Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"Guest" Blogging from Borderland - 8/4/2013

I find it fairly amusing to call this a "guest" blog post, since I do believe the first few posts here at HMWYNS were made by me.  Mike quickly took over the blogging duties, since I'm lazy about it and he's a better writer anyway.

While Mike was busy running the film festival at the Boston Comic-Con, I had a large chunk of time free on Sunday.  Last year, I had taken my friend Lisa to Ponkapoag Pond when Mike was working at a con, and this year I brought her to Borderland State Park.

We got there around 11:30 a.m., with the temperature at 75 degrees with a couple of clouds.  There were a few cars in the lot, which was surprising on such a gorgeous day.  I gave Lisa a summary of what has been found at Borderland before, and we set out to check for water snakes!

The first spot had a man and his young son fishing, so we didn't spend much time there.  I poked around the foliage at the edge of the rocks, but saw nothing.  The second spot also turned up nothing.

I showed her the lodge, which often has a fire going in the cooler weather.  There was a pile of boards inside there that had nobody hiding inside them.  We rolled a couple of the logs next to the lodge but still, nothing.

There was one more spot near the water's edge that I wanted to check out before we hit the trail.  We had never seen anything there, but I had heard what sounded like a snake slipping through the reeds before. I walked down there, and didn't see this until it moved:


Woohoo!  Nerodia!  I started to lunge forward to try to catch it, but it was too alert and too fast for me.  Thankfully I had gotten a crappy photo first, or I would have nothing to show for it.

Borderland has many short paths leading to the water's edge, many with benches.  It's a nice way to sit and observe nature.  We went down one of the paths to see if there were any turtles basking.  I couldn't see anything, but Lisa asked, "Is that a turtle out there?"  I used the 42x zoom on our point and shoot to zero in on it.


It was a snapper!  Awesome!  Lisa was excited to have found her first herp as an adult (she grew up in a house with a pond out back).  I was excited to find a snapper here -- we had seen evidence in the form of predated nests, but never an actual turtle.

We rolled a few logs, looking for salamanders, and checked the vernal pool that had held many tadpoles in the past.  I heard a couple of splashes when we approached, but never found the frogs.  I was hoping for some garters or more water snakes on the move, but either our timing was all wrong or I wasn't seeing them.

We stopped to have something to eat (peanut butter sandwiches, chocolate-covered coffee beans and some pecans), and watched a few dogs play in the water.


This dog, Finn, comes to the park often with his owner.  If he realizes you have a camera, he will fixate on it until you take a picture, and then he will fixate even more.  He also knows that most cell phones have a camera on them.  He must have been a supermodel in a past life.

We were at the small waterfall area, where many water snakes have been found in the past.  I checked around the edges to see if anyone was basking, and decided to try my hand at noodling.  I changed from my sneakers to my flip flops (the water under the fall was only ankle-deep at this point; in the past it's been mid-shin on me).  I began sticking my hands under rocks and moving around piles of old weeds.  I disturbed a crayfish that disappeared again quickly, but didn't see or feel any snake bodies.

I moved over under the bridge, and saw a small noggin poking out from under a rock.  Stupid me did not abide by the "pictures first" rule, and of course, it went back under the rock and I couldn't reach it.  I did find something interesting while I was looking for it.

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This gray tree frog metamorph was, unfortunately, dead and floating belly-up in the shallow water.  I have no idea how it died.  I was unsure what it was at first because I had only seen adult gray tree frogs (thanks to Kyle and Bob bringing some to the NE NAFHA meetup for me), and tadpoles (very recently, blogged about here).  It makes me wonder about some of the tadpoles we saw scooting about in the vernal ponds earlier in the summer.

Lisa and I both spotted small water snakes again; probably the same one (this individual had a lot of red on it), but I was unable to find it.  It unfairly kept ducking into rock crevices that were smaller than my hands.  At one point when we were in the water, poking around, a woman with two young boys asked if we had lost an earring.  I'm still chuckling over that one.  We didn't tell her we were looking for snakes, but her kids may have been impressed.

I did manage a shot of a painted turtle.


The day was ridiculously low on chelonians.  They had either been out earlier to bask, or were basking in spots that were too far away for us to see them, or had too many plants growing.  Again, unfair.

Meanwhile, I found another Dead Thing.

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I felt like a toddler again, playing with a dead fish because that's all I could catch.  I thought the dragonfly was cool, though, and huge.  I'm pretty sure they have a very short lifespan, and this one probably died a natural death.  EDIT:  Conrad Wernett, a Facebook friend and fellow herper, identified this as a Swamp Darner - Epiaeshna heros.  Thanks!

I found some pretty purple thistle as well:


We had been told that a deer was seen on the path earlier.  We figured she was long gone, but on our way back we saw a family looking at something up the hill.

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She was quietly eating some leaves.  As we watched her, many people jogged or hiked by without noticing her.  We were amazed at how such a large animal can move so silently.

The shore side spots near the lodge were again serpent-less, and frog-less as well.  WTH?  I was wondering if I just suck as a herper, and its Mike who does all the work.

I did get a good photo of some sort of spider, though:


So I've got that and my looks, if nothing else.

We visited a few spots where we have found garter and water snakes before, I of course looking in the exact spots I have seen them in the past (hey -- it sometimes works!).  Lisa said, "Andrea! Snake!" and pointed at a rock, and this is all I saw of a garter.


We poked around under the bushes, but the snake had the unfair advantage of being smaller and faster.  You would think they would realize it was me and just jump into my hand.

All in all, it was a fun time.  Sure, I didn't catch anything that was still alive, and the snakes seen were either crappily photographed or not at all, but I was able to spend time with a good friend out in nature.  I'd been looking forward to taking some non-herpers herping, and I hope to do it again soon.

Mike will be back for the regularly scheduled blog.  He cheated on me last night, and went out herping while I was at yoga class.  It's only natural, since I herped with another woman this week.

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