Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hot Leopards at Great Meadows 7-14-2013

With weather reports telling us that it was going to be a scorchy, 90°+ day, we wanted to hit Great Meadows, a place bereft of shade to begin with, as early as possible. I checked the website... oh, crap... they don't open until 8AM. Oh well, at least we got to sleep in... until 6!

Well, that said, as we pulled in, we passed a sign that said "park opens at dawn"... Oh well. It was still early and a long time before the sun was going to be at its hottest, so we hit the trail.

Canadian Geese seemed to be piled up all around every point where you could actually get near the water. There were a few young ones, so we got some hisses, but not one of them moved in our presence!

Half way up the main drag, I think I said it first. "You know, it's already pretty fucking hot... we might not have much luck!" Indeed, there weren't any turtles up basking, at least none that we could see. This Painted Turtle was keeping cool foraging around some plants...

We were hoping for some Leopard Frogs and Andrea finally found one hiding out...
I couldn't see him as I looked into the brush, but I saw a small Garter Snake scoot out of my way. He might have had his mind set on this small Leopard. I couldn't find him after he slid into the water.

A bit further up, however, we saw this larger guy digesting in the shade.
He lazily slithered off as we walked by.

A fellow hiker, who had asked us what we were looking for at water's edge, told us that there were tons of frogs out along the path we were heading onto. She said she was startling them every two feet! Surely she was exaggerating... right?

Well, she wasn't! There were hundreds! We were making them jump out of the path, too... about every two feet! They appeared to be mostly, if not all, Leopard Frogs! I said once... I said twice... and maybe I said it until Andrea told me to shut up... "getting a shot of these guys is gonna be touuuugh!" We settled for this brave Painted, hoisting himself up and into the heat!

By this time, still mid-morning, it was already very very hot. I was a giant ball of sweat. Even Andrea, who is by nature a pretty cool cucumber, was... errr... glowing. But there were no biting insects and there were some animals out, so we didn't mind at all!

Eventually, we started getting some lucky shots of the speedy, young (and very small) Leopard Frogs!
gm leopards 1
Mind you, this is but three of the hundreds!

Walking in between two ponds, I saw a black tail moving into the brush... I reached in and pulled out a very beautiful, stub-tailed Water Snake!
He bit the holy-hell out of me, giving me a grinding bite on the knuckles that bruised and stayed swollen for a couple of days!
But what a beauty!

Andrea next flipped a Garter Snake skin!
We never found the owner.

I added to my orange butterfly collection with this shot of a Monarch!

There was less Carp action than on our last trip, but we still saw a few big ones... like these two who were so big, the pond water couldn't even contain 'em!

Another Painted, sharing a bask with an orange dragonfly.

While this one decided to hang out with a heron!

We'd hoped to have a 4 frog species day, and here was a Bullfrog to get us one closer!

But Leopards were the Lithobates of the day!
gm leopards 2

Tiny Snails were hangin' in a puddle...

Our new favorites, tiny black catfish, we present as well!

This small Leopard Frog was our most cooperative of the day... he posed nicely until I could get right up into his grill for this shot!

Now, in the field, with sun in my eyes and on the camera screen, I wasn't sure if some of the Leopards might have been Pickerel Frogs... they have many similarities. But I knew I needed a Green Frog. Earlier, I had flipped an adult who bounded off as I clumsily tried to get a shot of him. This small Bullfrog looks a bit like a Green... but he isn't.

Finally, we went to an area where I had seen Greens before, and this little fella jumped into this position and stayed there while I snapped this shot.
I'm terribly happy with this shot! My best of the year!

We continued on, seeing but being unable to photograph two more Garters. The small frogs had them up braving the heat, but that heat had made the snakes super fast! Oh well. These two Bullfrogs let us get some good pictures.
gm bulls

By this time, we were into the wooded area and it became noticeably buggier. Frankly, we have had enough bugs of late. We picked up our pace and headed to the car, even passing up the "Edge Trail" because we knew it would be unbearably buggy.

No worries- we had braved the heat of the day and had a very nice hike and saw 6 species of herps. (We never did come up with a Pickerel, or any other frog... stalling us at 3 frog species...) Not too shabby.

We hit Moe's Mexican Restaurant on the way back. They didn't say "Welcome to Moe's". I'm considering a lawsuit.

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