Monday, May 18, 2015

3 Ring Circus (May 14th through 16th)

We've been hoping to do more after-work herping this year so it didn't take much coaxing from our friend Teá for us to take a quick Thursday night hike through Cutler. We all had one thing on our minds... first of year Milk Snakes. Tough, but not impossible to see. We only had a short time before darkness and we got there at about 6:15 PM... perfect for these dusk dwellers.

I'm going to cut to the chase. We saw only one herp... we flipped a beautiful, yearling Milk who was as feisty as he was beautiful.

It's so rare that we actually find our targets that I wasn't quite sure how to feel. I decided to feel happy. We also found some caterpillars that Teá explained was a very uncommon find in this part of the state... some Hemileuca lucina, the New England Buck Moth.
Hemileuca lucina
We all considered the trip a success.

The next morning (Friday the 15th), I was off from work so I headed over to Fowl Meadow after dropping Andrea off at the train station. I wanted to try to see a few herps waking up. It was dewy as all get out when I got there at about 8:15 AM. It was cool but the sun was warming up. Birds were singing like mad but I dared not look up for fear of missing a frog or snake. The first herp I saw was a water Snake heating up on top of a clump of grass.
She is one battle-scarred, cyclopean beauty and she could use a shed.

I went in deeper and the mosquitoes got heavy... really heavy. I mean, I could wave my hands and feel myself smacking dozens of them in the air. I thought they were following me until I realized the cloud was solid the whole way. I dared not stop. In fact, eventually I just said to hell with it and turned around and headed back out.

As I got back towards the front, the sun had begun to dry up some of the dew and the 'skeeters lessened but I'd had about enough anyway. I saw one Garter Snake on the way out. He posed in a nice serpentine S-shape for me.

Our Saturday plan was to hit Ponkapoag Pond... a longtime favorite spot that we hadn't been to since the snow melted. Teá had to cancel but we soldiered on alone. Our target? Ringnecks. We still sought our First of Year.

We started off with some Redbacks, the second of which posed way better than the first, nutty one.

Our favorite vernal pool was buzzing with tadpoles... we think they're Wood Frogs.

A small Pickerel Frog hid in plain sight.

Elsewhere, a gorgeous Water Snake warmed up for the day.
That's a perfect Nerodia.

As we approached the dam, darkness set in. No, it was sunny, but there was a fuck-ton of kids being unruly, throwing rocks and sticks and tramping through one of the finest Water Snake spots on the pond. Their camp councilors had absolutely no control over them. We approached gingerly, finally settling on the opposite side of the path, hoping we could photograph some thankfully-deaf snakes. I had a shot but one councilor came stamping through the grass and scared off a snake. "Oops". I was quite rude to her. Another councilor came over to see what kind of snakes we were looking for and I remained pretty pissed... especially since the distractions had made us lose a small Ribbon and Garter.

Mercifully, they moved on. We saw a Painted Turtle that a birder with good binoculars pointed out.

And I saw a Red Admiral that had seen better days.
Red admiral

Worst of all, at one spot, I heard a whoosh in the grass and went up a hillock to peruse it... and stumbled on a basking Garter. He slid off into the rocks with nary a photo. I thought, "Oh well, there are plenty of Garters out... we'll get another."

But we never did...

We found a stunning Leadback but he wanted no part of being photographed.

Andrea made an awesome flip next... our first Eft of the year!

We took a look into the bog but, as expected, it was damp and buggy and it wasn't long before there were submerged boards.

We hunted our asses off for Garters for a while. We came up empty. Andrea found some hugging Redbacks.

And a solo guy snorting pollen.

I flipped a Two-line near a stream.

We were at an area that we call Ringneck Hill; it was our real destination of the day. We flipped and worked for a while, then Andrea hit pay-dirt! She called out "twins of Ringneck" and held up two very feisty individuals.
Pose? They would not!
One might be eggy.
A nature shot just wasn't going to work.

Within a couple of minutes, she flipped another, smaller Ringneck.
This guy was much more cooperative.

Nice! Targets obtained. I went to check the stream one last time before we moved on and this beautiful, small Green Frog was posing on a rock.

And that was the last herp of the hike. We checked the dam again before leaving, thinking that the 4 hours or so since the brats left was long enough, but no herps had returned. So, that missed Garter photo loomed large, leaving us with but 9 species instead of our coveted 10.


That night, we visited our friends who live nearby. We never get to see enough of them and they're kind enough to let us inspect their garden wall; a wall that supports a healthy colony of Dekay's Snakes. We flipped 6 in a few minutes... here are five of them.
^she might be with-snakelet.
^the rare pretzel-morph.

Now that's what I call a good start to a weekend. Targets hit, animals photographed and happiness achieved.


  1. What an absolutely *gorgeous* milk snake. One of a couple of common reptiles that I've somehow never managed to come across in the state.

  2. They're tough, with their fossorial habits and surprisingly effective camo!! We were stoked to see this little beauty!