Friday, May 31, 2013

From Pissed to Bliss! 5-31-2013

Andrea had a crappy day at work, so I asked early on if she'd like to do some Friday Night Herping to start the weekend early. She said sure, despite the "heatwave". (It was in the mid-90s today). So at about 5:30, we hit the road to try to find Wigwam Pond in Dedham to see if we could see any turtles or anything.

Rush hour traffic. Slow... slow... slow... When we broke free, our destination didn't seem to exist! I'd gotten directions from the DCR website, but there was a soccer field where the parking was supposed to be. We poked around, asking residents where the pond was. Half of them had never heard of it, the rest (including a local cop) had no clue where to park for it.

We had wasted roughly 2 hours. Giving up and driving towards home, Andrea looked at me with pleading eyes and said "I wanna herp"... so we decided to hit Cutler, which was very near by, to check out the sheets of tin we placed along the path last week. So we pulled into the Cutler parking spot at 7:30PM... and it was still 91°!

We walked at a brisk pace, knowing darkness would be falling soon. We didn't walk so fast that we missed this nice Garter Snake, though!
He was pretty thrashy at first, but clamed right down in my hand!

We found this... looks like a Snapper nest had just been filled!

We walked along Racer Alley, where we had placed the tin, but they yeilded nothing. I doubted they would. Nearing the end, Andrea said "hey- look"! There was a Painted Turtle walking the path with us!
She stopped and posed for some close-ups!

Exactly one minute later, we heard a ruckus in the tall grass and bushes next to the trail... another Painted was up!
At our presence, she pulled further into her shell than any turtle I'd ever seen before!
Even further than this!

So, as dusk set in, we already considered this a worthwhile endeavor. In the waning light, I saw a stripey squiggle at the end of the path. I said to Andrea, "oh you will be happy" and bent to grab this little fella!
When are baby Milk Snakes not a squee-worthy delight?!
In all honesty, that is what we'd really been hoping for! Mission accomplished! Anything else would be gravy!

We got to the edge of the woods and had to put on our headlamps. It had just gotten too dark to see without them. They actually made searching very pleasurable! Andrea found this little, colorful toad!
This is one of those bizarre Cutler toads that look partly Fowlery, but have more American Toad characteristics! Having never seen a full-on Fowler's here, I just can't call it an intergrade. I need to study my toads more!

While Andrea was seeing that beauty, I was further up the path photographing this Green Frog!

So, the night herps were out! On the way to the car, I had to tell Andrea to STOP! This wasn't just a rock, like she thought it was!
That's a tall-standing, magestic American Toad!

These two fellas were also on the path, right up on the last stretch going to the car!

So in an hour and a half, we had a trip that we'd have been satisfied with if it had taken us four hours! We may never know if Wigwam Pond has an entrance, but we'll always have our Cutler... and it's only 20 minutes away!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In an unGartered moment... 5-27-2013

Sunny? Seventies?? We're all about that! With the dearth of turtles in Pennsylvania and since, we wanted some chelonian action, so for Memorial Day, we headed for our favorite National Wilflife Refuge in Middlesex County... a place of many Painteds, Snappers and the occasional Blandings!

We didn't get there until about 11:30 and there was a brisk wind. But still, it was very sunny. We started off with a few birds, including this heron, who was busy hunting and didn't pay us no nevermind!

The reeds had grown in since last time (in March... here) but we could still see turtles; teasing us with their proximty but oh so difficult to get a shot of! Still, I will post every picture that I deem good enough! Let's start with some Painted Turtles!

This wee hatchling Painted was nuzzling this blob of algae... probably catching a snack. He wasn't more than 2 inches long!

A moment later, Andrea dropped her backpack to the ground and placed her camera next to it... she approached the water... what did she find????

A hatchling Snapper!! Too cute!!!

Now that we've oohed and ahhed the cute lillte baby turtles, it should be noted that the reeds were moving about from under the water... violently at times. What I thought might have been snappers or muskrats turned out to be massive Carp (who I couldn't get a decent picture of all day!), who would munch these guys down in a gulp! They were cool, though.

This Bullfrog was surely big enough to suck them both back and still be hungry too!

Painted Break!

We were hoping for some snakes, of course, and this spot is good for for Northern Water Snakes! This guy was catching some rays!
Nerodia 1

This next Nerodia was nearer the bank and we didn't realize this pic had come out decently...
Nerodia 2
So I brought him in for close-ups. Check out the musk! He absolutley nailed me!
Nerodia 2
A real beauty none the less, even though he gave me one of those grinding bites on the knuckle before he calmed down...
Nerodia 2

The heron was up to some tricks...

With all of the snakes and herons and carp around, this Northern Leopard Frog was keeping a very low profile!

Painted Turtle break!

I managed to catch another Water Snake for pictures. Just a small bite to the finger before he calmed...
Nerodia 3

Also present were Bullfrogs. Lots of them!
great meadows bull 1
(The upper right one in the collage was photographed by me thinking it was a Green, but when I uploaded it, I saw my error!)

Another basking Water Snake!
Nerodia 4

Time for an extended Painted Break!! (Cue the bouncy, wah-wah tinged dance music)

We saw another partially hidden Water Snake (!) and snapped some pics, but I couldn't tell if he was even in my viewfinder! (The screen is so tough to see on bright, sunny days!) I made an attempt to catch him, but missed. As it turns out, I got some pretty good shots anyway!
Nerodia 5
Nerodia 5

Not surprisingly, this smaller, thin Water Snake was gone in an instant, leaving us with just this picture of his back!
Nerodia 6

Stop! Painted time!

Here's another stunning Leopard Frog!

That was all on the first leg of the hike!!! Hot damn! What would we see next? Well, the heron finally had some success, and Andrea expertly captured it on film. The world is down one Sunfish, but has gained a fatter heron.
Great Meadows Heron Chow

The opposite of me, Andrea took this shot of a Bull which turned out to be a Green Frog!!! Yay!

We were getting to the point where we saw loads of Garter Snakes in March, so we were pretty sure we'd find some. I saw one and made an attempt, but came up empty handed. He looked at me laying face first on the ground, then slithered off to who knows where. I just couldn't find him. But no worry... there would be others. Right?

A family that knew we were looking for animals said that there was a large snake about 40 meters up in the path. I thought to myself... "sure... large! Probably a Ribbon or small Garter." I now have to eat my words...
Nerodia 7
Yes, I agree. Large.
Nerodia 7
Again, small nip at first, but he became quiet and tolerated us for a while. What a beauty!
Nerodia 7

Is it already time to start finding predated nests?! I guess it is!

On a happier note, there was still snotloads of Bullfrogs out and about!
Great Meadows Bulls

Know what this party needs? More Painted Turttles!

We heard a racket off in the reeds and finally found what it was... this Muskrat was pulling up reeds and chowing down on them!
If he gets busy, maybe we can get better pictures next time!

This Water Snake showed me his butt for a while.
Nerodia 8
I dove after him, and went up to my elbows. I had the tip of his tail and reached forward to secure a grip on his body. I released the tail. I raised my hand. I had a gentle but firm grasp of a reed. He had outsmarted me!

And now for something completely strange.

We were walking up the path and saw two people stopped about 30 yards in front of us. We could see they were photographing something. We hoped it was a baby turtle or something (which we had seen along this stretch before), but as we got closer, we saw what looked like a snake near them. I called "whatcha got, a former Water Snake?", figuring it has a dead one. What they showed us was beyond bizarre!
Nerodia 9
They said as they were walking along, this had "backed-up into the path" in front of them and had been laying there since. Obviously, it was a Water Snake attempting to eat a snail. I hadn't heard of this, but whatever... there it is. Andrea gave it a light poke. It moved a bit.
Nerodia 9

We Picked him up to take a close look and noticed that the top of his head was trapped in the snail's operculum... snapped shut in a trap-door. Thank goodness for a glottus!
Nerodia 9

Andrea held his (cooperative) body while I pried the snail's door open gently. I had to get it far enough open so I could get a finger in next to the snake's head. I finally did, and helped the snake release his teeth... somewhat successfully. Finally, he broke himself free and bit Andrea on the wrist for thanks! She put him on the ground and he took off like a flash into the reeds.

Andrea was left with three Nerodia teeth in her skin for her efforts.
(Sharp littler bugger, ain't it?!)

So, as if that wasn't enough excitement for the day, we headed into the woods and into the last leg of the journey. Surely we'd find some Gareters here! Right?

Wrong! This decently Gartered place left us empty, making that one missed earlier loom large! We did see a nice bunny near the parking lot, though!

But we got what we came for... turtles! No Blandings, but plenty o' Painteds! And enough Water Snakes and Bullfrogs to shut me up and get me through the work week. But still...

It always makes me feel like herping... in an unGartered moment...