Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring Done Sprung! 4-11-2015

Somehow, after the thrilling Friday night we'd just had, we managed to get to sleep and get up at a reasonable hour on Saturday. We contacted the son I never wanted, Matt S, and picked him up for a romp through Cutler. It was supposed to be in the high 50s and sunny... no better way to deal with Racer Alley.

We were barely there when Matt lunged towards a slim Garter Snake.
While we were looking at that one, another Garter came up to explore.

The first guy crawled off slowly, ready for 2015. He's a super clean snake!

We got to Racer Alley and found our greatest find yet. Two herpers!!
Our friends Gone Herping Steve  and Matt M! They had found some Garters, a Racer and a Ribbon, all on Racer Alley. It had been forever since I had seen either of them so this was a treat. Matt M and I were climbing the rocks and we saw this dusty little Garter poking his head out into the sun.

While three of us were talking, Andrea came up with a surprise in her hands... a wee, First of Year Dekay's Snake that she'd just flipped.

Steve and Matt M had to get going but encouraged us to find some herps, dammit!! So we pushed on. I saw a bird fly up from the rocks with a snake in its claws... it seems my Life List Bird #128, an American Kestrel, was having pretty good luck herping, too.
#64 American Kestrel (eating)

We went for a spell with no herps. We had been searching for Ribbon Snakes right around a den we know of but had come up empty. Matt finally flipped a bright Redback.

While I was fiddling with the salamander, Andrea said,"I told you we'd find one!"... she had nabbed a Ribbon Snake!
Evidently, she left her feet in a wonderful lunge, but I missed it. Damn!

It calmed down and Matt was able to get all up close and personal for a glamorous photo session.

Our destination spot was snake free but I found two nice Redbacks, the second of which looked ready to pop!

We took the long way back so we could check out the river. As luck would have it, we spied our first Painted Turtles of the year, basking on the opposite shore. Seven of them, as it turned out.

So that was Cutler. But we weren't done! We got some grub and went to meet ‎Teá, Mike and their friend Laura over at our Suffolk County hot-spot. ‎Teá was still after her first snake of 2015 and we wanted to be there to help her out. (Not that she really needs our help... but we wanted to herp more!)

We got there a bit before them and started flipping salamander rocks. Matt made an extraordinary find.

We all know about the Ambystoma Complex here... all Massachusetts Blue-spotted Salamanders (a species of concern in this state but fairly common in this location) are all supposedly partly hybridized with Jefferson's Salamanders. But every Blue-spotted we've seen here has looked just like a Blue! Not this guy...
Jefferson sized, shaped and colored.
One of the many mysteries we hope to unravel this year!

The others arrived while we were admiring this brute and then we headed straight to Sly's Den. On the way, I flipped a dropped-tail Redback and his niblet sidekick near Old Reliable.
The dropped tail is bigger than the wee one!

We got to Sly's Den, but it was empty-looking. Nearby, we heard Matt call out "Nerodia"! Ummm... we're in the middle of the woods... what's a Water Snake doing here?
Evidently, waking up from a long winter in its den, which often isn't near water (Andrea explained this to me.) First of year!
This one is going to be a beauty once the winter skin is shed.

Walking back towards Sly's Den, I saw a Garter and grabbed it. Two others that I hadn't seen scattered. Teá then had one, too. We tried to pose them together... unsuccessfully. Mine just might be Sly2K... notice the scar.

While we were doing that, Andrea saw this:
Then Matt found one!

Our only possible course of action was to make a Garter bouquet.
This was a great moment because Laura had never handled a wild snake before and she gingerly took one of the Garters to release. She did very well.

Meanwhile, Matt found another Water Snake outside the Nerodia Den.
Another beautiful one.

We started to head back to the trail, but not before Mike had spotted another Garter sunning atop a hill.

It really wasn't very warm... low 60s and it was windy as hell; it started to feel pretty cool. Still, Matt managed to flip a nice Garter out on the rocky path.

The brook that runs along the walkway was fast moving. So fast, in fact, that a small Painted Turtle was being carried downstream. White-water-turtling! He got to a spot with some reeds sticking out and made a valiant attempt to stop. He finally righted himself, but not until after I got this humiliating picture.

It was cool, so we headed back. Walking along, Matt said "holy shit"... he'd almost stepped on this big girl laying right in front of him.
I really wanted to measure her, so I got the brunt of the confetti musk that she emitted, much to the gagging of most of us. She was a solid 29"... not a bad size to start the year with. She also calmed down for some gentle handling.

It dawned on me half way through Cutler... hey- we're doing it! We're herping. We are doing what we suffered through the whole winter for. We're out in nature, seeing animals and getting sun. This, my dear, is what it's all about.

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