Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vacation in Dookieland! 12-28-2013

We are both on vacation now! Too bad it is winter and we can't herp every day! But the temps were supposed to get into the mid-40s on Saturday, so that was good enough for us to plan some salamander seeking. With WEBS: America's Yarn Store (in Northampton) having a year-end sale, we thought we'd kill two or three birds with one stone and visit the nearby Mt. Tom for some herping. Driving over 100 miles there was fine, as long as we actually found something!

By the way, who the hell made up the phrase "kill two birds with one stone"? Barbaric!

So, we left early in hopes of getting to our target babbling brook in Hampden County by 11:30 or so. We made it more or less on time. Sadly, it still looked like a Winter Wonderland!

But it was flowing, so we settled down for some ice water digging. Pretty quickly, I found a Two-Lined Salamander larvae!

There was a lot more of this, too...

The stream split and we followed it up, choosing the slower channel with more flippables.

After a bit, I got to a nice spot and flipped a salamander that I wasn't sure of right away...

Colorful, for a Dusky, but that's what it was! We checked out the belly to make sure... no yellow!

I can't wait to get back here in the Spring... look at this!

I got to another good spot and flipped... there was some serpentine movement swimming away that looked pinkish... could this be an elusive Spring?? I couldn't locate the swimmer, but startled a hibernating Pickerel Frog...

I actually released him and accidentally flipped him again! Sorry!

Kneeling into the ice water, I reached a rock on the far side and saw a salamander shape under it... could this be our Spring? I snatched it for the observation tank...

Nope, a large, beautiful Two-Lined! Could be some eggs in there, too...

At one point, I had a good sized Dookie elude me and I spent way too long looking for it as my toes went full-on numb.

A couple of hours of ice, soakers and snow was taking its toll on our extremities. Andrea was shivering. The front halves of my feet were numb. But we couldn't stop just yet. I needed one more Dookie!

And we got him!

How fitting that our (probable) last herp of 2013, a very very rewarding year for us, was one of our many lifers of the year!

We made our way to the car and the heater within. As feeling came back to my toes, I shrieked in pain, but they eventually thawed. They still are tender the next morning but I didn't get frostbite, so that's good!

With warmed up feet, we decided to check out the vernal area where we had seen plenty of salamanders in the Fall. Sun had melted much of the snow around there, but the pond was frozen solid and nobody was under logs or stones. Andrea got a nice shot of a deserted wasp nest, though.

We left, wet and cold, and headed to Webs to warm up and fondle yarn. Being proactive, I bought three skeins of hat yarn, planning on looking good for Springtime herping. Oh, and having found the first Dookie, I called Fitzwilly's for lunch and Andrea paid!!

So, it looks like that will be the last herp adventure of 2013. Only 3 days left and temps are going to be below freezing. It has been an amazing year. I'm glad we got this last, icy trip in!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's *sob* a Christmas Miracle! 12-21-2013

Everybody knows I dislike the snow and cold immensely. If I could herp year-round, I surely would, but we haven't been smart enough to move to Florida yet, so we have to deal with missing out on herping for a quarter of the year. Of course, if it's not too  bad, we can look for salamanders in the winter months.

But in the past week, we had two snow storms. This is what it looked like outside my car window while driving home from work on Tuesday:

But did I let it bother me? Well, the fact that it took me an hour and a half to drive the 11 miles home was bothersome, but the forecast was calling for warmer temps by the end of the week so I knew this horrid crap wouldn't be around for long.

And we got to enjoy a beautiful blanket of snow.

So, after the Tuesday into Wednesday storm, by Thursday it had warmed to the 40s... scraping the 50s by Friday. We decided to head over to our Norfolk County pond to see if we could find any herps. Our target species list is pretty small in December. We were hoping for a Two-Lined Salamander. That's all.

It was warm... it got over 50° when we were there. Snow and ice was melting like mad. But it was slippery as hell. Footprints and tire tracks that had gathered through the week were now solid ice. The melting that was taking place made this shit very slick.

This is what we were looking for... streams cutting through the snow.

Boy, it sure seemed like there was a helluva lot more snow here than in town!

We got to a good spot and I dug in... soakers be damned!

Upon flipping some underwater rocks, I saw some Two-Lined larvae and managed to scoop a few up in our observation tank... one was teeny!

I had seen an adult too, but he slipped away without a picture, as did a snoozing Pickerel Frog that I had disturbed.

Across the path, it looked like this:

After some sloshing around and missing a golden adult Two-Lined, I finally nabbed one who was wacky, but we got some pictures!

OK, now we were soaked and muddy. But we had found what we came for, so we were stoked! Too bad about not getting a shot of the Pickerel. We'd decided to move on and maybe hit that spot on the way back.

We searched in more watery spots:

We finally reached our destination, an area that is often good for Two-Lines. Flipping rocks out of the water hadn't turned up any Redbacks, but then the ground had frozen earlier in the week, so we weren't surprised.

This spot was not turning up any Two-Lines either! Oh well. We were about to give up when I flipped a Pickerel, who hopped up to pose for one of my best shots of the year!

Right after this shot, he hopped back to his spot and I'll bet he's still there... and will be there for quite a while. Good night, Mr. Pickerel!

Upon standing back up, I knocked my camera into the water. Oops. So far, it seems to still work. I took these pictures since the accident.

So besides finding some herps 4 days before Christmas, the camera didn't die (yet) after a plunge into the icy water and we both managed to not fall the whole time! It is indeed a Christmas miracle!

Or, we just managed to have some luck on our own... with no divine intervention.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tis the Season- December herping.

Last Sunday was December 1st. The temps were supposed to be in the low to mid 40s. We decided that it might be one of the last above-freezing days so we went over to Hoar Sanctuary to try to flip a December Redback or something. We didn't. In fact, the ground was pretty frozen... icy under many of the rocks. It was colder than I expected. Raw, it was. The wetlands looked like this:
Hoar 12-1-2013

Oh well, at least we had a nice hour and a half hike, complete with much flipping.

The end of that week had warmed up a tad. Rainy and high 40s Thursday and Friday. I headed over to Allendale after work on Friday  (Dec. 6th) in hopes of a salamander or two. It wasn't exactly warm when I got there (a bit before 4 PM... dusk) but it wasn't too bad. The morning was in the low 50s. I flipped and flipped but came up empty. Even the dry creek bed that has been heaven for Two-Lined finds failed me!

On the way back, I got down into the dried up stream bed on the other side of the forest and walked in it, hoping to find some puddled spots. I did, but the bottom is too sandy for sals. Eventually, I got up where I wanted to be... one of the few places that always has running water here... and it's good for Two-Lined Salamanders. I managed to flip one, but it scooted away. OK... so there's at least one out tonight! (It was completely dark by now)

I crossed the path and settled into a spot in the stream and flipped by headlamp. I saw a couple of black tails disappear into the leaves. Argh! I was flipping stones and scooping leaves and NOT getting any shots of the salamanders! I actually had one on my hand, but he slid off before I could secure him for a pic!

It was now a battle of wits between me and the Salamanders... a battle that I frequently lose.

Patiently, I stayed kneeling in the icy water, moving leaves and flipping small stones. My patience and insanity finally paid off when I got a Two-Lined in hand and got him to settle down enough for a pic!

December herp #1!!

So I figured that, since I was already soaked, I would seek out another. I was able to get a shot of just one more...

Yay!! Satisfied, I sloshed my way back to the car, taking one last look back at my place of supreme triumph.

Hey, I was there for over an hour and a half and was only able to document two animals but you know what? It's friggin' December and I live in Massachusetts. I'm overjoyed!