Friday, May 30, 2014

Memorial Day at Assabet 5-26-2014

We both had Memorial Day off so a rare Monday herp trip was in order. The problem was, it was rainy. No worries. It was supposed to let up before too long. We decided to hit Assabet Wildlife Refuge as we hadn't yet been there this year. We were hoping for some rare turtles to keep our weekend going. We found no rare things, but this is what we did see.

I thought I was looking at a Catbird. So I didn't try to get a good picture once it started hopping and being difficult. I wish I had stayed with it because it is, in fact, #66... a female Brown-headed Cowbird!
#66 Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
(Thanks for the ID help, Bob!)

We started up the trail, intent on getting to the ponds to look for Water Snakes and Turtles. Not too far in, we saw our first ever live Garter Snake! (First ever in this place, that is)
Decent sized and a little pissed; we tried to not stress him out much.

Not too much further, Andrea spied another!
This guy is bright! Look at his scar on his side!

So, now that we'd both been musked, we flipped a Redback!

Walking along the path, we turned to look up a connecting path... and saw a turtle!! Running like the paparazzi that we are, we came face to face with this Painted Turtle!
Judging from the dirt and pine needles on her butt, she had just laid her eggs!

So, we made it to the water and the Painteds were basking!
Of course, it wasn't super sunny, so there weren't many. In fact, it was clouding up and getting ready to rain some more!

This Bullfrog didn't mind at all.

In a light sprinkle, we reached a favorite part... an area designated for turtle laying! They have cleared a patch of woods that gets a lot of sunlight now... just for turtles! This Painted Lady was utilizing the space!

Andrea pointed out a bird in the distance. I zoomed in and tried to get some shots, but was largely unsuccessful. She thought it might be a Killdeer. As I approached the area, it flew off, but not too far. Then we started to get the Killdeer show! They are ground-nesting and when a predator gets too close, the adult goes into the "broken wing" act to lure said predator away from the nest.
#67 Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
It was very cool to see! By the way, #67... Killdeer!
#67 Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

So, we hiked on despite the rain, which had become fairly heavy. Still worse were the mosquitoes that it brought out! We opted to switch into our 'skeeter jackets once the rain subsided.
Sure, we look dumb but those fuckers helped a lot!

This Bullfrog, however, laughed at us.

While looking for a Wood Frog, Andrea discovered some cool ruins of a 19th Century Tavern.
Herpless, but I'll bet it isn't always!

So, we headed back. Some intrepid Painteds braved the cloudy day!

At one point, I saw a small turtle slide into the water right in front of me. I couldn't see what it was as it made its slooow escape and I was tied up in my binoculars, camera strap and skeeter jacket! I couldn't extricate myself in time to grab it for a photo! ARRRGH!! I was trapped! Finally, I got free, but never was able to find the little guy.

Meanwhile, Andrea saw a Water Snake cruising in towards the shore, obviously on the hunt.
He was making a big circle, going back out to the middle. At one point we saw a splish behind some weeds... evidently he had struck at something. We don't know if he got it, but soon he was back on the prowl.

Then Andrea pointed something out to me... the little fella who had handed me my ass had reemerged not too far away!
Haha, my wee painted friend! I won this one!

Right next to here, I approached a hillock and saw a Garter Snake there. He started to flee and as I lunged, I noticed two other Garters right there! One went straight, one went right and one went left! They threw quite the curve ball at me! I ended up batting .333; this is the guy who turned right.

So, this was making up for our thus-far Garterless weekend. We saw another guy on the way out!

Satisfied (and eaten alive everywhere the jackets hadn't protected us), we got into the car to head home. On the drive exiting the park, we thought we saw something in the road... yes! Another turtle!
This, however, isn't a nesting female... this is a male! Just out for a walk?

We went and got some gourmet pizza on the way home. The place had a giant brass Alligator outside. 

We even herp when we eat.


  1. That's not an old mill; it's the site of an old tavern from (I think) the early 19th century.