Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mission Viperidae 5-3-2015

My friend Ryan had a plan... gather up as many interested parties, pool our knowledge and hit the trails of the Blue Hills in hopes of finding the elusive venomous snakes that supposedly live there. Many eyes means more chances. Long in the planning stages, we were delighted when Sunday, May 3rd was going to be the best weather of the year so far in 2015. A meeting place was set up at 10 AM.

Everyone showed up on time. Steve, both Matts, Teá and Ryan. Except us. Me, old school Mike, decided to let Gladys, the talking GPS on Andrea's phone, handle the directions. Oops. Unable to connect. So we called Teá who sent us directions that didn't arrive until later. We drove over in the general direction instead of wasting more time... telling the others to move on without us. A couple of wrong turns, some confusion on  my addled brain, and then we saw the others' cars parked. So, true to form, we started up the wrong trail.

Good things happen to those who are dumb sometimes. We stumbled across our first American Toad of the year on the wrong trail.
A real looker!

The phone started working and Teá had started back down the mountain to find us. I felt horrible that she had to help out the lost old man and his wife but she's a fine person and never made me feel like a fossil. We flipped a few Redbacks while we staggered around, like this stunning Leadback.

Teá filled us in on what we had missed... they found the suspected Timber den and there was a fat, black, keel-scaled snake outside it. A Water Snake, who proceeded to confetti musk everyone involved! I'm sorry to have missed that. We headed upward.

We continued up the hill with the news that the others had found a nice Racer. They sure had. When we joined them, Ryan still had it on hook for us to enjoy.
A good sized one.
It took to a tree when we released it.

While we were photographing the tree-snake, Ryan called down that he had another Racer!
This one was a bit smaller and loved being handled by Andrea and Teá, but bit me right on the moon in my tattoo. Bloody Moon.

We carried on over the hill and got to a small paved area above the reservoir. The Matts were chasing a small Racer on the side of a slippery hill... no easy feat but they accomplished it. Matt S got a good bite right on the thumb for his efforts.
The snake posed like a champ.

Wow... I think I got three Racers photographed total in 2014. Just tied that!

I explored the hill up top while most of the others moved on. Tree Swallows were all around and I wanted a shot. (I eventually got one) By the time I joined up with the others at water-side, I had missed another toad. Ryan called from the woods that he saw another Racer. I ran up but we couldn't find the snake again. Meanwhile, the others had seen two Racers mating... right there on the beach; a serpentine From Here to Eternity right before their eyes!
They stayed engaged as they slid into a wood pile.

Ryan and I arrived late but he spotted yet another Racer (possible one of the mating pair but it was decided it wasn't) and pulled it up for a photo.
I flossed my teeth with him.

The group headed across the street to try to find a different den spot, a suspected Copperhead one. We realized we were heading in the wrong direction and turned back but not before we spotted a Spotted!

We headed over to a different parking area. Everyone got there on time except me, who missed a turn. Everybody had to patiently wait while the geezer found his way again. Shit, I was feeling my age, despite the fun I was having. No wonder everyone wanted to see me pick up the Racers; they enjoyed watching me get bitten.

One of the spots we all know about on the way up this particular hill is the Bullfrog Pond... massive Bulls live here and sure enough, they were present again.

We made it up to the suspected spot and looked around but came up empty. We started to think about food, too. We'd been climbing and hiking for quite a few hours and stomachs were empty. So, we headed down for a bite to eat.

On the way back, I took a path that went by a stream while the others went on the regular path. No sooner had I hit water than I heard Matt M yell, "Mike, Racer!" So I hauled it up to where they were and saw a pricker-pile that was said to have some Racers in it. One came out and we all scrambled for it. I finally got my hands on it and it bit the living fuck out of me.
Andrea, amused by my pain, even filmed some of the search for the other one.

I put that one down, and looked for the other. I thought Ryan had caught the other one but he had recaptured Bitey. I pulled the smaller one out of the prickers and we got our Racer Boys promo shot!
It was all fun and games until Bitey put the bite on the other Racer!

We headed to the cars, sweaty and bloodied and found a couple of Redbacks on the way.
Blue Hills redbacks

We got some grub and relived our day... Viper Mission didn't produce the targets but the Racers kept us all happy and we had a great time. Friends herping together is always so awesome and I'm really proud to be a part of such a good group. At lunch, Matt decided to hitch a ride back with us... and a quick walk through part of Fowl Meadow.

It was after 6 PM and shadows were getting long. Matt spied this Garter in the water near shore.

We saw one other Garter but it handed me my ass as I lunged for it... it just disappeared into the ground at some tree-roots.

Andrea fared better when she saw this battle-scarred Dekay's Snake on the edge of the path, half concealed in leaves.
A first for this spot for us!
Our first non-shoestring Dekay's of the year too!

She followed that up with another, smaller DK!

So that wrapped up a great weekend of herping! Great times spent with good friends. Yes, I felt my age a few times and felt bad that I might have been hindering everyone's success but in the end, I think we all had fun and people are still talking to me, so...


  1. This post was really in my wheelhouse. I've been obsessively staking out Crotalus dens in the Hills for a couple of years. I know of at least one confirmed Agkistrodon site in the reservation, but it's just not the same without the rattle, you know? C'est la vie.
    I hope you choose to continue "Mission Viperidae". The few remaining New England dens I know of I all managed to discover myself, and it's rewarding work.

    P.S- Congrats on the racer bites- they're the mark of a true man, as far as I'm concerned. I always slip on my gloves when catching those bastards.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I fear I am getting a bit long in the tooth for the target-species-mountain-climbing hikes but as long as there are Racers around to keep me alert, I'll be happy!!