Friday, July 18, 2014

Essex County Escapades 7-12-2014

It was Saturday and it was going to be in the 80s, but I really wanted to see my kid and my grandkid. So we made plans to herp in their neck of the woods. Andrea's cousin had shown us a place in Middleton (Essex County) where we saw plenty of Water Snakes and Bullfrogs last year. So we made an attempt to find it on our own. And we did!

Admittedly, things got off to a slow start, especially when I couldn't remember where a cool trail was and took us off on a wild goose chase. Eventually, we saw a tiny toad...

We found an open spot next to a duck-weed filled pond that showed a ton of promise...
It's gotta be sick with Racers here, but we didn't see any!

Finally, upon retracing our steps, we saw this nice Garter!
Chubby-chub-chub has a meal in her!

While in that area, I saw a Ribbon Snake streak into the water. I kept my eye on it and got a shot of it about 10 feet out. Then it came in to shore!! Oh good! I can catch it for a better photo! But it had completely disappeared. Damn!! And when I got home and looked at the head of this Ribbon... it was a Garter!
Man, if the head wasn't in the photo (and I didn't know it was until I uploaded it) I'd call this skinny guy a Ribbon all day long!

Next up... almost to the pond... was a larger American Toad!

So, we got to the pond, which was kind of low, and I started flipping rocks at the water's edge. This is how we found some young Nerodia last year. Unfortunately, the only thing I flipped was a wasp nest! I ran up and out in speedy fashion! A guy walking past said "what happened, see one of those black snakes?" Hah! I said no, that's what we were looking for, but we found wasps! So we talked a bit about snakes and stuff and he went on his way. He got about 20 feet up and said "here's one right here... it doesn't like me!" He described it (as I ran up) as brown... with white and black... hmmm...

Now, we'd found a skin that looked like it had banding on it, but had smooth scales... could it be? Yes... the guy had a very angry Milk Snake striking in his direction!
It bit me a bit too...
But Andrea calmed this beauty before it crawled back to whatever it was doing before we so rudely interrupted.

Well, right up the path was the swampy pond area I had been looking for when I misplaced my direction. And it lived up to my memories. First off, there were loads of heron nests... and a crazy sound coming from them!
Heron nests

This Bullfrog and small Pickerel Frog were right near each other...
In a moment that I wish was filmed, the Bullfrog got spooked (probably by us walking by) and jumped forward, right into the Pickerel stick, launching the smaller frog right over its head. Comic brilliance!

This was a Bullfrog that seemed way to big to still have so much tail, but there you have it... a Bullfrog Mullet.

We were searching for a Water Snake... thinking it would be easy. Remember, we thought we had three snake species already and were looking for a fourth. But I'll be damned, no no Nerodia that day. This large (28") Garter was cruising along by the water, though. She wasn't a fan of me, I'll tell ya...
She commandeered Andrea's backpack.

Then, atop a large boulder, it looked like someone had left behind some swimming goggles or something. I trekked up to get a better look. It wasn't until I was almost on top of it that I realized it was a turtle... a Musk Turtle!!
I wish I had seen it scale that steep boulder!

We headed back and I searched a stream and found a small Green Frog!

Then, with the help of binoculars, we spied some Painted Turtles, bringing our species count to eight (though we still thought we had nine).

The real treat of the day, however, was seeing my 7 months pregnant daughter and her husband. Oh, and my granddaughter Lilah.

Herps and some time with family. I am pleased.

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