Wednesday, May 7, 2014

No luck when it counts... 5-3-2014

We had a special invitation to herp some private property and conservation land. Some endangered species have been seen in this area in the past, including venomous snake species, Black Rats, Marbled Salamanders and Blandings Turtles. Our mission? To find and photograph any of these at risk species to help stave off planned development.

This was big stuff and we took it very seriously. We are honored to have been asked to help and to be allowed on the land. Allowed on some of it anyway.

There are large vernal ponds. There are zillions of flippable rocks. There are sunny, rocky out-croppings. There was a lot of all of it. Suddenly, we felt very small. We set about flipping and peering and poking and, mostly, climbing. All we found in the first couple of hours were the usual suspects... some Redbacks.

The place is simply stunning. Untouched. We checked dozens of rotting tree trunks, rocky crags, huge sunny rocks. We just weren't finding anything. The temps were in the mid 60s and partly cloudy. It should have been good. But you just can't predict these things. And make things come out when they don't feel like it!

We were told there are a ton of Racers here too, which was good because I was already craving ice cream!

At one point, a gorgeous little stream cut through a rocky plateau.

After a few hours, we descended and got onto a path that had truck tire marks on it. All of the difficult climbing and lifting was already taking its toll! I'm not as young as I used to be, I guess! At least here, Andrea flipped a piece of bark and found a ridiculously small Ringneck!

We tried many different trails, some of which eventually led to people's yards (oops) and didn't find some of the vernals we were seeking. Let's face it, I'm shit at reading maps! We eventually found this small one.
Too small for turtles to be interested in and we saw no egg masses, but there were some Green Frogs present, including this large one!

Andrea then stirred up this in-the-blue Garter from under some leaves.

The hours wore on and frankly, I was getting cranky. Never had we worked so hard for so little when it mattered so much. We had been out there for hours and had but four common species to our credit. A few more Redbacks...
and then we left, disappointed for letting down the good people and the animals.

We rested for a bit before deciding to to take a quick walk along a familiar trail at nearby Borderland State Park. It is flat. Thank heavens.

Right off the bat, we saw the biggest Bullfrog that we might have ever seen! This guy was mammoth!

This one, not so much.

It does our hearts well to see these signs posted near the vernals...
This Bullfrog probably appreciates it even more than we do!

Along the path, I saw a Water Snake snoozing. As I approached for a picture, her head went up... oops. Stealth, thy name is not Mike! So, I caught her for pictures. She did not approve.
She thrashed and struck a lot and musked me into tomorrow, but she settled a bit and we got some nice pictures.
What a stunner!

Some Painted Turtles were trying to make the most of the early evening rays.

We saw another Water Snake snoozing by the pond... this one looked almost all black. I wondered for a moment if it was our Ice Cream... err... Racer! Nope- pure Nerodia!

A Five-pack of Painteds.

Before we left, Keen-Eye Andrea found another small Garter!

So, we were toast. Completely. We got back home very late and sad that we had failed in our quest for proof of protected species. We thank the folks who entrusted us with their property and who asked for our help in the first place. Perhaps we will have more luck at a future date. But there's not a lot of time. "Progress" marches on, whether it's a good idea or if it's even needed at all.

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