Monday, March 30, 2015

Herping Through the Snow 3-29-2015

We could have used a one horse open sleigh, too.

So, it was raw and cold but it was supposed to just about hit 40° and be sunny. That's good enough for us. We gathered up Teá (sans Mike this time, sadly) and headed towards Ponk.

But first, we stopped off at a favorite spot in Suffolk County to see if the sun had brought anyone out. No Premature Garters but we did manage to find a plump Blue-spotted Salamander!

Then we headed to Ponk. Our goal was to inspect a vernal pond that we'd hoped had been utilized last Fall. Also, we wanted to see how the place had fared the winter since our last visit (December 27th). A quick turn into the parking lot answered our question... unplowed, unshoveled... unable to park! So we went around and parked in the golf course parking lot and headed in.

It was cold but the course's walks were clear. Not so much when we hit the dam. Icy, slushy and slippery with only occasional sightings of rocks poking through the edges. Not what we'd hoped. The sun was warm and frankly, we'd hoped for a squamate noggin or two. Nope. In fact, the dam and much of the trail looked just like this:
Walking was not fun in this shit.

Finally, we got to a part that is used by cars and it had been plowed a bit. Walking got easier. Finding the running streams remained difficult, however. We found one and went to poke around for Two-lined larvae, figuring it was all we'd see in this winter wonderland. I managed to disturb the slumber of a very thin little Pickerel Frog who looked at me with much disdain.
The first thing I'm going to do when he comes out of hibernation is buy him a cheeseburger.

A little further up, Teá made it 3 species when she found a beautiful adult Two-lined Salamander!

Not bad... snow, cold and aggravation still reigned but we had three species!

Then we headed toward the vernal. It was very tough going as the trails leading that way were all but unused. We were sinking in, nearly falling, and having a rough time of it... and Teá was still in her boot! But we persevered.

We got to the vernal, which was swollen with melt-off and rain, and dipped away. It was filled with stringy green algae and decomposing leaves but we just didn't find any salamander larvae. Teá, who is smart about such things, noted that there wasn't really anything for the larvae to eat in the pool either. So, who knows where young salamanders spend the winter. We decided to put off further investigation until a later date.

Things picked up over at Ringneck Hill when we found our First-of-Year Redback Salamanders! Never have we been so happy to see our common little Plethodons!
Three beauties! They made it worth the effort we had put in.

But, we were way out there and had a long way back to the car! We slogged through the slush and ice and snow until our legs were rubber. It had become pay-back time for seeing four herp species. We finally made it and plopped into the car. I definitely worked off the two donuts I'd devoured on the way up.

But we were happy, having seen some herps that had survived the winter. This winter has been killing us on the inside, slowly but surely, and the only way to live again is to get out there and HERP! And that's just what we'll be doing.


  1. Gah! It hurts to see how much snow is still out there. I'm itching to hit the Hills soon, but the spots I frequent are a nightmare with too much snow.
    You guys are lucky bastards finding all these blue-spotteds. They've become my white whale.

    1. You'll find them! They should all be moving soon!