Thursday, August 14, 2014

Herping 9 to 5! Ponkapoag 8-10-2014

With Mike at Day 3 of the Boston Comic Con, I was again unable to herp with him.    I had put out a post on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to accompany me, and was able to meet up with Téa and Keith at about 9 a.m. at Ponkapoag.  Target: Northern ringnecked snakes (neither of them had ever seen one).

We didn't see anything until we got to the dock near the cabins.

Flipping some rocks produced nothing but a skin.

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I think heard a "whoosh" sound that could be nothing other than a snake going through leaves. I looked down, and saw some stripes. Garter! It was the little hunchbacked garter that Mike had found the last time we were here. It bit me, but didn't hang on too long (although I still have some faint marks on my left middle finger from said bite), and of course musked me. Then it started to crawl through my bracelets in such a way that I couldn't safely get it out, and it also couldn't efficiently use the camera. I managed to get one photo with my cell phone:

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The rest of the wall didn't yield anything, which was crazy! I looked around the bushes in the vicinity, knowing that both garters and water snakes sometimes bask there, but couldn't find any. We carried on, hoping to get to the loose rocks shortly and find a ringneck.

On the way there, I flipped a rock and found a toad! We managed to scoot it out so we could safely put the rock back down.

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I swear, we flipped EVERY. FRIGGIN. ROCK. on that hillside and saw nothing but a few redbacks that managed to get away before we could get photos. Either Téa and Keith (sorry, I can't remember which of you it was!) found some cool spiders who were residing in the side of a boulder.

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On close inspection, I discovered tiny bodies in the web of one, which we determined were baby spiders!

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I think it was Keith who determined these were American House Spiders. I'm terrible at identifying things that aren't herps, but looking through some photos on line, I would agree.

Téa also found this little dayglow inchworm, whose species probably cannot be identified due to its small size.

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She also found a Gypsy Moth. I have seen hundreds of the caterpillars (when I was a kid there was a huge invasion of them one summer, and they were everywhere), but would not have known an adult. They're really pretty, in a "my children will destroy all your trees" sort of way.

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Hey, I did manage to finally photograph a single redbacked salamander! Good times!

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I was having one of those days when I was feeling like a crappy herper. Seriously, a garter, a toad, and a redback? This was normally a really productive place!

Time limitations kept us from going down the boardwalk in the bog, but close by Téa was able to catch a small garter snake.

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She did get musked; I remember this because she had to leave there shortly to go teach a class, and said, "Yay! I get to go teach my class while smelling of musk!" At least it wasn't water snake musk; say what you will about ringneck musk being the worst, but I disagree. Water snake musk smells like armpits and dog shit. Ringneck and garter musk is strong and sickly sweet, but water musk is just sour and gag-worthy.

At this point, Téa had to rush back to her car to get to her class, so she ran ahead and Keith and I stuck around. Things were uneventful through the beginning of the dam; it's been so dry this summer that the pond was quite low, and the lily pads where we usually see painted turtles and various frogs were just mud. I used the 42x zoom to see if there were any turtles on a log, but, nope.

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Wait, what's that blur on the right side of the log? Let's enlarge a bit.

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Well, I'll be. I caught *something* mid-flight...maybe a dragonfly. It's hard to tell with all that blur. No turtles, though, or frogs.

I did manage to startle two water snakes that were out basking on the rocks. We've seen a pair here before, and I believe that they are creatures of habit and tend to stick to the same basking areas. One completely disappeared before I got a photo, but I did manage to snap a pic of the other one before it slid into the rock crevices.

DSCN0037There was also some snake jerky about. I wonder if this was partially eaten by a bird of prey, or other predator? Hopefully it wasn't kill by some ignorant person who thinks snakes are for killing.

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And hey, look! A frog! Now I can't tell if this is a bullfrog or a green frog...that tympanum is HUGE, but it has a ridge that makes it look like a green...

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I should know this shit on sight, really. NAFHA is going to impeach me for this one.

This picture is a tough one to see...if you look closely at the upper right of the flowers, there is a hummingbird moth hovering. These things are so cool, and so incredibly difficult to photograph (especially when they are 20 feet away and you are trying to locate them through a zoom). DSCN0042

Keith then found this beautiful butterfly or moth...I forgot what it was, and I really suck at identifying these. I just spent some time with Google looking them up, to no avail. I'm certain we have found one of these in the past, but I can't recall what it is...help?  [ETA: Matt Sullivan just informed me that the butterly is a pearl crescent.  Thanks, Matt!]

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We were getting close to the parking lot, and I wasn't ready to leave. I wanted more herps, dammit! We took a path down to the water...I thought it dead-ended at a boulder, but you could access a small beach area just beyond it. Looking out into the water, I spied with my little eye...

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This is what Mike is the most jealous of from this trip - a basking snapper! After we photographed it, a heavy-breathing guy came down to the area (I'm really hoping he was breathing heavy because he was jogging...) and the turtle slid into the water. Good timing!

Keith had to leave then, but it was only about 1:00 and I was still full of energy. I decided that another walk around the pond was in order. Considering the trail around the pond is about 4.5 miles, I was probably a little crazy for doing this, but what the hell.

After a quick stop for some lunch, and an even quicker stop to look for wood frogs behind a large boulder, I hit up the dock area near the cabins again. It was quite busy this time (it had been empty this morning), and although a few people gave me some side glances, nobody asked me what I was looking for as I looked under a few of the rocks and along the shoreline. I found one garter taking a nap, and took my photo and let it be.

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I kept carrying on, all the while looking to either side of the path for snakes and keeping my ears open. I was also beginning to feel fatigued (I know when that starts because I don't lift my feet up enough when walking, and trip over roots and rocks), but at this point I was about halfway around from where I parked...so I may as well keep going. My hands and especially my fingertips were red and raw from flipping rocks and logs, but I didn't want to stop. While looking for a four-toed salamander (where we had seen one twice before), I instead found some redbacks and got some shitty voucher shots:

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I went down the boardwalk into the bog (because I really did need to tack on a few extra meters to my walk), and took a picture of a pitcher plant. When I uploaded it, I discovered I had some bonus sundew in the pic!

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I didn't last long in there. There were a couple of people who were very close behind me, and I didn't want them to be because I wanted to be able to stop and look for things (like carnivorous plants, snakes, and frogs), so at a good turning point I let them pass me and turned back. Right after crossing the golf course, I saw a robin plus three other birds. All but one took off, but the three other birds looked like this:

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My thought was maybe a juvenile robin that hadn't yet developed red - the size would be right, and the eyes looked like robin eyes. I haven't found anything to confirm that. I also thought it could be a female red-winged blackbird, but it doesn't appear to be that, either. Mike doesn't know, and he's the bird guy of the two of us. Any thoughts?

On my way back to the dam area, I had a very definite green frog hop out of a puddle.

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It was proving to be a pretty tough day here. I think the low water levels may have had something to do with it; turtles were probably basking further off than I typically see them, and who knows where the snakes were. I did finally see a painted turtle in the distance.

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I thought I could see something else after taking that picture, so I looked again, and a friend had joined him!

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The other side of the log looked interesting, too.

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At this point, I started to hear some yell-talking going on, so I figured there was no point in looking for turtles anymore because Yelly McYellerson was going to scare them in. Did you know that turtles have really good hearing? If you want to get pictures of them, or even see them at all, it's best to keep as quiet as possible. It's like birding, in that respect.

The yell-talkers turned out to be a pair of joggers, and also a man sitting with a woman and a dog in the general area where the water snakes were before. He wanted everyone to know there was a cormorant there, and that you could get within two feet of it and it wouldn't take off, and it must be hurt to act like that. Well, he was correct in the fact that you could get within two feet of it.

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As for being injured, I couldn't tell.

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I couldn't see a visible injury on it. Someone mention the Wildlife Center and the Odd Pet Vet, but, without heavy gloves, I wasn't about to try to handle a bird with a beak that looked like that. I was able to very closely approach the cormorants on the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades, so I hoped that, as a species, they were just not at all timid and that this one would be okay.

Meanwhile, I will leave you with this image that I absolutely adore.

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I made it back to the car and the clock read 5:00. I basically herped like it was my job. 9 to 5 herping, baby! I was exhausted, but regretted nothing.

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