Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's up to 33° and windy! Let's herp! 1-25-2014

It has been bone chilling cold this week. All we have to show for ourselves are chilled bones. So when we noticed it was a balmy 33° on Saturday just before noon, we decided to herp! Of course it was damn cold and windy as hell, but perhaps a few Two-Lined Salamander larvae would be up.

We got to our favorite Pond in Norfolk County a little bit after noon and it was cold. Had I already mentioned that? Well, it was.

We got to a known 2-Lined spot and started sifting...

Before too long, we found a nice chubby larvae!

The water was cutting through the snow, going way back towards a vernal area that should be hoppin' in a few months!

This is a spring. Evidently, someone built up this spout ages ago and the water is said to be super yummy. It will be good to remember it come warmer weather!

I was flipping in the yummy stream...
when I said "Arrrgh"! I had seen a teeny tiny larvae skittering around but couldn't coax him into the observation tank! It was like 3/4" long!! I dug around and finally found him again and scooped him up!

Much to my surprise, there was an even smaller one in the tank with him!
I had never seen them that small! That wee guy is about 1/2" long!!!

So, we picked up and headed over to the other 2-Lined place further up the trail. Except, with everything looking different under a shroud of snow, we kinda wound up not where we thought we were heading. We weren't lost, but we had misplaced our "knowing where we are"-ness.

BUT, we stumbled upon (not into) a clean vernal pond that was hitherto unknown by us. This thing probably stays filled until summer time.

It is kind of in between our two Marbled Salamander sightings over the years. Could it be where that Threatened Species' larvae hang out? More research is needed, but having now discovered this general area, we might be on the right track.

We got to the other 2-Lined place and struck out but the water that flows there might come from the "new vernal" spot...

So, we did what we set out to do... we herped and found some Two-Lined Salamander larvae! Plus, a new spot of interest that isn't too far off our normal jaunt in this area! Win win!! All in just two frigid hours!

Man, I sure wish we could herp in some warm weather soon! Like, very soon!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Am Curious: Birder 1-23-2014

So there I was, heading into the Star Market in Watertown (maybe it's a Shaws, I honestly don't know). Ladled all over the parking lot, right near the entrance, were griddle-gulls and griddle-geese, just laying there. Why they were laying in the shade on the concrete in 7° temps is anyone's guess but I thought it best to walk slowly through them, so I wouldn't disturb them.

While at the checkout, I remembered that I had my pocket camera in my pocket and hoped that they would still be there upon my exit. Well, someone had pulled in and were throwing potato chips out the window for them and the gulls were in a frenzy! I got to my car and looked around the side of the store... there were the Geese... and some Ducks, all griddle-like in the sun!
How many pounds of duck-bill do you think that is?!

The potato chip folks drove over and started a new ruckus! I decided that my new box of Rice Chex wasn't so precious that I couldn't share with the wildlife! They came...

As I drove away, I noticed that where the chip car was, there was a pile of noshing birds, chomping away. I wonder what became of that car and its occupants...

So, it looks like I have started my Big Year!
1.) Canadian Goose
2.) Seagull
3.) Mallard Duck

Herping will commence soon.

After being thoroughly beaten to a pulp by Birder and all around genius Bob Ferguson, it is with great pleasure that I update the big three with the correct names...
1.) CANADA Goose
3.) Mallard Duck

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Laterale move at best... 1-14-14

So, after last weeks chilly but ultimately successful excursion, the weather took a turn for the painful and we got a deep-freeze. Single digit temps... and lower. Bone chilling chilliness. It sucked. That Friday, however, the temperatures were going to get above freezing and Saturday was to hit 50°!! And rain heavily. We decided to wait until Sunday (mid-40s with no rain) to check for some salamanders... give ol' Mother Nature another day of thawing.

So on Sunday, January 12th, we packed up and headed out to Worcester. Hope for Springs springs eternal, so we hit the Cascades. Here's what it looked like...

Beautiful: check. Running: check. Cold as fuck: check.

We flipped in the icy water for an hour or so, but turned up nothing but frozen fingers. The air was warmer but the water still had plenty of ice and it was rushing pretty quickly.

Andrea flipped these eggs, half buried in the mud, under a rock next to the stream. Possible Dusky eggs? No Mom was around but it's possible. Slightly larger than slug eggs, we're hoping research will tell us what they are.

We decided to check out another nearby place that also has great Spring potential and should be running a bit more slowly. Actually, the place was also flowing pretty quickly, but we flipped and flipped and flipped, with nary a Two-Lined Larvae to show for it. Still, we're extremely excited to come here in the Spring... we discovered it late last year and are eager to see what treasures it holds in the warmer climes.

So, we left Worcester not defeated, but herpless.

Actually, the ideal day to herp would have been Monday, the 13th... the temps were again mild and the sun was out. I wouldn't have been surprised to see a snake pop his head out. But I had to work. Andrea too.

Tuesday the 14th, however, it was still mild and it was pouring. It looked like it would be our last chance for a while to see herps. Andrea had left work to go home sick... she has the grippe. Me? I ducked out early and took a quick walk through the rain... neglecting my beautiful wife and her illness and greedily herping in the rain.

I went to our favorite farm in Suffolk County and my hunch paid off. I found our First Of Year Blue Spotted Salamander!
And right next to him, our first Redback of the year!

So, I may be going to hell for herping when my wife is sick on the couch. And I might get fired for ditching work to see two salamanders. And I'll probably die from the inevitable cold I caught walking in the cool rain, but you know what? IT'S WORTH IT!

The Year of the Salamander (as we herpers are calling it) is off to a good start!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

First herps of 2014! 1-5-2014

After our successful trip to Western MA last weekend, we got a bit cocky and went out on New Year's Eve Eve... December 30th. The temps were supposedly in the low 40s so we wanted to see if any Redbacks had come above ground and made themselves flippable. Well, we went over to Brook and it felt a helluva lot colder than the 40s. The big vernal looked something like this:

We knew pretty soon that we wouldn't see anything, but we enjoyed a brisk walk. We saw quite a few duck couples frolicking.

We find snakes in these rocks in the summer. Errrm... not this time...

I guess you have to try to appreciate beauty where you see it, even if it is not a herp.

So since then, we have had a storm that dumped a foot of snow on Boston and many days of between 0° and 10° temperatures. When I heard that the last day of our vacation (Sunday, Jan. 5th) was going to smash the 32° mark, I said "let's go to Allendale and try to find some New Year's 2-Lines!" And that's just what we did.

Rather than take the snowy trails, we cut through the Brat House area that is right next to our best Two-Line spot in the Woods.

This was my target...

I got right to work.

And had immediate success... an adult Two-Lined Salamander! Our first herp of 2014!

I tried to find more, but it wasn't as easy as that first guy!

I saw several more, both adults and larvae, but was unable to get them into the observation tank for pictures. Finally, after becoming totally soaked and numb, I landed a pudgy larvae for Andrea to shoot!
Nice gills, man! This was the only other specimen I could gather up for photos, so we went back to the car to thaw.

But these two Two-Lines are our earliest herps ever so I consider our brief trek a tremendous triumph!
Welcome to 2014!