Thursday, September 12, 2013

Babies Я We 9-8-2013

How do we top finding two Eastern Hognoses? Well, we can't realistically expect to, but there's still that plan of seeing baby turtles to look into! So we went to our newest Middlesex County turtle spot, a place where we saw no snakes on our first and only visit (in July), but there was plenty of other stuff to look at!

So, we got there (after forgetting the directions... Yay Andrea "GPS" Lauritzen Howlett!) mid-morning and it was already pretty warm. Rain was threatening, but managed to hold off. We were predicting what herps we would find first. I called a Pickerel Frog, and we figured an American Toad would follow. Our genius was proven.
Check out the blue spot on the toad's nose!

Feeling a bit cocky, we called for a sub-adult Garter next. We were wrong.

I flipped a large rock, about 15 feet from the water. We saw a small black and white head retreat into a hole, like a worm. At first it looked like a salamander but as the face disappeared, we knew it was a snake. A small snake. A baby Water Snake. I dug him out.
I hadn't seen that one coming!

Nearby, a Green Frog contemplated a jump into the pond...

This Bullfrog was keeping an eye (or two) out for snacks.

Andrea found a sandy spot with what looked like an exit hole, with an eggshell nearby. Could this have been a successful hatching site? Andrea felt around inside and let out a yelp...
A brand spankin' new Painted Turtle! It seems as though one or two had already emerged, but there were still a few working on it!

Four hatchlings ready to take on the world! (Well, two... the other two were slow to come out of their shells...) This guy looked ahead to a brave new world!

Eventually, they all took off. I hope these Bullfrogs, alert though they were, didn't find them right away!
assabet bulls

Some Adult Painteds were up basking, offering moral support for the babies!
assabet painteds

Something I love about photographing nature. I took a shot of the stick end sticking up in the middle of the frame, thinking it might be a turtle head. Nope... but look to the left! I didn't see it until I uploaded it!

Turtle noggins pop up everywhere!

I also love it when you take a scene shot and when you get it home, you see a very matter-of-fact looking Bullfrog photo-bombing it!

Some more Painteds...

This shot, I was going for the two in front, but the camera kept focusing on the larger one in the back doing yoga!

Some more Bullfrogs...

And a Pickerel and a Green spending some quality time together!

So, we had reached a dry, sunny field that has been designated for turtle nesting. They were indeed using it... we saw a few predated nests and some possible exit-holes. I flipped a log and got an unexpected surprise... another baby Water Snake!
This place was easily 100 yards from any water!

Which is what made our next find even weirder!

My friend Ryan and I were discussing baby Water Snakes and Bullfrogs sharing the same ponds recently. Surely baby snakes get munched on by the frogs as much as frogs get munched on by adult snakes. I wonder if this is a kind of survival technique... squirt out some of your baby Water Snakes far enough away from the water and frogs to head-start them. It makes pretty good sense... but I don't know if it is a fact.

The only nearby frog was this Pickerel, and he was too small to do any damage!

Andrea found a successful Snapper nest... she pulled out almost 20 egg-shells (and a few duds), so there must be some wee Snappers around somewhere!

This American Toad was interested in us...

Andrea found the back end of a Garter Snake to add to her sightings of Garter sheds... but we never did see a whole, live Garter Snake...

We headed further along the trail, with a bridge that we remembered declared as our destination and turn-around point. Gee, I hoped we'd find something along the way... like panda-looking Snapping Turtle hatchlings!!!
These guys didn't come from the hole Andrea was looking through, they were born just off the path. We gathered these two to move closer to a pond as there was a third one who had been squished by a hiker or a biker. They actually took quite a long walk with us, as we'd forgotten just how far the place we were looking for was!
Again, I hope these guys make it to adulthood!

There were loads of people on bikes going down the path. That made us nervous for potential turtle carnage.

The turn-around spot had some nice frogs waiting for us! This Green was cuddling up to a rock!

A Bull and another Green!

Heading back, Andrea saw some pine-needles moving. Damn good eyes on that girl... I could barely find this American Toad on my camera's screen!

We got back and passed by the Snapper section, and saw no further hatchlings, dead or alive. A bit further on, I got near the water and finally saw an adult Water Snake! He raced off and I fiddled trying to get a picture...

Meanwhile, Andrea was calling me, all serious-like. "Ahem... ummm, Mike..." I asked what was up, I'm trying to photograph a flippin' Water Snake! She said "come here"...

I saw it at her feet. "What is it?" "Blandings"...
Among the rarest of our native turtles... a Blandings Turtle had apparently just come out of the water and was up on shore.
Andrea had been going down towards the water (on the opposite side of the path as me) to photograph a Bullfrog when she saw this rare beauty!
Unlike the Hognoses from the day before, this guy made it easy for us  to photograph him. He just sat there while we snapped away!
Still just a little guy. Notice the notches on the carapace. He is part of an ongoing project to introduce Blandings into this place. He looks fine and healthy! What a privilege to see this up close and personal!

More chelonian joy was to follow! More basking Painteds!

This little cutie was crawling along the path, too!
Still sporting an egg-tooth and yolk mark on the belly, we helped it to find safe ground.

Was this Mom and Dad?

So it was getting late and we had made plans to visit Andrea's cousin, so we started on the path back to the car. We said "no flipping, only things on the move will make us stop". Like... another baby Water Snake!!!!
It was just crawling along, just off the path!

Could it get any weirder? Well... yes! In the cool shadiness of a pine path, 50 feet from that Water Snake was another baby!
And another!!!

Somewhere, there's a Mama Nerodia that's looking pretty thin!

That had been a nice 5 or so hours! We headed over to our Cousin Donna's house in Essex County to visit and herp with her and her two kids, Samantha and Aaron. We had some pizza and talked. While they were getting ready, Aaron and I went into their backyard. I flipped some rocks. I missed a shoestring Garter because I couldn't hold the rock and pick him up without hurting him. But I did manage this guy!

We packed into the car and went to Middleton Pond. It was nearing dusk, so we had to speed-herp!

First up, a Bullfrog!

A Pickerel!

Another Bull!

In fact, there are many Bulls here, as is evidenced by this photo-bomber here!

Some are huge! I grabbed this guy, who did the distress scream. It made me feel bad, despite it being somewhat amusing...
We made up and became besties 4-eva.

Some last minute snakes were catching some last minute rays but they were too quick for our cameras. We flipped this clean Garter, though!

The water at the pond was low, according to Donna, but that made for good rock flipping on shore. And wouldn't you know it? We soon flipped a baby Water Snake!

And another!
This had gotten downright bizarre!

It kind of blew my theory of squirting out the young in a safe place, but what do I know. Actually, there weren't many Bullfrogs on this part of the pond. Hey, guess what? I flipped another!

While I was photographing our ninth baby Northern Water Snake of the day, Andrea had caught a Spring Peeper and was charming the kids with it!

Light was fading fast, but what a beautiful place this is!
Many thank to Donna, Samantha and Aaron for introducing us to this place!! We'll have to come back! It's a good excuse for another visit!

So, yeah... this was our second very long day in a row but shit... 9 baby Water Snakes! Baby turtles! A Blandings! Frogs frogs frogs! With the cool weather breathing down our necks, this is another day that we'll cherish the memory of when we're waiting for the snow to melt!

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