Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mountain Toast 4-13-2014

If Saturday's 6 hour hike on flat land wasn't enough of a workout, we wanted to do some mountain climbing on Sunday morning! The weather was supposed to be warm but overcast. Well, overcast isn't quite the word. We drove through heavy rain on the way to Hampden County. And when we got there at a bit before 10 AM, it was pretty cold! Well, maybe Copperheads wouldn't be in the picture after all, but this is also a great salamander place!

In fact, we checked out the (big) vernal pond after we parked and started seeing dozens and dozens of Spotted Salamanders! Big ones! Many males sportin' big packages. Was Big Night yet to come out here? Some of these were good sized females too. Damn, this weather... confusing everyone!

Here's a sampling of the Spotted Mania!

As always here, Redbacks were also easy to find. Leadbacks might be even more common than red ones!
Many of the Plethodons were plump with eggs, too.

Spotted fever...

As I got closer to the water, I flipped logs that had standing water under them, but they were still occupied by Spotteds!
And Redbacks, too!



We had to put a moratorium on these two species, but not until after... A Spotted eating a worm...

and this spectacular speckled specimen of a Redback.

It looks as though some action has already happened...

So, up we went, flipping all the way. And there is a lot of stuff to flip.
Redbacks were found from the bottom right up to the top of the mountain.


We searched around but came up snakeless. No Copperheads, no Garters... well, there was no sun, either. It was particularly cool up top. So we headed down. And I fell. But I broke my fall on a short concrete divider. Andrea thought I was going to plummet to my death. I was worried about my camera that hit the wall alongside my hands and arms and knee and face. The lens still came out when I turned it on, so that was good. I was able to get up. I'm fine, if a tad bruised. I live.

But Andrea was being extra cautious after that, thinking my clumsy ass was going to fall again. We started down a sheer, slate covered hill that I wanted to flip on. It was very rough going. I coaxed her down and we sat next to a cave outcropping. Inside, we saw this.
#46 Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
I made some kind of four letter exclamation... I mean, are these real?? They're 4 inches long and look like the old L'eggs stockings containers! What kind of poor bird had to squat these mammoth things out?!

Our answer flew to a tree not far from us and kept very close watch on our movements. Big Year #46, a Turkey Vulture.
#46 Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
We had seen some flying overhead on the way up.
#46 Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

We took the bird's advice and went back up to try an easier trail. Which was good, because we found another section we were looking for and we scored our first Red Eft of the day!

Walking on slanted real estate was taking its toll on our legs and backs, which were not doing too great after the long hike to the top. We momentarily forgot about our discomfort when we flipped a beautiful Ringneck, our first of 2014!
I got a nasty musking, but it was totally worth it!

Further down, I flipped a rock with a couple of Redbacks under it. They promptly squiggled away, but Andrea said "LOOK"! A teeny eft was under it, too! I hadn't even seen it!
I mean, this guy can't be much bigger than a Stage One larvae! Just how the hell did he get 3/4 of the way up a mountain?! Wow!

I like this colorful trio!

But by now, we were exhausted. Completely. I had hoped to go look for Duskies in another part of the mountain, but just had no energy. Then I made a bad decision and added on another mile or so by taking a wrong path. Blah. You know, it wouldn't be so bad except we saw no animals while on the wrong path. We heard peepers, but they were not close enough. So we trudged on. We had to ascend small hills but by this time, it was like mountain climbing again. I was feeling every one of my advanced years and all of my uaual maladies were chiming in at once. This fall to the leaves (once we found our way back) was real.
I was rubbing my feet together, ready to nap. Yet still, we flipped. We lifted the Spotted ban when we found some beauties.

But that was all. I was feeling ill and burnt to a crisp. I even made Andrea go into the store afterward to get us some drinks. I could only lay there in the car like a slug. It was my only defense.

OK, so maybe this second full week of herping would have been better spent not climbing up a mountain, but we're herpers and nobody ever called a herper sensible. Andrea suggested that perhaps "we" are getting too old for mountains. Well, Missy, "we" are not. I just need to take breaks a little more often and resign myself to the fact that I can't flip every rock.

I survived. Andrea still loves me. It's all good. But I haven't been able to stay up later than 9:30 PM since.


  1. We need to bring some youngsters with us to flip the rocks for us. They can be the herping version of cabana boys.

    1. Oiled, shirtless herp boys? Whatever floats your cougar boat!