Sunday, March 9, 2014

Heat Wave at Ponkapoag! 3-8-2014

This painfully frigid winter was going to give us a reprieve for one day only (mid-40s), so we greedily planned a hike around Ponk... our first full one since... I dunno... October? I could look it up but that would be too much effort.

We got there a bit before noon and bravely headed out onto the slushy, icy trails. I went coatless, rebel that I am. It was still plenty snowy but it was warm and if we didn't see anything, at least we were getting some Vitamin D and exercise doing what we loved.

It was full-on hot at times, particularly in the sun. There was a chance that someone of the squamate variety would poke his head out, but we had no such luck.
(I like this pic... I look skinny!)

In fact, we saw no herps at all for a while, but it was still fun scanning the sunny spots where snow had melted around possible den sites. Even birds were tough... I had one lined up but never got the shot. Blech!

The dock area could have held promise for a curious snake... a very sunny spot, but no such luck. The view from the dock was this...
I even walked out on the ice ("a foot thick" we were told) to get a different look at a known Nerodia den. By the way, the guy who went out onto the ice with his friends (and a handful of Bud Lights) said he'd seen a frog out and about the night before.

Further up the trail, we heard some very loud knocking. It sounded like a Pterodactyl Woodpecker or something. It even caught the attention of a drunk woman hiking in the opposite direction. (What was up with the drinking at Ponk yesterday??) I said... "that bird sounds huge!!!"

We finally saw it... #31, a small Downy Woodpecker.
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Oh yeah? Well it sounded huge!

Still herpless and almost done with the hike, we hit our Two-Line larvae spot in hopes of at least a sighting. Such a perfect day, it seemed a shame to come up completely empty. I hunkered down into the creek and flipped a few rocks... much to our delight, we found our first Pickerel Frog of the year!
I felt bad to disturb his slumber, but very happy to see him! I put him back and he scooted to the exact spot he was in before. Good night, Sir Lithobates!

With a little bit of effort, multiple soakers and patience, we procured a couple of lovely Two-Lined Salamander larvae to photograph as well.
The larger guy looks like he's already getting that classic Two-Lined golden coloring going up his tail. The smaller guy has an interesting sharp stripe there.

So, we made it around the pond in about 3 hours, which is very quick, but its not like we stopped to flip anything. The snow was still pretty deep and the ice is still everywhere. But this felt like a real herp trip and since it's still Winter, that's good enough for now.

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