Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Snake Some Action! Cutler 4-6-2014

As much as we might have wanted to sleep in, there's just no way we could. We have cats. I mean... we knew it was going to be a sunny and warm Sunday and we wanted to herp! We had planned to hike the nearby Cutler Park, a favorite snake spot. Since we have proclaimed that we can't get ice cream until we find our first Racer of 2014, they were big on our want-list.

Well, it didn't take long... about 20 feet in on the first boardwalk, when I saw this guy chillin' (literally, I'm sure) in the shallow water.

While I was trying to get a good picture of him, Andrea said "there's another one right here!"
Two Garters right off the bat! Now that makes us happy!

Fairly soon after that, I heard a whoosh and saw a periscope...
This guy was pretty deep in there but we managed a couple of good shots. In fact, I started wasting a lot of time on an impossibly high and hidden Goldfinch while Andrea secured this shot.

Sadly, the best picture I could get of my Big Year #41 is this- American Goldfinch:
#41 American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
Oh well, maybe I can improve on that one during the year.

We got to the tracks and Racer Alley and split up after a bit... Andrea taking the low and me taking the high.

I got #42, the Carolina Wren while up top.
#42 Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

But we saw no Racers. The low path had some flooded spots and when we were both on the bottom trail, soakers happened. But we did manage to see this small Garter Snake poking around the rocks... for a moment.
I'm glad I got that shot because he slid (as in fell) right down the back and out of sight right after that!

Again, Peepers were peeping all afternoon. We heard some Wood Frogs joining in as well. This got our interest because we've seen a Leopard Frog here and we are in search of a possible new species of Leopard Frog... one with a call that sounds like a Wood Frog. We snuck to the water's edge and listened and looked. I could see ripples from a Wood-voiced frog and found the culprit, but I just couldn't get a good look... or picture.
Wood frog?
Inconclusive, but I'm calling Wood.

We got near our turn-around point when I heard another whoosh. On the opposite end of a pricker bush, a medium sized Ribbon Snake was poking out. It was our first sighting of one this year! I tried to stealthily sneak up to it, but it shot off towards a tree. I trod through the bushes and, around the other side of the tree, lay my hand on top of the snake to capture it. As I righted myself, removing the thorns that were stuck to my skin and clothes, I saw something wiggling next to my knee. Salamander? No... a tail.

Three feet before the spot that I had secured the snake, he had dropped his tail. I had never heard of a snake doing this. Lizards, yes. Salamanders, too. But not snakes. I brought this discovery to Andrea. We had enough sense to document it.

Subsequent research has told us that yes, Eastern Ribbons occasionally do this. That might explain why we see so many stub-tailed Ribbons. You learn something new every day.

The snake itself seemed fine, except for a bloody tail stump.
I had shredded my hands as well, so we might have become blood brothers.

So, we released him and he slithered off, a couple of inches shorter than before. I felt (and still feel) really horribly that I scared the poor guy so much that he dropped his tail, but I'm eternally grateful to him for teaching me this fact!

We soon hit our turning point and headed back. We decided to peek in on a vernal pond that is situated kind of across where we found my blood-brother. We saw no critters in the water, or eggs. (I was hoping for a newt... we've seen efts nearby.) Then I heard another whoosh... this guy was right at my feet!
A slightly smaller but fully intact Ribbon Snake! He gave Andrea a toothy grin!

Going back to the path, another Ribbon! Methinks there's a den nearby!

So, on our way out, I checked up on the rocks again for potential ice-cream... errr.... Racers, but came up empty. This shot amuses me. It looks like I'm just out on a casual stroll when in fact, climbing these rocks is a real task for me, what with my height and weight!

We saw another Garter near here, but he slipped into some grass and absolutely disappeared right under our fingers. They really know the terrain better than we do, that's for sure!

Nearing the end of the hike, I was walking on one side and looked over at Andrea on the other, who had just leaped flat to the ground. I love when that happens... that usually means she has made a dramatic snake catch. And indeed she had... the fourth Ribbon of the day!
A super mellow specimen (with a stub-tail!)

On the last boardwalk, Andrea said "I hope we see more Garters" and right then, we saw one moving through the reeds. No hopes for a picture, but a classic case of Ask and you Shall Receive!

So, we saw ten snakes and photographed eight of them and that first Ribbon taught us something that we didn't know. That, my dear, is a good day in the field. But we still can't have ice-cream.


  1. I'm sorry you guys didn't get any ice cream snakes but those ribbons are nice

    1. Ice Cream Snakes coming soon, to an ice cream shoppe near us!

  2. ¡TEVa a piiiccccarrr la vivoirita !!!!!!¡Fijate cómo te mira!!!!!¡Le gustaste....JaJA Un beso x2 Martha

  3. So just how early are you guys getting out there? Like just after dawn early ? Very envious....

    1. I think we arrived here at about 11 AM. Any earlier and it would have still been too cold! Come summer time, we get up REALLY early to hit the trails at sun-up. But not now!