Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No, No, Thamnophis! 8-25-2013

Another spot that we hadn't been anywhere near in a while was a Wildlife Refuge in Middlesex County. Home of some herps that we have a tough time seeing elsewhere, its always an exciting hike. Even when we get there as late as *gasp* 9AM!

I was hoping to get some good use of the new 42-Zoom camera but, much to our alarm, the water level was super low. It looks as though they're doing some irrigation on one side to raise levels back up. They did this last year on the other side, so I guess they know what they're doing. Turtles were going to be at a minimum.

We were actually able to walk out between the reeds to the soggy water's edge. Most of the frogs saw us coming, but I managed a couple of Bullfrogs who stood their ground.

Andrea came over to my side and showed me this... a gorgeous Leopard Frog that had stayed near the path.

Then she joined me for a nice Bullfrog shot of her own!

Back up on the path, we saw a frog jump past... a Pickerel! Not as common in this land of Leopards!

Turtles were going to be extremely difficult to see, unfortunately. The water line was very far away. Bullfrogs were going to savef the day, though... at least for the first leg of the journey! They were out in all sizes, enjoying the lily-pads.
lily pad bulls

Even some large Bullfrog Tadpoles were swimming around!

Just hangin'...

This place is well-loved by us for having an extremely healthy population of Leopard Frogs, a species that goes from difficult to impossible to find in most of our herping spots. There were dozens hopping out of our way as we walked along the path. Here are three that we managed to get shots of:
leopard a

We reached a spot with some big but flippable rocks. Usually, it was very wet right here and we could flip some moist frogs but not today. But I did flip this chocolaty beauty, who was quite unexpected... a Northern Water Snake!
He was super feisty and he musked and bit me several times. And I mean he bit me!

Of course, in an exact switch from the blue-eyed Garter from the day before, he turned into Mr. Gentle when I handed him to Andrea.

Further along, where the river was low, it was pretty muddy. This left some interesting footprints for us... this looks like a raccoon and a heron.

I was walking along, keeping an eye out for Garter Snakes and completely missed this Painted Turtle basking! No need for the zoom, Andrea got this shot nicely!

Howza 'bout a few more Leopard Frogs?!

We got to a new inlet to the river, one that we had always missed because we'd take a different trail. Well, that trail was closed this day, so we checked out the inlet. We found our fourth frog species there when I flipped a small Green Frog!

Andrea, perhaps feeling badly that the Water Snake didn't want to bite her, picked up this Crayfish and let it pinch her.
Surprise! These fuckers hurt!

I found another Green who wanted some lap time.

On the way back to the trail, I heard a thump and turned to see Andrea on the ground. She had lunged for a small, black shoestring snake and had just missed it, but her knee had found a root. She banged it up pretty good. We searched for the little snake, but couldn't find it. She got up, in some pain, but we carried on.

One problem with going this new way is that we kept scaring in Painted Turtles who were basking next to the path. We could get the shots from the other trail but not here. They were too fast. These two threw us a bone.

On a nice little area surrounded by water, I was about 10 feet ahead of Andrea when I heard another thump! I turned around and she was on the ground again. Despite an injured knee, she had made a valiant lunge for a large Water Snake that I had somehow walked right past! She got a few fingers on her, but she slid towards the water. Luckily, being a water Snake, she didn't go far and in fact started to move back towards us, enabling us to get a few shots.
This is a big ol' Water Snake... maybe its best she didn't grab her. This one would have bitten the living daylights out of us!

This wee Painted posed patiently while I attempted to photograph it. I'm just not used to the new camera!

Having broken the seal on Greens, we started seeing more!

Another thing that we learned taking this part of the trail backwards is that some of it is on private property! Oops, it seems we have been trespassing a bit in the past. I saw someone blatantly trespassing and took his picture, in hopes of ratting him out to the authorities.

Unfortunately, Andrea saw this clown trespassing while photographing a trespasser and things got confusing...

This Painted wasn't impressed by any of it.

We had seen some more snakes that eluded us... some speedy Garters and I saw (and missed) one of Andrea's teeny black shoestrings. Were these darker guys Ribbons? They were too quick for me to see, but maybe. We have never seen them here before.

I don't know about anyone else, but I need more Leopard Frogs!

A couple of more Painteds!

A Kilroy phase Green Frog!

With our inability to photograph either a Garter or Ribbon or whatever (putting the NO in thamNOphis) it was becoming clear that we wouldn't hit double-digit species this time out! A nice surprise was this American Toad, though!
I think he's our first in this place!

To end things off, as we were getting very hot and tired and hungry after 5 hours, I triumphantly got another Pickerel shot!

I love this place and I'm he-man enough to admit that it kinda kicked my ass this day! Seven species is nothing to sneeze at, though and just the sheer quantity of beautiful Leopard Frogs makes this place a favorite in our rotation!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Baker's Dozen 8-24-2013

One bad thing about having so many new places to herp in our rotation is that we sometimes go a long time before revisiting our favorites! Such has been the case with one of our very favorite spots, the Toadiest Place on Earth in Bristol County! We hadn't been for a while and were delighted with the forecast (high 70s!!) so we couldn't wait to get there!

We arrived a bit after 9 AM and got right to work. I had a brand new 42-Zoom Nikon with me (the old one was was deemed unfixable) that I had to figure out but I was rarin' to go. Our first herp, not surprisingly, was a wee Fowler's Toad.

We got to the Picnic Table Area and discovered that our constant war with bike guys and assholes is still going on; our boards were moved and/ or not put back into place, though most were at least present. Some of our best boards weren't even laying down. Andrea improved the atmosphere with the flip of a new Garter Snake!
This cute little guy made us all warm and fuzzy feeling!

On another flip at the same area, Andrea got her hands on a black tail, and started gently extricating its owner. I saw more and more orange appear... she'd grabbed a nice Ringneck Snake!
We were off to a good start!

Many Fowler's Toads, many sizes, many colors...
bristol fowlerii

A bit further up, I saw a small shoestring garter dart under a log. I flipped all over the area, that log and others nearby, but couldn't find him. Returning everything to position, I found our first ever (in this park) Spotted Salamander!
Most of one, anyway! I thought that I might have broken his tail off when moving the log, but couldn't find it anywhere and, upon closer inspection, it looked as though this youngster had lost it a few days earlier.
So, I missed my snake but found a new species for this place! I'll take it!

Lightning-hand Andrea caught this Pickerel who was hopping by, making me think that a double-digit species count might be obtainable!

We got to a favorite rock wall and started flipping... carefully, because these rocks are heavy!!! This very in-the-blue Garter was nestled under one.
He was super sweet... with me, if a bit musky.
I handed him to Andrea, who he immediately bit and started musking again... before wrapping his tail around her fingers.
Upon removing her fingers to release the now perturbed animal, he tightened up and actually tied his own tail into a knot!
I tried poking his tail to make it twitch back through, but no dice. Andrea held his front end while I gently undid the knot. Of course, he musked me again, too. This snake seemed to have a limitless supply.

After that bizarre bit of herp history, we went to the water for some more Amphibian Amour!

We saw Fowlers! (The top one in sooooon phase)


And Bullfrogs!
bristol bulls

These two Fowler's were cute and amusing. So there.

But what of the 42-Zoom, you ask... well, it has a flip-out screen, which I loath, and getting the "target squares" to land on your subject is infuriatingly tough, but having that zoom started to pay off...
Finally, Painted Turtles were within our grasp again!

We had more close ups to get, though. Andrea and I split up for a bit to cover more ground. She photographed these:
4 Pickerels!
bristol pickerels

A Fowler's!

and some begging Sunfish!

While I was able to get shots of a Pickerel and a Fowler's that were both under the same log!

And another Bullfrog.

A few Toads and a missed Garter Snake later, we were high up, overlooking the pond. Hello, Mr. 42-Zoom! Do your thing!
And those, my dear, are eight Painted Turtles that we would not have seen last week!

We decided to take the long trails, even though we haven't seen anything on them in quite some time. Not too far in, a Garter crossed the path! I made a heroic lunge and caught him for close-ups, only slightly redeeming myself for two earlier missed ones.
A real beauty who nipped at first, but calmed nicely.

This next set of photos, the Pickerel and the pale Fowler's, are included only because we both took a shit-load of shots of them and none came out very good. I present them here simply because of the effort we put into trying to get them!

We got back down near the water and photographed some of our perennial favorite Painted basking spots. They came through again!
Can you tell that I've been missing my chelonian pals?!

Salamanders aren't a big part of this park so when I flipped this Redback down by some running water, I was pretty psyched!
This put us at 8 species... double digits were in our sights!

Unfortunately, a pretty decent Water Snake spot came up empty. This Bullfrog brightened us up, though!

We decided (as we usually do) to double back some spots on the way out. It had been over 5 hours since we last flipped the wall, so we went back. Lo and behold, under the biggest and heaviest rock was a very small Ribbon Snake! Andrea made a great lunge to get him for close-ups!
They were so much in love that I almost felt like a third wheel!

After releasing him, we flipped a few more rocks. Oops... we re-flipped our knot-tailed Garter again! He shifted a bit, so we had to remove him before putting the rock back into place. Sorry 'bout that. ol' Musky!

Well, the Ribbon made it 9 species and the bog across from the parking lot is usually good for an as-yet-unseen-today Green Frog, so we were felling pretty confident. Then we flipped our first American Toads of the day and hit 10 anyway!
American Toad Gothic. We're only missing a pitchfork.

I flipped a log and saw some plump designs roll into a divot. I got very excited, thinking I might have a Marbled Salamander or something... I could barely suppress my chuckles when I pulled this out!
I said we'd have to hurry because I didn't want this ambitious little Garter to upchuck what might have been his first meal! Hey, where's that Spotted Salamander now?

Here's an interesting Pickerel... his columns of blotches have each fused into a long blotch! We're naming this new subspecies Lithobates Palustrus Howletti.

Already chuffed to be at 10 species and having found a few more snakes, we headed out, through the Black-eyed Toad area. We saw none, but we did see Ribbon Snake #2 of the day!!
Man, we love these guys!
A fine figure of a Ribbon... pencil thin and about 2 feet long!

Stopping at a spot near the water again, we saw a Pickerel bound off and a small toad jump across some slime at water's edge. I scooped him up and got a big surprise. A Black Eyed Toad!! In a different spot!
What we hadn't noticed on other specimens (but they might have had it... I don't know) was a translucent belly!
We could see his little pink lungs and his teeny pink heart beating!!!

Now, according to his warts and parotoid glands, I'd say he was an American Toad.
But with this guy, you just never know. The bigger ones from earlier in the year were Fowler's, I believe. Who knows what's going on here?!

So, we were happy to cap the day with this mysterious toad! We headed over to the bog area for a quick look-see.

It was pretty dry (the whole place was low on water, in fact) but in one pondy part, I saw some movement, then something light swimming away under the murky water. It looked like the belly of a Snapping Turtle or something. Whatever it was, it was nibbling on a floating mouse carcass. Mmmmm....

Nearby, I found what I was looking for... some Green Frogs! Species #11!
bristol greens

Before heading to the car, I snuck up on the spot where something had evaded me 5 minutes before... I saw a noggin and snapped a picture before it disappeared...
It appears that our capper was a Snapper! Species #12!

We'd earned Mandarin Buffet and we got it. My plan was to eat so much that I'd resemble the stuffed Garter baby. After chowing down, we checked out Oliver Mills on the way home but saw no herps. I did, however, pee under a bridge about 10 feet from a woman who was enjoying the place and had no clue I was there.

That night, we went to a gathering of friends at our neighbor's (and great great friend's) house. Of course, we just couldn't help ourselves. We flipped a Dekay and then another (a nice orangey one)...
And later, to show Ida, our favorite 2-year old, we gathered up a third Dekay for the night.

So 13 species! A baker's dozen of herps!! It was a happy reunion with a 42-Zoom, this particular Bristol County park and, as always, with our friends that evening!