Monday, March 31, 2014

Little Days and Big Night... ending March with a bang!

What an interesting week it has been! It has remained fairly cool but things looked right for the Big Night to happen over the weekend! It's about time! But before that, let me indulge myself with some other stuff.

While driving home from work on Wednesday (March 26th), I saw an odd looking duck in the pond that I pass. Hmmph... I didn't have my pocket camera. No fear, we were heading out to dinner shortly, so we packed the camera in case said ducks were still there after a couple of hours.

They were! And they were #35 of the Big Year, Hooded Mergansers!
 #35 Hooded Merganser ( Lophodytes cucullatus)
I love these guys!

Friday morning (March 28th), while I was off from work but diligently working on writing projects (or goofing off, more likely) I heard some chirps outside the window and saw a need-it bird. I stealthily went down and got the camera and, through a dirty window, got #36, the Tufted Titmouse!
#36 Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

I had to put the hard work aside for a bit and do some errands. It was fairly warmish (Mid-50s) so I thought I'd swing by a nearby wooded area to check on the vernals and snake dens. It was till pretty icy in the ponds, but movement wouldn't be out of the question, with a little rain. Some logs still wouldn't flip due to being frozen in place. A usually reliable rock (The Family Stone) did flip, however, and this Redback was under it.
I'm 99.9% certain that this is the same Redback that Andrea flipped under this very rock last week!

It was cool, but in the sun, it wasn't too bad. That's why I wasn't horribly surprised to look down and see this.
A lovely, Slim Jim of a Garter Snake!

Well, that certainly made me happy! I continued on, looking for stripes and checking vernals, but when it got cloudy, it got cold. I didn't see anything else, even as it started to sprinkle.

After dark, Andrea and I decided to go check out Hoar Sanctuary to see if the slight rain awoke any Ambystoma. It hadn't. We looked around by headlamp for an hour or so but nothing was moving there. Our friends Steve and Matt M were looking at our Big Night spot that we were going to hit Saturday night and encountered a few early risers but we pussed out and decided to stay local for the night.

Saturday morning (March 29th) we headed back over to the nearby wooded area to see if the previous night's  light rain had produced any action. The ponds looked free of Salamander packets, but we could only inspect the edges. A rock that we have named "Old Reliable" (because sometimes it is...) lived up to its name... two Blue Spotted Salamanders were under it!
These dusty devils scooted back into the hole as we photographed them. Hopefully, they'd be out that night, should the rain come.

As we walked along the trail, I heard Andrea give an "ahem"... at her feet was a small Garter sunning himself!
We moved him off the path which turned out to be a very good idea. Within minutes a very loud group of people and their dogs came ripping through and they said the dogs catch snakes when they see them! Close call, Sir Tallis!

We explored further, and I showed Andrea some more potential vernals that I has seen the day before. All the while, a Cardinal was calling and driving me nuts, because they're still on my Big Year need-it list! Finally, I found him and the zoom-lens on the camera earned its keep.
#37 Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis )
#37, the Northern Cardinal!

I found this Redback atop a hill. I named her Springfield.

On the way out, we flipped one more Blue Spotted... getting ready for his Big Night!

For many people, the weekend weather turned nasty and gave them something to complain about. For us, the gentle pitter patter of rain hitting the roof was a welcome sound. And it got harder... a soaking rain. Exactly what we wanted. We planned to meet Steve and Matt C at 8 PM to go see if this Big Night thing was really goin' down!

We met up and headed over to our spot in Middlesex County. It didn't take long for us to discover that, yes... Big Night was indeed upon us. Rather than recount the whole thing (like the 5 year old precocious kid who wanted to handle every animal we saw and the two adults that would rather we kept an eye on her than them), I will let the pictures show you what we saw on Big Night. Mind you, we saw way too many Spotted Salamanders to count and I'm not posting every picture I took, but these are some of my favorites.

This guy had made it to the water, but it was fast moving water, so he held on and tried to figure out where to go from there!

This slightly smaller guy was also having a time of it!


Steve found this super-cool (nearly) spotless one!
Here's a comparison shot, as if it's really needed...

The pond water was murky from the rain so it's hard to tell just how many guys had made it there, but it was fun watching them swim around the edges in excitement!

And the parade continued...

It was pouring and we all started to get concerned about our cameras, so we tucked them away, vowing to only photograph special sights. Of course, I saw some special sights!

This guy was so straight, it looked like he though he was a pen.

This guy was huge! Probably about a size 9!

And lastly, how can you not be charmed by the determination of a guy dragging himself across the ice to go lay down some serious sperm?!

What an exhilarating night! We were soaked and freezing and really uncomfortable, but really happy! All four of us got some great shots and a lifetime of memories! Steve's pictures will be found here soon.

We went back to the Blue-Spotted place Sunday afternoon, once the rain stopped but saw nothing. My guess is that they moved, but we just couldn't see any evidence. Our friend who is with the DCR found many ponds on Monday that had their salamander "party packets" so now we get to look forward to egg masses and larvae before too long! The cycle of salamander life!


  1. ¡Hermmmmmmooooosssooo!!!!!Un besox 2 Martha

    1. Primavera finalmente llegó en la noche!

  2. I wanna try to find some party packets (or egg masses) this weekend!