Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 14 - Solo in Suffolk

I  bet anything that Mike has already used this blog title.  I suppose I could come up with something more original, but I won't.

So, yeah, Mike's been sick, like, possible tick-borne illness sick.  This started pretty much on our way back from Virginia.  He spent a lot of last week in bed, and didn't have the energy to go herping with me this past weekend.

So, I took off, on my own, to a spot that's only about 4 miles away.  I wanted to stick close to home, and go somewhere that wasn't creepy. I got there at about 1:15.

The first thing I did was check out a field that we pass on the way to the parking spot. There are some nesting boxes there for birds, and it's one of the few open areas I know of there, and the turtles had to nest somewhere, right?



Ugh...I don't think this was a snapping turtle nest, either.  The eggs were smaller and didn't seem to be as round.

I think this was a snapper's nest, though.


Yes, I did check the egg that is still in the was eaten.

Well, I did satisfy my curiosity,  but I was pissing off some swallows, so off into the woods I went!

I flipped a few rocks.  Nothing.  Every time I got close to the water I heard the sound of frogs jumping in.  Hmmm...this wasn't going too well.  It had rained last night, and the leaves were still wet, so I probably wouldn't even hear the familiar "swoosh" of a snake going through them.

Until I did.  And missed a large garter snake, who took off into the bushes.  As I was debating following, a smaller one also took off into the bushes.


I may have said out loud, "I'm a shitty herper!"  I then decided to head into the bushes to get at least one of these snakes.

I managed to catch the larger of the two, who was rather docile and shy.


I said my goodbyes to her, and we went our separate ways.

I made my way to the other park next door, the one that isn't woodsy and used to be a landfill.  It's a great place to find snakes on warm sunny days.

The first snake I saw was this Northern Water Snake:


It took off pretty quickly before I could get too close, into the brook.  I had no choice but to go on.

Now, some of the rocks along here are flippable, and some aren't.  Some are larger and heavier than they look, and trying to flip them can be dangerous for what is living underneath...I did see one garter snake that day that looked as though it had an old injury, possibly some crushed ribs.  I kept this in mind as I went along.

I saw something then that I was really hoping I would see...something that I had no evidence of existing in this county/city.  It was just there, next to some rocks, out in the open...when I picked it up, it musked profusely and tried to strike the camera repeatedly.  When I started taking photos, I found out that in between my UV lens and my camera lens was fogged up, and I would have to find some way to contain/calm this snakes if I wanted some decent photos.

DSC_0027 was a milk, because I FUCKING RULE. I also kept this foggy picture, since you can see the huge dollop of musk on it.  It's like sour cream on some chili.

I had had the foresight to put a pillow case in my backpack, in the event I needed my hands free of snake.


This was around the point that I realized my new friend was shedding.  The skin on its entire last quarter came off in my hand when I next picked it up.

You can see the beautiful skin underneath here:


I stayed sitting on the ground and spent some time with this snake, just enjoying its beauty and taking photos.  It never calmed down and wasn't enjoying my company much.



I did manage to get a rough measurement of it...34 inches!

Now, a grown woman sitting on the ground with a nearly 3-foot snake is sure to attract the attention of passersby.  This park is usually more crowded than it was that day, so only a few people stopped by and asked questions (and a couple hurriedly went past).  It had fun educating folks and giving a brief talk on what kinds of snakes can be found here.  I was also asked if the snake was "poisonous"...I answered politely, but, really, why would I be handling a venomous snake with my bare hands? (Okay, you free-handle freaks, STFU!)

Someone asked me what would happen if I let go of the snake.  Since I was done with my photographs, I decided to demonstrate:


And that was that.  Bye-bye, milk snake, county record for NAHERP!

I saw a few more garters that I left in situ:




I also flipped a small garter that proceeded to shit all over my hand.



I saw a real beauty of a water snake:


 As well as my friend from earlier, who was going to shed any day.



Of course, I see a turtle on the river on a day I don't have any zoom lenses.  Well, fuck me running.


I had to head back, since it was past 5 o'clock now...I saw a familiar gait of something traveling in the grass.  Okay, this is hard to explain, but I can tell some species by the way they the difference between a wood frog hopping and a pickerel frog hopping.  I can often tell without really seeing it what it is.

There's one that hops but also has a weird stumbling walk, especially when they are newly metamorphed.

I give you...A TINY TOAD!!!!  It's about 3 weeks earlier than I expected to see them; they usually come out of the water the first two weeks of July.  With such a shitty, late winter, I'm surprised the toads bred early enough for this, but I'm thrilled nonetheless.


I really hate to do this, but I have to end this post on a tragic note.  On my way back to the car, I was posting shit to Facebook and chatting with friends, and I saw, under a bush, a freaking HUGE garter snake.  It had to be a female, she was so large.  I was so excited to get so close to her, and she wasn't moving...hey, wait, why are there so many flies here?

DAMMIT.  This big, beautiful garter snake...she was dead.


This was after I pulled her out from under the bush.  I measured her...27".  It appeared she died from head trauma; whether it was an accident or intentional, I won't ever know, but I assume the worst.

It's really a damn shame.  She may have been happy in these woods for ten years or so, eating frogs and having little garters...sorry to end on such a bad note, but I'm sticking to the chronology, more or less, and this was the last animal I saw.


I'm going to look at the milk snake again, okay?