Monday, August 12, 2013

The Wild Wild West! 8-10-2013

Since we cancelled our travel plans for the weekend, a trip to Montague seemed like an obvious thing! We set the alarm for roughly 4:40 AM and planned on getting there bright and early. Well, it took a while to actually get going but we were on the road well before 7 AM, with high hopes. For some strange reason, we both felt very confident that this would be our day.  A planned post-Montague trip to Windsor MA helped to keep us excited!

We got to Montague before 9 and had to maneuver through some treacherous puddles to get to the parking spot. Having rained the night before, we knew there would be some standing water... our first time here was a wet nightmare... not a wet dream at all.

So, we headed to our spots. Things took a down-turn right away when the resident Ringneck was not at home. Oh well, perhaps he was eaten by the Racers we hear so much about, but never see. Nothing turned up in the first two alcoves, except for the food of the snakes we were looking for... a young American Toad.
Check out those parotid glands!

Andrea found this burrow, which caused us much excitement!
Possible Hognose burrow? It's possible, but we think it is a Cicada Killer Wasp's doing. (A Google Image Search leads me to believe that.)

Some of the mud puddles provided us with a few firsts for this place... a Bullfrog!

Toads (which I think were all American, despite some fairly unspeckled bellies on a few) kept popping up, which is what we like to see!

We explored the place a little more, and actually found the brook that runs through this rather arid landscape. But we still were striking out on our target species... Hognosed Snakes, Box Turtles and Spadefoot Toads. (After remembering about ground nesting wasps, I stopped sticking my fingers and digging into holes in the sand...)

Mud puddles were providing us with our only thrills. Here's another first, a Green Frog.

And a couple of more young Bulls...

Though we did find another handful of Toads,
montague toads
I had to admit that I was disappointed. I don't know... I had felt really confident, but after 4+ hours of searching, our targets remained unseen. None of those beautiful Garter Snakes this time, either. We left, stopping to flip on the way out and finding a snake skin (probably Garter) and this young American Toad.

We drove another 43 miles into the wilds of Western MA to our favorite creamery in Cummington. We always stop there when we're in the area. We'd flipped an Eft there before but they're doing some work behind it, so it looks like habitat is being changed. We waited a very long time for our sandwiches. I wanted to sneak out a herp but Andrea didn't want me to. BUT, as soon as we were (finally) done, we headed out back.

There are still some boards and rocks about, so the landscaping isn't destroying everything. A board flip got us this large, dark American Toad.
This board was inundated with crickets and grasshoppers... this fella was all set!

The place where we'd flipped an Eft last year was more or less still there. We flipped a few rocks. I flipped one and saw a small brown snake body... as I reached for it, I said out loud, "pleaseletitbe...YESSSSS"! We'd found our first Massachusetts Redbelly in over two years!

In all of the excitement, Andrea still managed to get a shot of a Green Frog who was in a puddle at our feet!

The Redbelly was a sweetheart, too...

So, that alone justified our getting up early, our hours of driving and the 2+ tanks of gas. But now, we had to head to Windsor State Forest, in hopes of efts, Spring Salamanders and Duskies.

Things started off nicely with a Garter flip!
This guy was in the blue and had a stub tail!

Right near him was a target... a Red Eft! I pulled him up and set him on a picnic table bench for some photos, but he trucked off!
Andrea got him under control...

There was a big board that had fallen off of one of the buildings, which excited us to no end. A flip revealed nothing... no, wait! There's three Redbacks!
Hey wait, doesn't that one look a little different?
Hey now, it's a erythristic phase! We have seen them here (and only here) in the past and were psyched to see one again!

It's interesting: this place, with an abundance of efts (usually) also has this all-red phase of the Redback. Efts are toxic to most animals (except Garters)... I wonder if the erythristic Redbacks get left alone by an animal that might otherwise eat it because of its resemblance to an eft. Hmmmm.....

Speaking of Redbacks, this guy was over 4 inches long and easily the biggest one I'd ever seen.
All shots with my hand next to him were blurry...

This guy wasn't big or all red, but he was still cute!

The building, which is a locked restroom (closed due to the place being shut down for camping these days), had some nests in the windows. This one was full!
Looks like one of those Robin eggs might be ready to go!

Another flip, another two Redbacks!
Holy crap, one of 'em is another erythristic!!!

We finally got to the water, in hopes of some Springs, Duskies and larvae. The water was pretty raging, so we had to content ourselves with quieter sections with clear pools. Andrea found some tadpoles (Toads, which seem very late...).
and she got this Two-Lined Salamander larvae for a closer look!

Before long, she found another a bit downstream:

It should be noted that at one point, I went to flip a flat rock and, thinking there was ground to the left of the rock, stepped into nothing and fell off a four foot wall into pricker bushes. I'm glad they were there to break my fall, otherwise I'd have fallen along rocks and into the river. It was funny. Very funny.

Well, we saw no Springs or Duskies and shit, shouldn't this place have Wood Turtles, too?! But we saw another large Redback...

On the way out, ready to head home, we tried to find a place (a pulloff off of the road) that in previous years, we'd seen pools next to the river that had Spotted Newts in them. We found the place, but the pools were mostly dry and weren't big enough to support anything. Andrea flipped along the edge of the river. She called to me that there was a good flat rock, but it was too big for her. I trotted my he-man ass over to give it a flip. There were two salamanders under it! I grabbed one for Andrea to photograph while I wrangled the speedy, larger one.

I had handed her a beautiful Two-Lined!

While I secured a large Dusky!!
He tried to bite Andrea shortly after she said "I've heard these guys can bite"!

So, we put them back and headed for home, elated that we'd finally found a few of our targets!

With the Redbelly, the eft, the dusky (which I kept calling Dookie when I was trying to wrangle him) and the erythristic Redbacks, this had turned out to be a pretty amazing day. Oh and, dear Montague... we will conquer you. Oh yes we will...


  1. Algunos animalitos me enternecen!!!!cariñosx2 Martha...

    "Simba,mi perrito" está en el blog!!Guauuuu!!!

    1. Simba was beautiful!! So ARE you!!!