Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Braving the haunted Swamps, Seeing Bigfoot and Herping Elsewhere! 6-1-2014

We had only recently heard about the creepiest place in the Northeast... the Bridgewater Triangle. Home of Bigfoots, Aliens, Hell Hounds, Ghosts... you name it! Even our herp friends from around the country have heard tales from the Hockamock Swamp, right in the heart of the triangle. Turtles the size of VWs, huge Black Snakes and venomous reptiles... well, we wanted to check this place out, that's for sure!

So, a sunny Sunday morning, we met our friend Kurt and his son, along with Sasquatch Hunter Dave, and met in West Bridgewater to search the mysteries of the swamp. First, however, we poked around a drainage pond behind the parking lot we met in. It was full of Bullfrog tadpoles and we could hear the calls of the adults.

So then we went to hell... Hockamock Swamp...

Actually, it was sunny and pleasant if a bit buggy. The dirt trails are straight and flat, with wetness on either side. There is an eerie current running through the water, even where it should be still. Birds called everywhere, but you couldn't see them. (The canopy has filled in nicely) It was buggy, dark and cool. (The canopy has fill... oh, you know). We walked long, working up a sweat... was it fear? Or was it the super-moist air? Possibly both. Finally, after quite some time, we saw our first herp... an evil Pickerel Frog!

It wasn't long before we saw a puddle with some Green Frogs jumping into it. Surely I could reach in and grab one! Oh no, this small puddle was bottomless! My arm went into the dark muck over to over the elbow before we decided that it wasn't a good idea. The stories of quicksand were starting to ring true.

We took this trail for miles (2 maybe) and decided to turn back. When  we approached the Green Frog puddle, I snapped a picture of the demonic Lithobates before he jumped, trying to lure me into the sucking mud again.

We stuck sticks into this small puddle and they went in nearly 4 feet! OK... I'll give you the quicksand one!

We left the wooded area to explore a power line cut. On the way out, we could see a Sasquatch in the distance, accompanied by a Hell Hound! The beast even did the Patterson film pose! And it was coming right towards us!! Well, by the time our paths met, it had transformed itself into a nice woman with a friendly German Shepard. We think we have discovered the reason for the Bigfoot's scarceness... the ability to shape shift! Nice to know.

The power line cuts were right in the sun, a long path again with water on either side. We found parts of alien crafts but I forgot to take pictures. I did, however, find an alien! He was smaller than I had expected.
The face fits many of the descriptions that I've read over the years. And get this... it can fly!!

So, other than that, we saw no more herps or cryptozoological things. We heard a couple of snakes in the brush and Andrea saw one, but we made no positive IDs.

Oh well, just under four hours might not have turned up much, but we had fun! We headed over to a small pond in West Bridgewater after that to look for some turtles. There were plenty of Painteds there!

When I finally saw a real Chupacabra at the end of the walk, I was overcome with joy!

So, we all said our goodbyes... we might not have seen a ton of herps but we had a good time! Andrea and I grabbed some lunch and regrouped, then headed over to Borderland for a short hike. At least that was the plan!

It was crowded as hell and seeing anything was going to be tough. The place was crawling with kids and humanity... just how we don't like it. The whole beginning stretch was animal free except for this very brave Bullfrog.

A vernal pond that we like to keep an eye on had some tadpoles that were starting to get some legs... Wood Frogs, I believe!

A familiar Painted Turtle spot had a couple waiting for us.

Deciding to go up a path that we don't always take was a good move. First, we avoided some of the humans. Secondly, we found a young Ribbon Snake!
This long tall Sally was like a piece of linguine! Only the second Ribbon we've ever seen here!

A nearby vernal had dried up. We were flipping moist logs in search of Redbacks when we happened upon two blobs of Spotted Salamander egg masses, laying atop the dry leaves.
Unsure of what to do, we picked them up from underneath and carried them across the path to the water. I doubt any good will come of that but I couldn't just leave them there to dry up. This guy was about a foot away from where we placed them... just waiting for us to leave.

Our favorite spot, which is usually rife with Water Snakes was instead teeming with humans. Nary a Nerodia nowhere, no-how. The binoculars helped us find some distant Painted Turtles, though.

After noodling for Nerodia for a bit, we headed on... to another favorite spot. Lots of flipping and hard work, but we managed a nice Four-Toed Salamander!
And finally a Redback!

On the way back to the trail, I picked something up and walked up to Andrea, whose back was turned, flipping. I said (in my most posh voice), "ahem... Mister Thamnophis... Sirtalis... Sirtalis"
He was a bit nutty at first but calmed down nicely so we could get shots of his cool, broken dorsal stripe! Check it out down at the tail!

So, we went over to another familiar spot and a skinny mini Ribbon zoomed away with no picture. Andrea suggested we look across the trail where we hadn't looked before. It was at the edge of the woods just before it hits a big field. We were poking around, flipping and talking when a female Mallard flew out like a tornado right in front of us! Scared the shit out of us but we see why she waited so long to flee...

Oops. So, we headed back away from there. In doing so, Andrea saw a good sized Garter (in the blue) among some rocks!
She got a few bites and we didn't get many good pics, so we released her to go shed in peace.
After posing for a few, she slid into a non-existent hole in the rocks, like spaghetti being sucked up by a cocker spaniel.

On the way back to the path, I found one more Redback.

So, we got back to the Nerodia area and we heard a guy and his daughter talking about the "big black snakes" that are often there. We struck up a conversation and they were fans, though they didn't know much about them. He showed us pictures on his phone from the stone wall around their new house... a Ringneck and a Milk. Wow! We were jealous!

We went along the path next to the pond and saw this!
I got my picture so there was really no reason to pick mit up, but I wanted to show the Dad and Kid what the "big black snakes" look like when younger. Along the way, I showed it to some other folks who were charmed by it (even as it bit me a few times).
Sadly, I carried it a few feet to far and it ralphed up a small shiner into my hand. I had no idea it had a meal in it. But the people really appreciated seeing it and we might slowly but surely be making some progress with a few folks. We released him and he slid into the water. I hope he gets another meal soon. I feel just awful about that.

A few more Painteds...

A few more Redbacks... (There were many under some fallen bark)
plethodons 6-1-2014

The binoculars found this high-basking Painted in the late afternoon sun!

We got back to the front (but we don't wipe back to front) and a guy was still there from when we arrived, with his three kids, fishing. I've got to hand it to him (and them)... most young kids would have melted down long before this! He had just caught a good sized Pickerel (fish, not frog) that his son posed with. He was throwing it back so I asked if we could photograph it for the blog, which is often pretty fishless.
It's a beautiful animal... it's a shame about the lip boo-boo. We put it back into the water and it swam off. We paid him back for his fish with a monstrous Bullfrog that impressed all.
This guy must have been 6 or 7 inches long from nose to butt!

We went and sat for a minute near a usually snakey part. The problem was, there were so many people and dogs over here recently that there's no way a snake would be up. Another brave Bullfrog was hiding in plain sight.

As we walked next to the stream to exit, we saw a Garter poking around in the bushes. We gently removed it and yowza! It was a pretty big girl!
Roughly 28"!

Being in the middle of an off-route path worked to our (the 3 of us) advantage. Humans passed nearby but could never see our new friend. We let her do what she wanted and she slowly went towards the river and took a drink! Then she thought about going in...
but decided the current wasn't worth fighting, so she turned back, drank a bit more, and came back up.
We sat on rocks and watched her poking around at our feet. Then she went up and went between two big rocks. We watched the other side, expecting to see her noggin emerge, but it never came out! We looked... she had gone under one of the big rocks next to the water for the night. There was another smaller Garter already curled up under there, too!

Now, that is what it's all about for me. Watching nature doing what it does. Sure, we handled her at first for measurements, but then she just chilled and did snake stuff. All of the "cool dudes" who think Garters are lame, I feel sorry for you. This was the most rewarding herp experience of the year for me so far.

So, the secluded, haunted swamp trail didn't get us much but a hike filthy with humanity got us some cool encounters. I just can't figure this stuff out!

Here is a link with much more info on the Bridgewater Traingle. We plan on picking up the upcoming DVD of the documentary about the place, learning more, and going back. There's just gotta be more herps there!


  1. I love garter snakes, and water snakes, and redbacks...

    1. Me too! I might be lame but I'm always amazed by the beauty of an animal up close.