Tuesday, May 13, 2014

21 Garter Salute! 5-10-2014

Besides herping, we also enjoy going to Sheep and Wool Festivals, where we can fondle yarn and see cute animals. We had planned on attending the New Hampshire S&W on this Saturday to do the above and to see our friend Lena! Triple win! Plus, we planned on herping on the way home at a new place on the Massachusetts/ New Hamster border.

It was an unpredictable day, weather-wise. We drove through rain, some of it hard, but it got quite pleasant by the time we hit the fairground at roughly 10:30 AM. I had hoped it would be birdy on the fairgrounds, as I wanted to work on my Big Year. It wasn't, really. At one point, I went to the Men's Room and on the way back, I flipped a Redback Salamander, though!

The animals there were all of the nice and fibery variety.
Hey look, a Kelly Johnson Alpaca!

I found this sheep's lick spot. So like a cat.

So, we spend a few hours there, buying yarn, hanging with Lena and eating Apple Crisp. We then headed towards home, by way of a Bird Sanctuary in Essex County, MA.  We got there at about 3:30, ready to walk the rail path and hopefully see some herps and birds.

Right off the bat, a skinny Green Frog was spotted.

As I walked the water's edge looking for more frogs, Andrea yelled "Garter" from a few yards behind me. I saw it too. We both tried to give chase, but this little guy had moovz! Finally, we got him for a close-up.

While Andrea was enjoying that cantankerous Sirtalis, I flipped an old, rotted railroad tie and this little Garter fell out of it!

Hey, this place already ruled! We took a path over toward a secluded pond, where we saw some (much girthier) Green Frogs and some smiling Painted Turtles!
^ Now that is a stunning Green Frog!

While down at the pond, I missed a shot of an oriole and I was pissed! Fucking birds!! But back up on the path, I heard another one calling and I found it. I was struggling to get a shot, blowing off about 30 pictures. I never realized that Andrea had already found another garter and was standing behind me, patiently waiting with it.

Oh well, I finally got the shot... Big Year #55, the Baltimore Oriole.
#55 Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)
I call him Brooks Robinson.

So, I figured... screw that! This place has Garters! Forget about birds! We saw some retaining tarp poking out of the ground. That stuff almost never has snakes, but it should! Despite past failures, we flipped some and to our surprise, we had Garter #4!

And then two more smaller ones were right there when we lifted it back up!

Then it became Garter City... #7!


#9 and 10!

#11 made me chase after him a bit for a shot, but he stopped long enough after about 20 feet of high speed slithering!

#12 was peacefully sleeping under a rock.
Wow. We wondered if we'd hit Lucky 13!

Right after commenting how we hadn't seen any salamanders, we flipped a few Redbacks.
methuen pleth

Garter #13 was under a massive stone that I could barely flip!

Redback frenzy!

Garter #14 was found because we found more retaining tarp!

Birds? Sure! Why not? Big Year #56, a Yellow Warbler!
#56 Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)

Wetlands reappeared and with them, a Bullfrog!

Bird #57 flitted into view... I barely got a shot of this Yellow-rumped Warbler!
#57 Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)

We got to a pondy area and Andrea said "Nerodia!". I looked and saw the one on the spillway, but she was talking about the one on the hill! Yay Water Snakes!

Some big rocks produced our biggest Garter, #15.

More tarp, and things went crazy. First up, #16, was our first insane Garter. Speedy and assertive, we couldn't get a good shot.

He crawled through a hole in the tarp. We lifted it up and...
And I don't think any of those are him!

One more Garter, making it 21 for the day, was right near these guys, trying to have some alone time.

The proud herper!

While all of this had happened fairly quickly, time was running out, so we picked up our pace back towards the car. We got to a tunnel under a road and I finally got what should have been my first bird of the "Big Year"... #58, the Rock Dove!
#58 Rock Dove (Columba livia)
How I managed to not get a picture of one until #58 is beyond me. I saw some, but never got a picture. Back when we lived on the other side of the river, these are the only birds we ever saw!

Our last sighting of the day was this monster.

It started to rain as we were leaving and was pouring by the time we hit the highway. Timing couldn't have been better.

So, in my opinion, that is how every day should be. Yarn, fiber bearing animals, friends, Apple Crisp and successful herping! Many thanks to the Garter Snakes who gave their time and energy to making this a memorable hike. This new place sure turned out to be great. 6 species of herps. Way better than going to a new place and coming up empty!