Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Post Squamate Blues 10-27-2013

The seasons have shifted and no longer will snakes be our focal point for herp trips. I guess there is a chance that we might see one or two wayward coils again this year, but our herp trips are turning towards the amphibians... for as long as they'll have us.

So, I had been in bed since Wednesday. Come Sunday afternoon, Andrea thought some fresh air might do me some good. She certainly needed some, what with breathing in my sickness all day. So we took a quick walk through our Suffolk County salamander haven. To be honest, I spent a lot of time sitting on a log while she flipped.

I did, however, flip a few things and indeed found our first salamander... a Redback!
S is for Salamander.

Andrea was being way more aggressive... she was wading through the mud, flipping heavy logs in a dried up vernal. Her persistence paid of. She called to me... "Blue"! So, I had to actually stand up and go over to where she was!

She had found two Blue Spotted Salamanders in the time it took me to get there...
The smaller, dark backed guy was being nutty, but she managed to get a twofer shot all the same!

Back up on the path, she flipped a log that had a Redback...
AND a Blue Spotted!

When she picked up the Blue to return the log into position, he went into defensive mode! We had never seen one do that!

I flipped a long, healthy Redback.

Andrea next found this beautiful Spotted Salamander!
Quite a photogenic guy!

I finally earned my keep with a Redback/ Blue Spotted flip!

From there on, we saw many Redbacks. Here are a few of them...
This last guy was teeny, but we didn't have a dime. Trust me, he could have fit on it!

An area that had retained a couple of puddles (man, we need some rain!) had some Green Frog noggins poking out.

Well, that is all we saw. We diligently flipped some rocks that were in the sun on the off chance of some snakes, but none were about. I mean, it was only 55°, so it wasn't surprising!

But it felt good to get some air and watch Andrea find some herps! Now excuse me... I'm going back to bed.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Flu herping: Only for the advanced and desperate. 10-21-2013

So, I've had the flu (with a slight complication) for a while.  No big deal, except I had to bow out of yesterday's herp trip with Andrea and Matt. But I hauled my carcass out of bed for work on Monday. While there, I kept hearing about how nice it was... 65° or so and sunny. The forecast for the entire future looks bleak. So after work, I pulled into Allendale on the way home in hopes of a last minute snake for 2013.

Cold pills were swirling in my bloodstream, so I wasn't looking to flip much. (I was lucky I didn't crash the car as it was!) I figured any snake worth his salt would just present himself to me, out in the open. It wasn't so. I did flip a few things, and came up with some Redbacks.
allendale pleth

And admittedly, I flipped for Two-Lined Salamanders in a dry creek bed on purpose. I figured, I already had to blog the Redbacks, so I might as well get another species!
allendale 2-line

So, I was leaving, drifting along on a sea of painkillers and antihistamines, figuring the reptile season was over. As I approached the parking lot, I eyed a few rocks in the sun and started writing the blog in my head. "I flipped the rock and a small Garter was coiled up, looking cute and Gartery"... Pills, they do that to you.

When I knelt and flipped the rock and saw a small Garter was coiled up, looking cute and Gartery, I said aloud, "You've gotta be shitting me"!

The power of positive thinking? Just a hallucination that I managed to photograph? Or just pure dumb luck? Either way, I'm so happy to have seen this little fella. 40 minutes of walking while sick. He will probably be my last snake of 2013, and he will be in my heart all winter!

Me? I'm still sick. Haven't been to work in days. I think I'll go lay down.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sunday, October 20 - Mike's Got the Sick; I've Got the Blues

Mike and I were toying with the idea of going over to the SE side of the Blue Hills on Sunday to explore some of the rocky outcroppings for things we don't always get to see.  Mike, however, caught the cold that I had had the week before, only he caught it way worse.

I had already made up my mind that we were going to stay very close; within the county or just into Norfolk county.  I knew that Matt, a local student and fellow herper, wanted to look at the farm close to us for blue-spotted salamanders before they went into hibernation, so I had already PMd him asking if he wanted to go with us.  In the meantime, Mike had already made the decision that he was Too Sick to Herp (yes, there IS such a thing), and asked me, "If I decided to not go out today, would you still go out?"  No, that wasn't his way of guilt-tripping me into staying home with him; it was his way of telling me that he would drag his sick carcass out of bed and accompany me herping if I said that I wouldn't go out without him.  So, Matt and I made plans to meet up at the farm and do some flipping!

Last time we were there (with Steve), the vernal was mostly mud, with a few puddles, and flipping away from the vernal was producing both blue- and yellow-spotted salamanders.  This time, the first productive flip was in the muddy vernal, which had dried up a bit in the past two weeks.  Matt flipped a really pretty blue-spotted (in the flesh, the blue didn't show up too much but the flash really brought it out):


Ten minutes later, he flipped another one!


Ten minutes after that, I flipped a log and found a jet-black, completely spotless (I think) blue-spotted!



This one may be melanistic, or just, well, spotless.  Or it may not even be a blue-spotted and may be a spotless regular spotted salamander.  I'm open to opinions there.

(On a side note, if you ever want to fall down a very interesting scientific rabbit hole, look at some of the articles regarding how blue-spotted and Jefferson salamanders hybridize and all the crazy genome stuff involving them -- explained a little in wikipedia here.)

A spotted salamander was also flipped (by Matt, I think) in the vernal area:


Matt also flipped a wood frog:


I wanted to check out the other vernal -- the one that Mike and I refer to as "Sly's pond" because we found Sly Sirtalis near there last March in 32 degree weather.  We checked out a few spots along the way and maybe flipped a couple of redbacks (that neither of us photographed).  Once we were in the dried vernal, and the flips weren't producing, I suddenly saw Matt take a dive for something:


YAY! GARTER SNAKE!  It wasn't thrilled at being handled, as evidenced by the flat head.  Once I took it, I of course got musked.  Pee-yew!  Matt noticed a sizeable lump in its midsection -- probably the blue-spotted salamander Mike found here a couple of weeks ago!

I managed to find a really pretty spotted salamander; I like the two connected spots on its side:


Matt did another lunge while walking along the path (hey, this isn't much different than herping with Mike, after all!).  What he lunged after took me by surprise.


Dude, it's a ribbon!  In Suffolk County (i.e., Boston city limits!)!  It's a new record for the county!


It had a scar on its back that broke up its stripe...good way to identify it, if I should ever find one again here:



I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't a little jealous -- I love getting new county records!  What I love more, however, is proof of a species' existence within the city limits.  I really need to do something with the information -- an article, perhaps, or see if I can use it for some sort of educational purposes.  I've been playing with these ideas since last winter; we'll see where they go.

So much of the former wetlands were drying up; the vernal had some dead tadpoles where there were puddles two weeks ago.  One former brook now had a couple of puddles in it; one of which was occupied:


Bullfrog or green frog?  I couldn't get close enough to tell.

We went through part of the park that was once a landfill; it's got a paved path that is lined with rocks that house garter and water snakes.  We saw nothing, but a woman said a large water snake had been sunning itself on the path earlier.  With all the dogs running around, I doubted it was still there.

I got back home around 4 p.m., and Mike was laying down as he should be.  He was also blown away by the ribbon snake, and happy that I had gotten out to herp without him.

Monday, October 21, 2013

That's my Storeria and I'm stickin' to it! 10-19-2013

So, I've been sick. But this was probably going to be the last snake weekend of the season. You know, laying around in bed isn't making me well- how about some light exercise and fresh air! It was supposed to be 65°, which is good enough for me. We headed over to Bristol County in hopes of a snake or two. We would be moving slowly (driving slowly too, thanks to road work) so if I keeled over, Andrea would hear me hit the ground. We got there at about noon.

Hey! First flip! Nice young Garter (who had some dried poop on his vent, but we'll forgive him)

Next up, a Redback peeked out at us!

I couldn't see these two with my naked eyes but the 42Zoom helped us out... a couple of Painted Turtles!

A couple of more Redbacks.

Andrea got this vista shot, which shows how grey it was turning out to be. Sunlight was at a premium.
A zoom-in reveals what's going on in the middle of that pic!
A four-pack of Painteds! Like me, turtles never say die!

Here's a nice tall-standing Redback!

This Spring Peeper hopped by and it took me about 45 shots in 5 minutes to get this one!
Worth it!

A couple of Redbacks posed nicely on a leaf!

Red and Lead.

Right around here, I put a moratorium on Redbacks. I mean, next month we'll ONLY have Redbacks, so let's not fill the pages with just one species. I promised myself only to photograph snakes and new (for the day) species.

The next flip made me eat my words. Oh yeah, there were four Red Spotted Newts... and a Redback thumbing his nose at me!
That rock flip, in a dry vernal pond,  got a "holy shit" out of me.

Yeah, this pond was completely waterless. The poor pond dwellers need some rain! This Wood Frog bounded past us...

Andrea flipped a duo of Newts.

Then we started seeing other spots! Spotted Salamanders! One...
Then another!

Another Wood Frog, this time with brilliant red stripes, hopped by!

Another dry vernal gave us this Spotted Salamander, who kept walking out of frame until we partnered him with... a Redback!

OK, the ban on Redbacks wasn't going to work... they're too plentiful and just too cute! Like these two extremes:

While walking along the path, well... floating... I was dizzy on cold pills, I turned around while Andrea said "here's something"... and I saw she had a small snake. She seemed confused... "wait.. is it..." and I figured she had maybe a Ribbon instead of a Garter or something.

What she had was the most beautiful Dekay's I have ever seen!
So red and auburn, with a pale pink belly, we thought we might actually have a Redbelly for a second! But no, pure Dekay's, but what a stunner!
How she found that in the leaves (on the move!) I'll never know.

Another Andrea vista shot...
Another Painted Turtle zoom...

Time is right for another Peeper!

We got to a stream where we have seen Two-Lined Salamanders before. I flipped for a while with no luck, but Andrea scored one!

I countered with another Peeper.

OK. Redbacks. But come on! One tailless guy coiled himself up and one guy was so small, he hid under a dime! Ya just GOTTA appreciate that!

OK, last Redbacks. But this flip was indicative of the Redback smorgasbord... a Six Pack!

It is with great pleasure that I can add that on the way out, my last flip got us a wee Garter Snake.
Would he be our last of 2013?

So we started and ended the day with Garters. Not bad for Mid-October! Me? I'm still sick (on Monday) and even had to not go out on Sunday with Andrea. But she had a handsome young man to herp with so all is.... hey!!!!!!