Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quest in the West 5-24-2014

One of our favorite Sheep and Wool Festivals is the one in Cummington, MA. It's small and friendly and we always have time to herp and eat ice cream after! We have found efts, toads and Redbellied Snakes behind the creamery we eat lunch at and all sorts of goodies at Windsor State Forest!

That said, we had never found a herp on the Sheep and Wool Fairgrounds before. But then, we had never noticed the little stream running around the back, either! Needless to say, I dove right in and saw a good-sized aquatic salamander scoot away. Could it be an elusive Spring Sal? No, it was a very good sized Two-Lined!

So, we shopped and fondled sheep and yarn and saw friends for a few hours. Then we headed over to the Creamery for lunch. Unfortunately, there were no animals to be found outside the place. It was fairly cool and cloudy... with rain threatening. No worries. We were planning on panning for salamanders anyway... rain didn't matter.

So, we got the the State Forest at about 3 PM. First herp there was a shy Redback Salamander.

Followed soon by a chubby American Toad.

A board was laying on the damp ground, a good 50 yards from the river. We weren't shocked to see a Redback under it but the Dusky was a shock!

One of the special things about this place is that we often find Erythristic Redback Salamanders here. That is to say... all red ones. It's not an incredibly rare morph, we're told, but we never see them anywhere else. Next find? An Erythristic Redback!

It had started to rain while we made our way over towards the river. We saw no strings of toad eggs or tadpoles so we were wondering if the annual Toad Orgy had yet commenced. The rain brought out a gallivanting Eft!
I'll spare you my theory about the erythristic Redbacks being more common here because of the heavy eft presence. Garters won't eat Efts, but they eat Redbacks. Just a theory. Looks like I didn't spare you either!

There were plenty of Toads hiding among the rocks near the river. Waiting for nature's call?

Then Andrea alerted me that our first awake Pickerel Frog of the year had hopped past her!

There was plenty of Salamander larvae in the water, too...I'm inclined to call this a Two-Lined (though if you held a gun to my head I could go with Dusky).

No doubt about this adult Dusky, though!! Now that's  a pretty dookie!

Another Pickerel jumped into the river in front of me...
A surprise larvae (again, I say two-lined) was in the picture, too!

What about Two-Lined adults, you ask? Here are two!

I flipped these eggs and was all excited, thinking they were Two-Lines or something...
After researching, I'm leaning more towards fish eggs... probably Mottled Sculpin.

Some more adult dookies!

Right around here, we ran into a lovely couple who were looking for birds for the Westfield River wild and scenic survey. They were interested in adding a few herps to their counts! We were only too obliged to help! We went back over to the Erythristic Redback board to wow them with something special... we sure did! There were three Erys!

We showed them some toads, the eggs and some more salamanders, including this Two-Line.

They were charming and we talked birds for a while. I had missed an Indigo Bunting when we got there because, well... I thought it was a Blue Jay or something and blew it! They were filled with excellent info and suggested other good places to check out in the area. Man, we have been meeting some excellent people on hikes this year!

We headed down the road after a while, to check out other spots. We had come to the conclusion that Spring Salamanders were probably not going to happen in this river. Even the slow parts just seemed wrong. Lots of it looks damn good for Wood Turtles, though.

We didn't find any, though. Our last herp was this Two-Lined.

So, we left and headed over to get some ice cream on the way home. We were tired but feeling like we accomplished something. What it was, we don't know... but surely we accomplished something!!! Our ride back was long and my brain was jello by the time we pulled in. Much like it is now.

We slept the sleep of the dead... in preparation for Sunday's big hike!

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