Tuesday, May 12, 2015

We Rock On in Essex County 5-9-2015

Sometimes we do other things besides explore nature, looking for herps. When we have other things we want to do, we plan our herp trips accordingly. I wanted to see my kid and grandkids. So, we planned a herp trip in the same county. Essex County, MA to be exact. Middleton Pond, to be even more exact.

We got there 10:30ish and were excited by the glimpse of shells from the road. Sure enough, visible from the parking area, some Painted Turtles were catching the early rays.

We hit the trails almost immediately. I had to stop and "look for Wood Frogs" almost immediately. While doing so, I saw a Garter Snake *ahem* whiz by. I was unable to get a picture. Our next herp find was a wee Redback who wanted to give Lincoln a kiss.

Andrea pulled a real surprise by flipping a different salamander species... a nice Four-toed.

We were at three species in no time. That is when I said we could get ice cream if we hit 10! No problem in this frog and snake infested wonderland.  A couple of Leadbacks came next.
essex leadbacks

Chelonian goodness always uplifts my heart.
Lifted it right up on to a tree.

Sadly, frogs weren't as prevalent as expected. We finally found a Bullfrog at water's edge.

Andrea flipped a handsome Redback next.

We got to a favorite part of the hike where we saw many Bulls and Painted Turtles in their algae and pollen filled pond. There are usually many different kinds of frogs here but only Bulls today.

A Water Snake came up to peek at us but took off before we could secure a decent shot...

Beavers have done a remarkable job damming up the spillway here. Just a few weak trickles were coming through. Look at the water level behind the dam!

Finally, we got a Garter Snake poking around a pond. Unencumbered by "looking for Wood Frogs", we snapped some photos.
We caught him and tried to calm him for some close-ups but he was having none of that.

Since we had only been here a couple of times before, we explored further out, seeing some trails for the first time. It was beautiful but we just weren't seeing many herps. I flipped a log near the end of the trail (end of the park, really) and much to our surprise... a wee Painted Turtle was under it!
We were instantly charmed.

He was super alert and remarkably strong. We carried him about 50 feet the a secluded edge of the pond. It had lots of cover and things to nibble on. His first swim strokes were confident and we think he'll grow big.

We headed back and went by the algae and pollen pond again. One wall of the dam had sprung a leak and we waited to see if a beaver would come by to fix it. Usually they are fearless but no repair-beaver came by while we were there. Our interest had turned to a nearby Garter who was hunting on the edge.
His tongue was out... very, very slowly raising and lowering, getting a good scent for its Jacobson's Organ.

The pond had sprung to life in the couple of hours we were elsewhere. This trio of Water Snakes were basking in the sun, all entangled. Gee, I wonder what they were up to.

This young Painter was peeping at them.

Mister Bullfrog says ribbit.

We went to another part of the park that we had explored briefly before. It was far more watery than the last time we were here so it was a bit tough to retrace our previous steps. We were greeted by a lazy, basking water Snake who looks like she was digesting some lunch.

Upon heading back, we saw a Bullfrog near the end of the hike.

And, from the parking area, we said goodbye to some Painted Turtles. One of them is evidently two-headed.

So... that's 10 species, right? Only six? Oh well. I've never been very good at counting.

All this fun and then some quality Lilah time. Heavenly! (Except for the ticks on me and the paranoia that I was getting them on the kids.)

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