Monday, September 15, 2014

Excited for Failure! 9-13-2014

Well, being gluttons for punishment, we planned a trip to Western MA to look for some of the species that we don't have here in our Eastern neck of the woods. So, we got up a bit after 5 AM and hit the road before 7. Half way there, I was almost asleep at the wheel so we got loud and silly and got ourselves all pumped up. Thus, this post's title. We knew we'd strike out yet again here.

So, we got there around 9 AM and it was still about 54° out. And drizzly looking. Not exactly herp weather. But, we found a bunch of Redbacks fairly easily.
It felt like October to them, too. You know... they're super-common but we were very happy to see them. This place isn't easy for us to find anything!

We saw a very loud group of people foraging around... unusual because we sometimes see folks shooting guns here, but never doing nature stuff. We said hi and asked "whatcha lookin' for?" A guy replied "salamanders". I told them of our Redbacks and that they were the only species we'd ever seen there, but we'd be interested to know what they came up with. "yeah..."

It was then that I realized they were there looking for Boxes and Hogs and were being vague to me on purpose. Fair enough... they don't know me from Adam. But that guy that threw me a short, rude answer when I was trying to be nice and help him, well... he can rot in hell, the smarmy bastard. I let it bug me for a while, then moved on, away from their incredibly loud yell-talking.

We flipped a few more Redbacks and Leadbacks.
^ I see you, Mr. Plethodon!

As we ascended a hill, the sun came out a bit and I warmed up. Let's hope the herps would too! Andrea became Madame Bufo and spotted a few American Toads milling about!
^ check out the parotoids on this guy!

So, we descended the hill, warm in the sun... and I saw a shoestring Garter dart into a large mound of sticks. Retrieving him for a photo was nigh on impossible but it perked me up. Any snake here is a welcome sight.

This is a big Redback. About 5 inches! I hate to hold salamanders but this guy needed to have a size reference!

Well, Andrea saved the day, as she often does. I was poking around a field and she knelt down and picked up something, saying "Well, what do we have here?" She had found a juvenile Black Racer!
This is only our second Northern Racer that we've been able to photograph this year!!! Needless to say, we were charmed beyond belief with this niblet.
Not to say that he wasn't all Racer! He shook his tail and struck a few times, but still posed nicely for us!
He lay in Andrea's hand like it was a chaise lounge!
Even when we released him, he didn't stray far.
That little guy surely made our day. Even though we have Racers nearer to us, it was a treat to see this guy... our first to photograph since May.

Andrea found some eggs... not sure what they were, but they were empty.

Then those "salamander" seekers came through again. Some of them were OK but that same guy was a dick-head again and gave me some disrespect. At least I took it as such. Fuck him. I hope he later fell off a cliff. But it did piss me off and make me grumpy. I got even grumpier when I got back to the car after 3 1/2 hours and noticed that I hadn't even closed the door.
Nope, I was not having a good day mentally!

This Cicada Killer laughed at me.
Cicada Killer

So, we got some food and headed over to Amherst to check out a creek that is purported to have some species we'd love to see. We were hoping to beat the rain, but it seemed to be right on time. The forecast said rain starting at 1 PM and right on the button, it started up. We walked around the nearby pond and saw some frogs... a Pickerel...

and a Green.

We headed over to the stream, and our route passed through a very short residential stretch. There was a backed up rain grate with a nice, deep puddle. Many frogs were jumping away from us there! What a great little micro-pond! We got pictures of a few! Here's a Bull.

I have always poo-poo'd dip-nets. It's cheating. But I had recently picked one up for winter larvae scooping... it seems safer... and had it in my backpack. No time like the present to try it out!
One easy Green!

There is also a stone wall around one of the houses. It's tough to be stealthy and flip, but I did my best, and flipped a wee niblet Garter.
There was a little kid and his (soon to be?) Dad there and we showed them the snake and let the kid hold it gently. He was reluctant to let it go but he did... a future herper, perhaps!

We then flipped the Twins of Evil... two more Garters!
These two charmed a young couple who had never seen snakes up close before!

Somewhere nearby was a deflated female Garter, happy to be relieved of her burden! Here are the last two of the Thamnophis Quintuplets! One guy wouldn't leave his coil while the other just wouldn't stay still!

One more look at the shy guy...

We got down to the stream. It was low but running nicely. We'd hoped for at least some Two-lines and Dookies and maybe more. No Dukes to be found, but the Two-Lined Salamanders were plentiful and beautiful!

I had taken a funny step on a boardwalk earlier and my lower back was starting to feel like it had broken glass grinding around in it. I sat for a while and enjoyed watching Andrea flip a few Two-Lines!

We were having a blast but the rain was getting heavier and as we proceeded up the trail and up the stream, the canopy was getting thinner... and we were getting wetter! We decided to call it a day and head back to the car. On the way, I couldn't resist checking that wall again... there were a few spots I had missed! One spot revealed a Garter Sandwich!
This was no shoestring! I gently lifted the rock and Andrea grabbed a super feisty, medium sized Garter!
All this and attitude too!

There were some gorgeous Green Frogs sitting on the rocks surrounding the flooded sewer grate as we went by, enjoying the rainy day.

We got to the car, got ice cream on the way home and drove into the night. It was torture as I was fighting to stay awake and my back was screaming at me. But we made it and we had another day of herping in the books. I crawled my carcass to bed at 7 PM... wondering if I should even bother doing this anymore. Am I getting too old? Am I just getting too cranky? Am I just over tired? Yes, yes and yes.

Andrea puts up with a lot of crap from me. But we both love being in nature. Even when it's late October weather in early September.

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