Sunday, January 11, 2015

What Herpers do when it's cold. 1-11-15

Happy New Year. I have had flu symptoms for the entirety of 2015. It has been brutally cold of late, as in -2° for my drive in to work last Thursday. So, just what does a moronic herper do when it's too cold to herp?

Well, one thing I have done is enter a Bird Count Contest. I will surely lose but it gives me a chance to practice my bird skills and add to my life total. I ended 2014 with 112 species and figure I'll just add on new ones from there. So, we went out on New Year's Day to find some birds. I wanted to get a head start, and I wound up with 9 species, all repeats from last year.

I did, however, get my new Big Year started. I want to photograph and ID 30 mammals and, not surprisingly, #1 is an Eastern Gray Squirrel!
Mammal #1 Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)

We had a couple more trips, including a rewarding sea-bird one with Teá, which got my contest totals up to 16, but illness has kept me from getting out more often. Plus, it has been bone-chillingly frigid out. But news of a rare bird at Forest Hills Cemetery got us bundled up and out the door in the chilly 23° temps on Saturday Jan. 10th. I added a few more common birds but the guest of honor, a Black-backed Woodpecker, was absent. We saw signs of his presence, however... like peeled tree bark:

and a fuck-ton of birders.
One guy had come up from Long Island, even.

We spent the afternoon freezing ourselves to death but Mr. Woodpecker wasn't following his schedule. We resigned ourselves to look again Sunday morning. Andrea took some pictures of stone-work at the cemetery. This one reminded us of the keeled scales of a serpent. One track minds...

We awoke with the reptile lights (well, the hungry cats really) on Sunday morning and decided to head over to the cemetery to see if our Pecker Pal was there early. We got there a bit after 7:30 AM and were immediately greeted by a group of birders (many of whom were there yesterday) pointing their cameras up into the trees. I followed suit.

Now, we never got any great shots but it's nice to finally see the fruits of our patience and cold feet. This is our lifer #113, the Black-backed Woodpecker.
Black-backed Woodpecker #20 (Lifer 113)
I feel 3 pictures isn't so bad to put here as I'll probably never see one again!

So, we were chuffed with our success and headed over to Allandale Woods for a shot at our first herps of the year. The plan was to drag our icy bodies over to a familiar stream (if it was in fact still running) and dip-net some Two-Lined Salamander larvae for a photo, then head home and warm up. Unfortunately, we couldn't find our dip net! It seems I had lost it after our last outing (also at Allendale, on Dec. 28th). Oh well, it wasn't going to be as comfy or easy as planned, but we went in anyway.

I was kneeling into the stream (yay, new fleece-lined pants!) with a holder but couldn't find anything. I heard Andrea squeeee and I turned to see that she had found our net next to the stream!! Two weeks in the wilderness and it was back home with us!! We immediately dipped a net full of Two-Lined Salamander larvae!
FOY herps

Yay! First herps of 2015! Satisfied, we wrapped it up and headed back to the car. Just how cold was it? The wet net had frozen immediately.

But we had accomplished our mission.

Upon returning to the car, our frozen bodies found out why they had became that way... it was only 15° outside!! Damn!

So, while we await our trip to the Everglades, we have some January herps under our belts and a good start to the bird year. Now, I just have to get my damn health back to its usual 75%!


  1. Congrats, Mike. You beat me to the first herp of the year. Nice lifer bird too. Can't wait to see your pics from the Everglades. Will you blog those?

    1. Oh yes, I'll do it like we did last year... a day at a time! Thank you!