Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Every Picta tells a story. 7-26-2014

We were eager to get back to a turtle-centric place in Middlesex County, MA and this sunny Saturday seemed as good as any day to do it. Unfortunately, we overslept a bit and didn't get there until 10:30 AM. Oh well, turtles don't care.

Snakes might care a little, though. In fact we didn't see one until we met this big gal who was all nestled up, dreaming of whatever Garter Snakes dream of.
I stepped closer to try for a better shot and she disappeared into a small hole... impressive for a snake her size!

But we were here for turtles and we saw dozens... hundreds!! Almost every clump or stick in the water was fitted with at least one Painted Turtle. Here are a few:

This guy seemed to be floating on the water's surface. Obviously, he had something to sit on just below the surface!

Bullfrogs were also plentiful We heard both Bulls and Greens, but only saw the former.

Yep... Painted Turtles and Bullfrogs! Oh my!
^ check out the lower left corner of this shot!

Also enjoying the pond was our Big Year #78, a Belted Kingfisher!
#78 Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)

And... more Painteds!

There are other turtle species here, though we didn't see any this day. This is a place where they are releasing head-started Blandings Turtles, hoping they will take to it and start breeding here. Seeing this nest cover is a good sign... it looks like at least one Blandings in the area was breeding and laying.

This was where we turned back. This place can be super-buggy and the next portion of the trail is usually where it becomes unbearable. Besides, we had another new spot we wanted to check out today. This Bullfrog watched us walk back.

After a couple visiting from England moved away from the solitary bench that were coveting (and asked "are there any turtles here?") we relaxed and watched a Kingbird fishing and buzzing after insects.
Kingbird feeding
She was busy... she had little fuzzy mouths to feed!
Kingbird feeding
And she did just that!
Kingbird feeding
It was very rewarding watching this behavior!

On the way back, we saw some more noggins poking up...

Andrea found (and humiliated) this wee American Toad!

I was able to get right up in this Bullfrog's grille without him jumping off! So regal was he!

Andrea wound up captured on the Planet of the Apes!

So, that was that. We got to the car and went a few miles down the road to another place... one that was supposed to be a place for Box Turtles. Having fruitlessly walked through miles and miles of Box Turtle terrain (and coming up empty), I can say for sure that the habitat looks right. Let's hope that while not finding them again, we see something!!

Well, we sure did! The first animal flipped was a Blue-Spotted Salamander! Not only tough to find in July, but being a “Species of Special Concern” in Massachusetts, we considered ourselves quite lucky!
There's possibly a bit of Jefferson's in this guy but for now, we'll just call it a Blue-Spotted!

Way more common but just as odd to find this time of year was the next Ambystoma we flipped... a Spotted Salamander!

Very strange indeed. But there was a huge (mostly dry) vernal right behind us so this might be a fun place in the early Spring!

Next, we made our first visual contact with a Green Frog!

We got to a sandy area and scoured it like we always do for Boxes. The fields, the sandy parts, the piney forests... everything screamed Box, but we never did see one. No big surprise there. While searching, however, we saw this big Garter!
We caught her to measure her (26 1/2") and she bit me a few times to show me her displeasure.

After that, we saw a Lead and a Red phase of the Redback Salamander... another welcome Summer Sight!

So, we're pretty happy with this new (to us) place, even though I have absolutely no recollection of what it's called. We will definitely go back.

On the way to the highway, we stopped at a place we'd noticed on the way in. Stream and rocks... color me interested! The first rock flipped had a Garter skin under it, but we saw no animals here during our quick perusal. But just LOOK at it!

Not a bad way to spend a day, huh? I love turtles and I saw more than I could count. That's how I like it!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Triple musk Friday! 7-25-2014

Knowing we'll be unable to herp on Sunday, we decided to take a quick hike through Cutler on Friday Night. This plan completely backfired the last time we tried it (no herps) but hope springs eternal. We got there at about 6 PM and hit the trails.

Again, it was pretty quiet. We got to a dirt-bike place and noticed a ramp anchored to the "track" (the "track" is a sandy place favored by nesting turtles. Not a great place for that but turtles never listen to me...). As any good herper would, we flipped the ramp and startled two American Toads, who hopped into the corner!

We searched the rocks and found a nice Racer skin, but no Racers.

On the trail, we saw a Leaf-footed bug.
Acanthocephala terminalis- leaf footed bug
Are those eggs on it's back? I can't find any info on such a thing... anyone?

Andrea somehow spotted this wee one hopping along!

Mud puddles along the trail yielded a couple of Green Frogs.

Darkness was falling and we had to decide how far we wanted to go in, knowing that we still had to make it out before it got too dark. We decided on a clearing before the third boardwalk. We got there and were poking around. I heard Andrea make an exclamation and looked up and she had a handful of snake. As I went over, I said "looks like another big one!" and her hands separated, showing me that in fact it was two Garters!
They both musked her but GOOD!
These two log-flipped Thamnophis made us very very happy, if a bit stinky! We headed back on a foul-smelling Cloud 9.

We found this Green Frog in a mud puddle... he had a vulture eye. You think I'm mad?? Could a mad person get a photograph like this?
It was the croaking of his hideous detuned banjo string!

Dusk had settled and we were in head-lamp mode in the forest. A Wood Frog hopped past. I had missed one on the way in, but got this one! Yeah!

Back out on Racer Alley, we were walking along and I saw a flat Ringneck right on the trail. Bikes fly through here and we've seen a dead Ringneck before. I made an audible "oh no..." and leaned to move the carcass off of the trail. And it started to crawl!! Yay!! It wasn't dead!!
A real beauty too... and over a foot long!
Oh, and it musked us both.

We headed back through the twilight smelly and happy.

Almost to the car, we heard quite a thrashing in the grass. It turned out to be this massive American Toad! Just how old might this bruiser be?
Please note... we added Toad pee to our list of hand-liquids.

We saw some fresh snake poop on the way out, too. I'm not posting the picture. We couldn't find the relieved snake anywhere.

From there, we went to get a sandwich (after scrubbing the still-potent musk on our hands). Then we went to visit a friend in the 'hood. After a few beverages and many laughs, we headed home... flipping a few stones in his garden on the way out. We saw a few Dekay's and made it a Musk Trifecta!

That night's shower couldn't completely remove the evidence of our successful evening. We drifted off to sleep with an olfactory reminder of our fun night wafting in and out of our breathing space.