I was lucky to grab it.
Nerodia 1
Quite a beauty, too!
Nerodia 1

Matt's Garter posed for us a bit.
Garter 1
Garter 1

A few minutes later, in the same area, I caught a Garter... I think it might have been the same one!!
Garter 1A

We saw a baby Water Snake that escaped me, we were unable to come up with him... grrrr....

Bullfrogs were up and about.
worcester county bulls
Now where were they when we were knee-deep in water? Knee-deep... knee-deep.

We explored other areas, but were herpless. We wondered just how much the excessive water had displaced the animal population... We headed back to the baby Nerodia place to look some more. Along the way, we found this lovely Garter...
Garter 2
Andrea decided to make him lovelier still with a flower in his hair. He didn't have any, though...
Garter 2

Back at the spot, Steve pulled this massive Water Snake, who was deep in a shed, out of the bushes and placed him into a puddle for photos!
Nerodia 2
Nerodia 2
Matt helped this beauty back to the water.
Nerodia 2

I managed another Water Snake, who thanked me with 3 bites to the hand!
Nerodia 3
He had one bad eye... a retained eye-cap?
Nerodia 3

A few more Painteds:

By this time, Steve and Matt had to get going, due to another engagement. At least we got 3 1/2 hours herping together... and a Water World adventure! Andrea and I chilled for a few minutes before heading back. We hadn't given up hope.

It's a good thing, too. As soon as we hit the trail again, we noticed a turtle way out there with a big domed shell...
Could this be an elusive Blandings? A bright yellow throat is what we began to search for...
Eventually, he just yelled out "hey, oh! Over here! See my bright yellow throat? Isn't it fab-you-luss?!!"
Herpers gotta herp and get the shot!

While I was out there, I got a few more Painteds...

But Yay!! A Blandings!! This Pickerel Frog gave us a high five!

A few more Bullfrogs...

A few more Painteds...
worcester county painteds

This Garter was swell... first he posed...
Garter 3
Then he and Andrea fell in love after she picked him up!
Garter 3
Garter 3
Garter 3
The snake whisperer strikes again!

I don't know about you, but I need more Painteds right about now!

This is a bird.

We decided to head back up the trail, which we knew was partly under water, to get to the beaver dam/ Water Snake den area just beyond the boardwalk. Along the way, we found this ready-to-shed Nerodia!
Nerodia 4
Nerodia 4
Poor guy had a split lip... this look to me like a healed wound... not fungal infection. But I could be wrong...
Nerodia 4

Here's a Garter. This is all I got of him. He and FOUR others eluded both the camera and our weak attempts to catch them!
Garter 4

We found a snake skeleton...

and yet another "in the blue" Water Snake! This guy was great... he kept mugging for the camera! One nip to the finger, but the rest was all show!
Nerodia 5
Nerodia 5
Nerodia 5

Andrea decided that she was soaked enough and waited while I crossed the boardwalk to inspect the dens. I saw some Painteds off to the side.

The dens had some Water Snakes out, enjoying a late morning bask!
Nerodia 6
Nerodia 7

I heard a crazy, loud splash and wondered if a snapper had fallen out of a tree or something. Nope... but a Beaver had!

As we headed back, we missed a few more Garter chances, but this guy posed and let us handle him a bit.
Garter 5
Garter 5

This Water Snake was sacked out in the shade...
Nerodia 8
So sacked out, in fact, that Andrea was able to not only put a flower on him, but take the time to arrange it nicely!
Nerodia 8

Further along, another Water Snake!
Nerodia 9
He also had one bum eye. Weird!
Nerodia 9
He was ornery and flattened out and struck, but was pretty sweet anyway.
Nerodia 9

I have an itch and the only thing that will scratch it is seven more Painted Turtles!

One of the puddles along the trail had some crazy commotion in it. This Bullfrog was to blame. Not sure what he was doing, but it was amusing!

So, we'd been at it for roughly 7 hours. We were getting tired and hungry. We snapped some Painted shots on the way out and discovered the Blandings was still there!

On the way home, we decided to pull into Drumlin Farm, a place we'd thought about doing a rainy nighttime herp trip at the other night... but had decided not to. I just wanted to see the pond that is supposedly a stronghold for Gray Tree Frogs. To our surprise, this massive Snapper was up basking!

While we were watching, he tried to turn around and started to slide off!
Notice the other two snappers at the end of the log.

On the way out we saw this wee Painted. A study in extremes.

So that was fun! A Water Adventure with friends, hours and hours of fruitful herping and Mexican food for lunch! Bed was sure going to feel GOOD!


  1. Q: Where do you send a frog to get glasses?
    A: To the Hoptometrist.

  2. That first water snake is perhaps the most beautiful one I have ever seen...

    1. Yes, quite a gorgeous, almost mosaic belly pattern!! Comparitively good natured too!