Monday, July 22, 2013

Bullfrogs? In this heat? You bet yer ass! 7-20-2013

That last entry, July 14th at Great Meadows, was the first day of a 7 day heatwave. It was in the mid-90s (and it hit 100° on Friday) for a solid week. Saturday, the 7th day, it was going to hit 95° but we still needed to herp. So we tried something new; the Assabet National Wildlife Refuge in Middlesex County. They do some work with Blandings Turtles here, so it's of interest to us, whether we'd see one or not.

Truthfully, we didn't expect to see anything as it was already in the 80s when we left the house at about 5:30 AM. (We got up at 4 AM.) Still, we got there before 6, before it got painfully hot. Sadly, those damn yellow flies started pelting the car as soon as we pulled in. Seriously... they were going ding ding ding off of the car! This did not bode well for us. But we'd gotten up early and made the effort to get there, so we decided to give it our best shot, bugs or not.

It wasn't as bad as we'd feared. There were plenty of damn yellow flies and gnats, as well as a few skeeters, but we'd herped in worse in recent weeks, so we forged on, knowing that any animal we might see would be worth it. But would we see any??

We went along the trail that would occasionally intersect with Taylor Brook and, sure enough, at the first sight of water, there were loads of Bullfrogs!

This Green Frog rested at my feet, so I grabbed him for a close-up.
I'm glad that I was quick enough to get this shot... it was the only non-Bull frog of the day!

Bulls were abundant every time we were near the water. It was impossible to photograph them all, but I got off a few good shots!

We got to an open, sunny, sandy spot and, while poking around, saw many predated turtle nests. We were thinking the soil and sun looked like good nesting grounds. Evidently, it was meant to be! I eventually saw this sign!
Some of the predated nests were definitely Snappers (dozens of eggshells, etc) but some only had 5 or 6 shells... could they have been Blandings nests? Yikes! I hope not! We plan on attending an upcoming meeting to see if there's any way we can be of assistance with the ongoing Blandings projects. This raccoon skull would keep watch on things for a while...

So, just after that spot, we reached the water that the nesting spot was catering to! There were no turtles up, but once again Bullfrogs were plentiful!

We chose another path that would take us by another pond... yup. Bullfrogs!

There was a ton of duckweed and sludgey algae that was so thick that some of the frogs would hop across it while fleeing from the camera. Much to my surprise and happiness, I had one shot at this Painted Turtle, and got the shot! (more or less...)

We carried on, deciding to head toward the other end of the park (we parked in Stowe and headed to the Sudbury lot via the trails). We were getting some bug bites and the yellow bastards were annoying, but we were there, so we made the best of it. This place used to be a Military Training annex and these bunkers still stand, looking ominous...

After reaching the opposite end, the sun had gotten high in the sky and the temps were pretty sweltering. This made us sweatier and that made the bugs thirstier. We decided to head back the way we came, at a faster clip. Man... those fly bites hurt!! Youch! I got 4 on the back of my neck!

We stopped along the way back to watch the Bullfrogs in the duckweedy pond. There were hundreds of noggins poking out of the green...
each one belonging to a Bullfrog. Every once in a while, one would lunge for a dragonfly buzzing too closely to the water. We stood there for about 15 minutes, watching and enjoying a nice breeze and a surprising and welcome break from the bugs. Maybe the frogs had nommed down on some of the damn yellow flies in the area!

Further along, we finally saw some Painted Turtles taking in the heat! Here is a six-pack!
I caught the middle guy on the front log in a yawn in another shot...

How thick was that duckweed?

This is the only noggin we saw that was not a Bullfrog!

On the way back, we took a wrong turn and wound up going the wrong way on a path. Just before we righted ourselves, we flipped these!
A Redback and a Leadback! Odd to see them this time of year... especially as hot as it was, but there they are!! We had been wondering when our last Redback sighting was... it had been a while! This completely justified our wrong turn!

The main pond had more Bulls, most of whom avoided the camera, and this lil Toad!
His belly was mottled, so I'm calling him a young American.

Just for the record, this place has sandy soil, pine trees and at least one tiny toad. Just sayin'.

We got one more pic of a Bullfrog before we started trotting quickly to the car:

The heat and the bugs were beginning to get to us, so we called it a day after about 5 hours. Not a bad first look though! We knew we'd see no snakes... a 7 day heatwave? Fergittaboutit! But this place holds much potential... those two ponds will be sick with Nerodia, methinks. But five species in 95° weather? We'll take it!

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