What better way to waste one of the last beautiful weekend days of the year than to go to our nemesis place in Franklin County and attempt to find Hognose Snakes and Box Turtles?! Up at 5 AM, on the road before 7 and pulling in before 9 AM! Let's party!
It was still very foggy when we pulled in and we could see our breath. But that didn't deter us. Oh no... we were herping! In fact, we flipped a handful of Redbacks right away!
In addition to the multitude of bullet casings that we always see here, there were exploded paint balls all over. I found an unpopped one and tried to pop it with my foot. It didn't work on the sand, so I moved it to a rock. Nope. I applied more pressure. Guess where the paint squirted.
OK, let's herp some more. We were finding plenty of Redbacks, including this massive Leadback!
But no Hognoses. And no Box Turtles. BUT, Andrea found a successful nest which we believe to be a Box nest!
Is this a Moose track?
Not the ice cream... the mammal.
Another big Leadback...
A flipped Wood Frog...
A handful of Redbacks...
OK, we were working our asses off for over 3 hours so far. We were flipping those damn red rocks until our hands were raw. I finally flipped this little Garter!
I called to Andrea who I thought replied from afar "I've got a bead on something"... so I put him down and photographed him until he disappeared.
She had actually said "Wait, I gotta pee". Oh well, I hoped we would see more snakes eventually.
But not here, though Andrea got quite a few nice Redback shots!
On the way out, some of the mud puddles in the road had some stealthy noggins popping up and down- teasing us, but even wading through, I couldn't find the culprits.
So, we ate and drove over to Hampden County, to the place where we had such good luck the week before (here) and maybe I'd even find my glasses! The car protested quite a bit when I parked, which made me feel a bit sick... just what I needed... the car to break down 2 hours from home.
But we forged on and hit the trails. Like the week before, it was Salamadness! The first two flips got an Eft/ Leadback combo!
I flipped a couple of Efts and one went into the eft defensive posture, which neither of us had ever witnessed before!
He's trying to show us his brightest orange part to startle us!
Yeah, it was hot and heavy with Efts! Spotted Newt Mania!
Hey, how did that folded up Redback get in there?!
Ascending the mountain, I finally saw a snake... a small Garter who was up poking around next to where I was flipping!
He really really liked Andrea!
He ground in really good, getting those rear fangs nice n' embedded and slathering her with anti-coagulants and mild venom.
Right nearby, a smaller Garter was trucking along and stopped long enough for us to get some photos!
I'm a big fan of noggin shots... can't you tell?
So, we kept flipping Efts...
and we made this Salamander lover's dream flip!
Andrea even got this shot, after a Redback decided to opt out of the photo...
By this time, we had decided to not try to photograph every Eft or Redback that we saw... it was getting ridiculous! So we'd flip and say "hi, Redback" just so the other knew that we were still seeing herps. Eventually, I said "Hi, Ringneck"!
A nice clean and bright one... about 14" long!
Andrea wore it like a hat.
Andrea went back on her Eft moratorium.... it was just too cute!
We got to the point where I thought we were at the spot where I lost my glasses. Andrea didn't think so. Whatever... I flipped a baby Garter!
Then we started finding Spotted Salamanders!
As I was photographing this guy, I heard Andrea shout and looked uphill and saw her fall and go tumbling ass over tea kettle down the rocks. I promised myself to laugh after I knew she was all right. She was, but she was shaken. Still on her knees, she was flipping nearby rocks. She was going to be OK. But damn, the rocks were slippery! Bruises appeared quickly.
OK, some more Redbacks just because!
Another healthy flip!
Andrea's knuckles were starting to swell. From the fall? No! That Garter bite was starting to react!
We started to head back, not because of Andrea being fragile or anything, but it was starting to get late and we had more spots that we wanted to see. Like this Spotted Newt. (Not really an eft anymore, so it was OK to photograph!)
Here's a Wood Frog that was checking to see if Andrea was OK.
OK, this Redback needed to be photographed! He's all noggin!
This Wood is the second one in two weeks that is missing an eye! Genetic? I dunno...
We got into the car (which was acting OK now) and went down the road a bit, to the vernal pond where our friend Ryan had found the Marbled Salamander last week. We had only a short time to flip, so we got started. Here's a young Spotted who needs to grow some more spots!
What can I say? I can't resist Newts!
Andrea was on fire finding Woods and getting great shots!
We had flipped a ton of Leadbacks and I started to wonder... are we sure these are all Leads? I mean, there are reportedly Jefferson Salamanders here and they're not real fancy... maybe some of these are young Jeffs?! Andrea assured me that Jeffs are mole salamanders and wouldn't look like these lungless guys. Oh yeah... good point.
Which set up my next flip nicely. I flipped a piece of bark and this guy was sitting there...
Hmmm... dark but with a Mole Sal face... blue areas. "Hey Andrea, I have a Jeffs here".
Holy shit! We really did! Lifer!
Andrea stayed and photographed him for a bit while I went on, looking for Marbleds!
Well, I found a stream that was all but dry and got excited for a possible Northern Dusky! Instead, I found a Wood...
a sparkly golden Redback
a Pickerel (flipped!)
and a flipped Green Frog!
Andrea got some nice shots of a couple of more Woods...
I was right at the water's edge, right in the muck, running out of flipping possibilities when I found this Pickerel...
and I heard Andrea yell "Marbled"! Yesssss!
This is what she found!
What a beauty!
This nearly spotless Spotted came up to visit!
That's a happy herper!
(check out how swollen her hand was by this time!)
As we were putting the Marbled log back together, this Leadback said "what about me? Aren't I beautiful?" Well, yes indeed, and I got one of my best pics of the year here, too!
Andrea finished things off with some Spotteds, one pale, one not as pale and both small!
So that was an interesting day! A few snakes, some frogs and a whole slew of Caudata! Andrea still has some nice purple bruises and her hand, while not so swollen anymore, is also a lovely violet hue!
Ten species! Not bad for late September! The season isn't over quite yet!