Tuesday, April 14, 2015

In need of turtles... 4-12-2015

After two successful days of herping, we decided we needed some shells. Some chelonians... some turtles. We had planned to check out a wonderful spot in Middlesex County for just that. To our delight, Gone Herping Steve wanted to herp with us and that's always a pleasure. We got to the place a bit after 10AM. Steve had warned us that it was a bit flooded and animals weren't plentiful. (He'd arrived a bit earlier.)

I added a bird to my life count first... #129, Ring-necked Ducks!
Ring-necked Duck #67 Life List #129

Steve was right... not much was up yet. I figured that with the wide open spaces and direct sunlight, it would be hopping. But no, nary a frog was up. I got Mammal Year #4, though... a Muskrat.
Muskrat mammal #4

We finally scored some Painted Turtles, my first good look at them this year!

We walked along the path that is usually very Gartery but the river had swelled quite a lot and the areas that we often see snakes were mostly under water. I hope they didn't drown in their dens. We finally reached an impassable point and turned back. Andrea spied Mammal Year #5 then... an American Mink!
American Mink mammal #5
This little cutie put on quite a show for us.
American Mink mammal #5
American Mink mammal #5

We made up our minds (pretty early on) to head down the road a ways and check out a different place. On the way out, this handsome Painted Turtle bid us farewell.

We got to the next place, in the next county and hit the trails. Right away, there was a decent sized garter just off the path.

As the wooded area gave way to pond viewing, the magnificence of Painted Turtles filled out eyes, hearts and yes... souls.
Nothing soothes the pain and heartache of a long winter like turtle stacks. Added to these sights was the cacophony of Wood Frogs in the distance. Sublime.
(These last two males just had their nails did.)

The place was a bit flooded but we already had soakers so we didn't care. We headed toward the sound of the Wood Frogs. Steve flipped a nice Redback first.

The frogs were loud... Steve pulled an interesting one out of a puddle.

The nearby vernal was a mass of action and noise.
Ride 'em cowboy!

Back to the trail, more Painteds were seen.

A spot which is usually filled with dozens and dozens of basking turtles had just this one... the King of the Hood.

We had expected more turtles and snakes than we were seeing but to be fair, the place still had a lot of frozen spots.

But a sure-fire beaver dam delivered the squamate goods... a fiery bright Garter was poking around the top...
while a dusty, tannin dyed guy snuggled in the sun nearby.

The next dam had two more Garters sunning. Now that's more like it!
OK, that second guy is posed, but he was too tough to get a picture of otherwise.

We went on a bit but it was more frozen and we decided to just turn back and stick to the sunny trails. There was a ditch in the trail that had a small board placed over it. Surely that would hold my ever-increasing bulk. I swear I only hit the edge of it, but I went right in, water up to the knee!
Dumb lummox!

There was a couple hiking right behind us, so my embarrassment was shared among more than just our small group. On the way back, we all stopped at the dam and there was a third Garter exploring.
This little guy was on a mission... he paid us no attention and even crawled right over Andrea's feet!

The dusty guy from the first den had shifted into a better position to photograph, too.

Thus ended our first full herping weekend of the year. Three adventures in three days. It's really hard to explain how great this makes us feel. I mean sure... we've had some ticks, sunburn and musk but it's all a part of the experience. A nice burrito at Moe's on the way home didn't hurt, either. Happy Spring!

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