Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sexy Times in Middlesex County! 5-11-2014

We were eager to spend this sunny Sunday at a favorite turtle spot in Middlesex County. Home of many Painteds, some Snappers and even Blandings turtles! We set our hopes low but our energy was high!

We always like to check the chalkboard when we arrive to see what everyone else has seen. Hmm... not off to a great start.
(For what it's worth, we saw it... a dead adult Snapper... probably a victim of the up and down Spring weather.)

We started off with some bugs for a change! A tree was practically red with Spotted Lady Beetles!
Coleomegilla maculata

This stripey guy from the Disonycha family was near by.
Disonycha - striped flea beetle

But we weren't here to see bugs, however welcome they were. We wanted turtles... and we got them. Tons of Painted Turtles!

We ran into a couple of couples who were out birding. They were fascinated with our herpability. We showed them a humongous Water Snake basking, which they scared off before I could get a shot! Ha! No harm done... I managed to find it in the reeds.

This Painted Turtle is smiling. You can't tell me it isn't.

At one point, Andrea saw a turtle up on some reeds. I came over to the spot as it slid into the water. I said... "was that a Spotted? It didn't look like a Painted." It dawned on us that it might have been a Blandings. Damn. It never came back up, so we'll never know. This Bullfrog conveyed his condolences.

Another thing we like about this place is a good helping of Leopard Frogs can usually be found! These are our first of 2014!

We came upon a spot where a guy was photographing a Bullfrog. I looked in and saw some commotion. I thought at first that there might have been some mating going on, but then I realized that the large Bullfrog had a water Snake trying to eat it.

As much as I detest  gory nature shots, this is one of the best photos I have ever taken. The Northern water Snake had the Bullfrog by the back leg. Surely there was no way it could consume such a meal.
Unbelievably, it did.

That left us a bit shaken... nature at it's most harrowing.

Things got back to normal with another beautiful Leopard Frog.

Then, I saw a thick snake body in the bushes. Almost 2 inches thick! But it had a stripe! It was a huge Garter... the biggest I have seen in a while! I caught it for photos and measurement!
It bit the bejeezus out of me!
32" of Sirtalis!
This gal clocked in at 32 inches!

We found a Tufted Titmouse a while ago as part of our Big Year, but seeing two of them digging into a wasp nest suspended 15 feet over our heads is worthy of a few pictures!
Tufted Titmice dining on a wasp nest
Tufted Titmice dining on a wasp nest

More Painted Turtles awaited us.

We had really hoped for a Blandings, but we came up goose eggs.

But there were oodles of Painters of all sizes!

The old timer on the left must have some scary stories to tell!

Then we had a triumvirate of Frogs... Bull, Leopard and Green!

I had tried earlier to get a shot of this duck, but the pictures sucked. Luckily, as we went back by, it was still there. Here is Big Year #59, a Wood Duck!
#59 Wood Duck ( Aix sponsa)

We had heard toads calling almost as soon as we arrived. We hadn't found them yet, though. As the calls got louder, we started feeling lucky. Sure enough... there was a spot full of hopeful males and a few busy females! American Toads!

A threesome.

Where are our gals?

Sexy time was in full bloom! Or so the males were hoping!

Chelonian madness continued.

I was trying to get a picture of a bird when a guy that looked and sounded like Guillermo del Toro said something about a snake nearby. I dispensed with bird plans and went to see another good sized Garter crawling around.
This gal was 28" and we held her and showed her off to some fellow hikers, who were very nice and interested, despite the mom not being a snake fan.
But how can you not fall in love with that face?!

This is a Snapping Turtle, hopefully just a napping turtle. This isn't the dead one mentioned at the beginning.

We caught up to the people that we had shown the Garter to at a small bridge. They told us of how they had just seen a red and black snake in the water. Nerodia! Guillermo had gotten a nice film of it too. The boys in the group were trying to catch one of the many intrusive River Carp that were all over the place being a nuisance. Meanwhile, I wanted to look under the bridge for the red and black swimmer. There were some dead carps under there... and a noggin! The Water Snake was there!
This beauty charmed everyone, and we might have made the snake-hater into a snake-appreciator!
I love watching these beauties swim!

Here's a dead carp. My hands stunk for hours.
Big assed dead River Carp

The bird that I had been trying for earlier was still there, presenting us with Big Year #60! The Song Sparrow!
#60 Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

While walking back, there were some lumps spaced out along the path. Three male Painted Turtles were out and about!

The Redwing Blackbirds, while not "need-it"s were stunning.

Here's a need-it that we snapped about 50 pictures of between us. This is the only decent one. (Maybe I should have photographed one of the many we saw in Florida instead of saying "Ah, we get those up North... we can wait!") #61, the Great Blue Heron!
#61 Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

My camera died right there. Luckily, Andrea's was fine. We had an uncooperative Snapper teasing us. The bubble in the middle is from his mouth... his head can be seen right next to it, underwater.

Almost out. Andrea saw a Water Snake! Man, that's a long one. Wait... it's two! Mating!!!
Wow! This was great! We sat and watched (I like to watch) for a while with some others and we were letting passersby know that they could witness some live nature porn! Andrea took plenty of pictures. When we started back, I mentioned to someone coming in that the mating was probably still going on. I went to show them where.

Another male had joined the orgy!
I'm not sure what he was screwing, but everyone seemed pretty happy!

Last thing on the way out took us full circle... another bug.
Twice-stabbed ladybird beetle, Chilocorus stigma
The best-named bug of all time, the Twice-stabbed Ladybird Beetle!

So, *whew* we were toast! 6 1/2 hours, mostly in the sun! Worth every second, though. I feel badly for witnessing the demise of a Bullfrog, but it was fascinating so... well, I'm over it.

It wasn't just Mother's Day... it was Mother-To-Be's Day!