Monday, December 22, 2014

Dookie Queen for a Day! 12-10-2014

We weren't sure about herping last weekend. It's winter, fer chrissake! But our friend Teá wondered if we wanted to go look for Northern Dusky Salamanders and we're never one to turn down a Dookie! We all decided that, since we'd have to drive at least an hour to get to Dookie Country anyway, we might as well double it and do some Mudpuppy recon in Western MA. There is an introduced population in and around the Connecticut River and we've been researching it and trying to pinpoint an area that would support these brutes. By the way, they have been here for 200 years now so introduced or not, they are part of our state's herps... so there!

So we headed out at about 9:30 and got to our destination in Franklin County, MA around 11:30 AM. Our goal was to visit a DCR place, look at maps and try to learn some more. And we did just that. We had a very helpful DCR staff member to talk with and she gave us some great tips, including volunteering next Fall when the nearby canal gets drained. They need folks to corral the 'puppies and fish. We are so there! She also pointed out a path that got us to the river's edge! Bingo!! We dared not dream! So, down we went!
Somewhere beneath this tumultuous surface, there are Mudpuppies!

We got to some more serene waters, just off the side of the main river flow so we set about some flipping. Mudpuppy larvae was always a possibility, though we never found one.

We found many Crayfish.

We all worked our way through very clear, thick ice at times.

The most ubiquitous creature living under the rocks were these aquatic isopods (so said Teá... I was calling them "little grey guys").
Aquatic Isopod

We had a very good look around, knowing that a Mudpuppy larvae could be under any rock but we never turned one up. So, we headed over to Mt. Toby in hopes of our goal... Northern Dusky Salamanders. Of course, on the way, we asked if Teá wanted to play the Dookie Game... first one to find one gets lunch bought for them. In a three-person game, the last person to find one would have to buy for the other two. The game was, once again... afoot!

Well, she showed us who was boss right away. There in the icy stream water, with an air temp in the mid-30s, she found her Dookie!
We felt swindled. Surely she played us!!

I had a Two-Line hand me my ass right after that. But clearing some leaves dislodged a skinny Pickerel Frog from his nap. He didn't look too pleased with me.

We moved further on and we got our Two-Lined Salamander revenge!

Teá found the next Pickerel, hibernating in plain sight, underwater in the shadow of a large overhanging rock.

I was upstream desperately trying to find a Dookie when I heard them call from below... she had just found a hibernating Green Frog!
Hey, we had four species on December 20th!! Hot darn!

Andrea discovered a successful way to herp in a rapidly moving stream (which it was): Set the dip net in the current and flip a rock. This beautiful Two-Lined larvae was pulled out in this manner.

This technique also worked wonders with this wee guy:
There's just no way anyone would have seen this 1/2 inch of Two-Lined Salamander larvae with the naked eye!

Admittedly, by this time our hands were numb and frozen and we were wet and dirty. We turned back, satisfied with our victories! I tried Andrea's dip net strategy a couple of more times on the way out and got a nice Two-Lined larvae and a small adult.

So, we crowned Teá Dookie Queen of the Day and Andrea and I both had to split the lunch tab. Luckily, she didn't take advantage of us. But it is only fitting as Teá was the person responsible for getting us up and out on this frigid Saturday! And we consider it a rousing success on every front. New Mudpuppy info and four herp species in late December! If it is the last day we get out into the field in 2014 (it hopefully wont be), then it is a fine ending to a frustrating but memorable year.

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