Monday, October 20, 2014

31 Snakes has October. (Saturday the 18th, anyway)

The nights hadn't been getting too cold and it was supposed to be fairly warm on Saturday (before a temperature drop that we might not climb up from) so we picked a pretty snakey place to poke around for our possible last snake of 2014. We chose a wonderful refuge in Worcester County, MA. Mostly a turtle place, we were really hoping for at least one more  snake for the year.

It was wet and cool when we got there (with Matt S again, the son I never had and never wanted) and it took some time to get a photo of anything. Frogs kept jumping away and no turtles were up yet. Our first herp was a welcome one... Matt flipped a Four-Toed Salamander!

It was still kind of cloudy, but it was warming up. Still not enough sun for the turtles but Matt was staying near the water as we went along (hoping for a lifer Leopard Frog which are supposed to be here) when he came upon our goal... a snake!! A cloudy-blue Garter Snake!
Garter 1

OK, so at least one was out!! We went along what is normally a very turtley trail but the logs were empty. I wondered if we should bother going down a side path to a bird-blind. It's usually a good place to spy on turtles but since none were up...  Well, Andrea said "oh, why not?" so we started in. About 10 feet in, we found this late-year Northern water Snake!
He took a small chomp on me (that's my blood on the wood) but overall was a pretty well behaved cyclops snake. (Had we seen this guy earlier in the year? We have seen a number of one-cloudy-eyed Nerodia here.)

So, yeah... this path was fine. We noticed a pond that is usually hidden by trees and it looked promising for Ribbon Snakes to be nearby, but we saw none. We started back and I saw Matt fall. As I asked "are you OK?" I realized he had thrown himself (as he does) after a snake! He had found a nice Ribbon!!

While he was spending some time with his find, Andrea found a Garter that I had stepped right over! Duh!
Garter 2

I went back to photograph the well-posed Ribbon again. You don't get many chances like this with such a speedy species!
So, evidently snakes were up! Let's just keep going up the trail and see what happens!

Well, we found another Garter who was super calm.
Garter 3
Garter 3

Then we saw two Garters hanging out in the bushes.
Garter 4 and 5

An old beaver dam that is usually draped with Water Snakes held two more Garters!
Garter 6
Garter 7

Our 8th Garter was digesting a meal.
Garter 8

Hey look! Another Ribbon, also digesting!

While I was photographing the Ribbon, Matt kept stumbling across more Garters, all within 15 feet of me! Here's #9
Garter 9

#10, with a neck scar.
Garter 10

#11, who was takin' no guff!
Garter 11

That was exhilarating! We went a ways with no more snakes for a bit. We were hoping to add species to keep our 3 week streak of double-digit finds in order. We hoped for some frogs. Greens came through in spades for us!
I love their variation!

Then Andrea spotted a spotted frog... was it? Yes! A Leopard! Matt made a very nice catch on his lifer!
Gorgeous specimen, too!

Keeping with the frog theme, Andrea spied this large Wood Frog that I must have thought was a leaf!

Matt found Garter #12 who didn't much care for being found.
Garter 12

Andrea, the frog queen, caught a Peeper who turned it around and caught her!

Now, where were we? Oh yes... Matt found Garter #13.
Garter 13

Here's #14...
Garter 14

Matt went off trail and saw a most extraordinary thing. He said "there are two Garters mating"! I said "Really??" He said "if they're not mating, they're doing something that looks just like it!"

I headed up that way and as I got to the top of the small hill, I saw entwined tails! Oh my!Matt got this phone shot:
Garter 15 and 16
The female took off and I was only able to get a shot of the hemipene-blocked male.
So sorry, dude.

OK, it was officially weird. It was as snakey as a late April day! I found this Garter, #17. a big one...
Garter 17
and my foot was almost on #18, which Andrea pulled out of my big shoe's way!
Garter 18
Unable to resist, we put them together.
Garter 17 and 18

We spotted a little vernal that was full of Green Frogs. Matt found this wee shoelace, who had a small meal in him.
Garter 19

Garter #20 (!) was spotted by Andrea, taking a snooze.
Garter 20

We had done a complete circle on the path and had come back to the beginning. But we had seen no turtles yet! So very strange at this place. I mean, this is a place where we can get 30-40 turtles in a single photograph! But not today. We started up the trail again, intent on at least getting to the beaver dam area for a second time. Sure enough, Garter #21 was stretched out on the path, looking for 4-leaf clovers.
Garter 21

I went to the water's edge in hopes of a Bullfrog... we were at 8 species! No, but I saw another Ribbon Snake!
Another miraculous healing job on this guy! I wonder what got him here!

I didn't have my binoculars on me. It made scouring the far off logs a chore. But, at last, we found one intrepid Painted Turtle having a cloud-bask!

Along the trail, we saw some garters that we had already photographed, still in the same places, enjoying the warm day. We headed back towards the car. Matt lunged into the bushes, barely missing a small shoestring Ribbon Snake!! He scoured the grassy area and came up with a Presto-Change-O Garter shoestring!
Garter 22

There were plenty more Garters looking for a bite to eat on the last stretch of trail.
Like #23...
Garter 23

and #24, who looks as though he had already found that bite to eat!
Garter 24

We got to the car and were sad that we had had such a failure of a trip. Only 9 species. So, we planned to flip a few railroad ties at the entrance of the place. I had seen Redbacks there before. Of course, I found Garters #25 and #26 instead. Wee ones, too.
Garter 25 and 26

Finally, with a stroke of luck, we flipped Species #10... a glorious Redback!

Our streak was intact and we had seen thirty snakes!!! That is probably the best snake day of the year! And it's October 18th!! So, if we don't see any more snakes this year, at least we , like the two mating Garters, went out with a bang!

Of course, a great day never really ends. We went to meet some friends at a pizza pub for dinner and at about 6 PM, we pulled into the parking lot, ready to go eat. There on a stone wall next to the car was a big ol' Dekay's Snake, getting up for the night to hunt.
doyle's dekay
I had to pose it on my light colored shoe as it was getting too dark for Andrea's phone camera to work!

31 snakes on October 18th. One for each day of the month. I hope to see more reptiles this year but if I don't, can I really complain?

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