Monday, October 13, 2014

The Annual Autumn Adventure 10-5-2014

We were hoping to recreate last year's successful trek to Hampden County, MA with a group of herpers intent on finding the elusive species of Western MA. Sadly, many of our friends couldn't make it but Andrea and I, along with Matt S and Ryan did show up and we had a pretty great day!

We met there at 9 AM (yes, we got up stupid early) and headed to the nearby vernal. It was still pretty cold, low 50s, and there had been a lot of rain during the week. This is salamander heaven and we started right off with a lot of them. First up, as is often the case, was a Redback.

Matt found this tiny Spotted Newt metamorph. New to the eft stage, it wasn't even orange yet.

This place has a 50/50 Redback to Leadback ratio... sometimes more lead than red! This is an example of a lovely Leadback.

We initially thought the bloke in the middle was a Jefferson's but this picture is two Spotted Sals and a Leadback.
The middle guy is a recent metamorph... almost no spots and he still has little gill-nubs.

Twins of Lead.

We thought we had another Jeff's... no, another weird new Spotted metamorph!

Triple Red Eft flip!!

By Jove, I think we've got it! An honest to goodness Jefferson's!!

Ryan flipped this really confusing specimen... a Spotted for sure but he has gill-nubs, nearly no spots and long toes. I started to wonder if Jeff's and Spotteds could hybridize...

Wee Wood Frog time!
We had expected a lot more frogs but there was quite a chill in the air. Maybe later they would warm up.

A proper Spotted.

Ryan or Matt found this tiny Eft.

We headed upwards. We had hopes of finding the venomous snake dens of the area. We have been looking for a while now and we have some good ideas where to look but we were considering today a good reconnaissance trip. Andrea and I let the younger gents go ahead. We had decided to take this grueling trip incrementally. A rest half way up suited us just fine.

Andrea is not a fan of heights. This is an extraordinary picture because she is fairly close to the edge.

Matt has no such worries.

Long story short, we saw no snakes atop the mountain but we did discover new parts and many open possibilities. Next Spring will be our next trip and we're armed with more information. We'll find those guys yet! One area rife with tallus gave us an unexpected herp... a plump Pickerel Frog!

The sun had come out and, at least atop the mountain, it was getting warm. Andrea struck first in the snake department with a shoestring Garter!
Rock flipping really does in one's manicure.

She then found a shy and retreating Wood Frog.

While she was humming the sad Charlie Brown music to the frog, I had found a medium sized Garter Snake on the prowl.

Heading back into a sunny, rocky patch, I saw Ryan up ahead drop his backpack and yell "Racer" and he started to run. Much to my surprise, he ran down a small, speedy Black Racer!! Damn! I was impressed!!
This little beauty was very personable and didn't bite anyone who handled it.

Andrea and I sat for a bit while the other two worked their asses off. Matt yelled up that there were more Racers out and about... he'd just had one disappear on him. Ryan had lost another one under a tree. We looked around for it for a while... then I noticed it in the tree itself. Of course, I could have gotten a decent photo but decided to lunge for it instead. I missed it by a mile. DAMN!! I suck.

We stayed poking around up there for a while, then carried on. I found this circular Leadback at a very high altitude.

Another pretty Wood.

Ryan found this gorgeous Gray Tree Frog, a favorite for all of us!

He also flipped this awesome Spider.

I forget who got this lil shoestring Garter...

Matt found this Garter, possibly the most beautiful one any of us had ever seen!!
That orange is just stunning!
My blurry pictures do not do it justice.

This little guy had come up pretty high!

We kind of split up around here, Ryan and I went one way and Andrea and Matt went another. I know Matt found a few Garters that we didn't get pictures of for the blog (but he has vouchers for the database). My first sighting was a very full shoestring Garter that I wasn't keen on handling much.

Two feet away, Ryan had another.

Then he got a decent sized Garter that we tried to make a scary forced perspective shot with.

Another shoestring for me...

An Eft for Ryan...

A ferocious fellow that wouldn't pose for me...

Meanwhile, Andrea had found a brilliant, bright Eft!

One of Matt's Garters...

We found a nice adult Spotted. It was nice to see some nice defined yellow spots for a change!

Ryan then found the most comically ornery shoestring Garter of all time. He was a total bookmark and kept lunging at Ryan's hand! This tenacious little bruiser was a favorite for sure!!
In was in pieces watching this guys antics!

We were all back together and heading back to the car. We wanted to check that vernal again in hopes of a marbled Salamander... no easy feat in Massachusetts. Ryan flipped this cantankerous Newt who would not cooperate for a photo. He just kept walking away. This is the best I could get... and it makes me laugh.

Wood Frogs were indeed up by now. Here's one that Andrea found.

And one with an eft.

Red and Spotted...

Eft tunnel.

Ryan flipped another Jefferson's!
(Calm down, we had to move it to replace the log.)


We wanted to take a quick side trip to a stream area before dinner. We wanted some Two-Lined Salamanders and Dooks (Northern Duskys). Two Lines were all over the place!

Matt found the first Dook!

More Two-Lines...
2-lines in Hampden

This fungus looks like pretzels and made us remember that we were really hungry.

One more Dookie and we were outta there!

We ate a lot, then headed out on the long drive home. 11 species ain't bad for October. Add to that the knowledge that we gained and the fun we had and I call that a great day! It was sad that TeĆ”, Steve, and Matt M were unable to come, though. Next time for sure!

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