Monday, June 29, 2015

A Lesson Never Learned... Western MA 6-27-2015

Before starting up, I just wanted to say that we were looking in on our friends' cats last weekend and that means I got to peek in on the healthy bounty of Dekay's Snakes in their yard. I saw plenty... here are six of them, the first of which is knocked-up.

OK, so despite a very tempting offer from Teá to go look for Milk Snakes, we stuck to our original plans to head a bit further than her destination... into the wilds of Western MA in search of Box Turtles. We figured that we have been having pretty good luck with finding targets this year so our white whale Boxies were only a matter of time. We headed out early and drove for two hours and got to our spot at about 10 AM. It was overcast and a bit cool.

Right off the bat, we found a couple of American Toads. Good start!
This place supposedly has Hognoses too so its nice to see their food source so readily.

We poked around and it became evident quickly that some clearing has taken place. A whole field had been razed. No worries... this place does controlled burns and stuff. It actually made it easier to comb the fields for Box Turtles. But we didn't stumble upon any. We got a few Redbacks when we found our way.

It was becoming evident that a lot of this place had been razed. Evidently, they chop and burn this place from time to time but it just looked like destruction to me. It was sad. I know, since it is a wildlife management area that they must know what they are doing but it still makes it look like habitat destruction... and Boxes and Hogs aren't exactly common in this state.

This fledgling Robin agreed. Atrocious!
Fledgling Robin

There was plenty of fallen lumber to flip but it wasn't producing anything until this toad.

We split up for a bit to cover more ground. Andrea did the impossible... she got a fleeting glimpse of a Garter Snake.

We hooked back up and worked our way back toward the car. This place never fails to depress me. When we got to the car, we decided to take some of the dirt roads around to see if we could find the alleged pond. A friend said there is one but we've never seen it. But then, he sees Boxes and Hogs here so who knows? He might be hallucinating.

We took the ol' Corolla Four-Wheelin' and it hated it. We were cruising slowly in the hopes that something would skitter across the road. We took another barely-there road and cut branches scraped the undercarriage. I just wanted to go somewhere else. I turned around in order to do just that.

Andrea had just gone all Yogi Berra on me with an "it ain't over till it's over" or some such happy horse-shit when one of the sticks in the road looked a bit different. It was laying across a tire track in the mud and I thought, "oh great... I might have run something over on the way in." I knew what it was before I opened the door.

Mercifully, it was not mushed.

I lay down in front of it so it wouldn't be gone by the time Andrea got to my side of the car. When she first saw it, it looked like this:
No Box but we finally had a Hognose here, somewhere around the four-hour mark on the day and probably our twelfth time searching here. And a cute little guy he was!
Seeing something like this really takes the edge off of your disappointment.

Unnoticed by us, there was a truck coming down the skinny, one-lane, dirt road. To them, there was a running car and two people laying on the ground in the way. We said our farewells and moved the little fella off the road and we moved the car out of the truck's way.
We explained to the guys in the truck who had no idea what they had just seen.

So we headed over to another spot but wanted sammiches first. On the way, we passed a pond and noticed a shell basking. I pulled over to snap this Painted catching some rays.
I could hear some Bullfrogs grumbling too, but didn't see any.

After we ate, we hit the next spot... a great place for stream salamanders. That's exactly what I was ready for. The last place, with no shade left, got pretty hot. Sure enough, Duskys were in great supply.

I spotted (hah!) a bright Eft on a log.
Andrea lifted a flap on the log and this was inside!

Dookie in a mud bath.

I was finding tons of Dooks, which is awesome because I love them.

Oddly enough, we weren't finding any Two-Lined Salamanders yet. They are super common here. I flipped a log and saw nothing but Andrea noticed this: our only Two-Line.

Andrea was pissed because I was having all of the Dookie luck. She finally got a big fattie to call her own. (Not me, the salamander.)

One more chubba-bubba.

Frankly, we were tired. I haven't mentioned that this Dookie-fest was taking us up a very steep hill. It was a mountain stream. So that, coupled with the heavy mosquito presence, made up our minds to turn back. Another Eft greeted us on our descent.

Andrea flipped this stunning Leadback.

A field that we passed (where we were unable to photograph two Pickerel Frogs on the way in) had a gravel mound with rocks around it. I climbed on top of it and flipped a rock. I was greeted by a decent sized Garter coiled there. I picked it up to take down to show Andrea. I got the ol' mustard-mayo musk and quite a few bites for my efforts.
Oh well, it was nice to see my first Garter of the day all the same.

Our last stop here took us to water's edge and a large, bright Green Frog.

Walking back to the car, Andrea spied a bird's nest. I reached up high with the camera and snapped this shot of young Phoebes, almost ready to leave the nest.
Baby Phoebes

The drive home was very quiet. Because my lovely wife slept for the whole two hours! We stopped to look in on the cats at our friends' house before returning home. It was Andrea's turn to find a 6-pack of Dekay's.
That last coil was about the size of a half-dollar.

That was a long Saturday but we're happy. Teá and her crew did very well too, with Milk Snakes, Garters, a Ringneck and more. Hopefully, we'll all hitch up again soon. Vacation is coming and herping will happen.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Doing the Bristol Stomp. 6-20-2015

We were happy to return to one of our favorite stomping grounds in Bristol County on Saturday, mostly because the last time we were here (late April) we saw about a dozen Redbacks and nothing else. Surely something else has come to the surface since then.

After a couple of stacks of 50s Diner pancakes, we reached our destination at roughly 9ish-like. (The car's clock is kaput... I have no idea what time it was.) We got right into herping. Our first find was a small Garter flipped by Andrea.
It has a very faint, disappearing dorsal stripe, a common trait here.

Next up, a Redback. Still hanging in there, though it's getting pretty warm.

A curious sight met us when we saw the water. The usual Painted Turtles had an unexpected guest at the top of the stack- a massive Snapper!

This Painter wanted no part of the togetherness. (The me of turtles)

Two Painted Pals.

A small, adorable American Toad was next.

A Yoga class.

A sleek black Leadback Cadillac.

Another All-American.

I saw a noggin in the water and saw that it was another Snapper.
I think we have already seen more Snappers this year than all of last year (which was criminally snapper-light.)

We got to the waterfall, traditionally our half-way mark. We saw plenty of Painteds out basking.
Let's take a closer look, shall we?

All the while, we were hearing Geese squawking like mad. We were wondering what was bothering them when we looked over the falls and noticed a gosling stuck down there. He kept jumping towards the falls but he could not yet fly so it was pretty hopeless. I took off my shoes and went down to see what I could do. I approached and, naturally, he ran from me.
My only hope was to try to force him up onto the bank and have him run up. Of course, he ran right past me.
I tried again from the other side with the same result, then again.
His running was very comical but I started to get nervous that I was stressing him way out and doing more harm than good. He went off into the rocks and hid in a bush in the water for a moment. All the while, the parents were screaming at me. He came out again and I wouldn't let him back up onto the bottom platform of the falls, forcing him to go onto land. He did and made a turn toward Andrea. Evidently, he shot past her and ran 20 feet to the water in a flash; all of a sudden, the family... now with two goslings again instead of one, quietly swam off. She never saw him go by.

Talk about a wild goose chase.

We carried on. I eventually turned up a small Garter in some tarp. A real beauty, too. I was holding him in one hand, fiddling with my camera with the other, when he slid out and completely disappeared. Oh well, easy come, easy go. Within a few minutes, we flipped this similar sized bruiser who was digesting a meal.
I could see another coil through the rip of a discarded sleeping bag. Here are the two together.

Further along, I turned into a field just as Andrea yelled out "Garter!" My presence had startled a Wild Turkey family (what was my problem with avians today?!). Two youngsters flew off while the mom ran off gobbling. Again, it was pretty funny.

This was Andrea's gorgeous sight.
Full, stretched out and not much of a stripe again. Stunning.

We headed back and decided to look at the water again. Just one young Painted this time.

Staying along the river, we spied another chelonian basking... but the shell looked more domed. I stretched out my zoom while Andrea noticed that someone else was photographing it... our friend Chris!

While we stood there talking, a Painted swam by.

We explored around the edge of the river together. Chris found a Pickerel Frog and I managed the very worst possible picture you can get while still being able to ID it. I defy anyone to do worse.

On the way back, another Musk had crawled up on to the log, along with a Painter.
Now, there were three shells soaking up the sun.

Heading out, we flipped a few boards that Chris had just flipped about an hour ago. I saw nothing and stepped on the board to hit another and he said "No! Be careful!" On the far end of the board, he had seen a small coil of Garter earlier... one that was in fact still there.

While we talked in the parking lot, this Great Spangled Fritillary was making itself at home on the bumper of a truck, enjoying moisture, pollen or whatever Fritillarys like.
Great Spangled Fritillary

We said our goodbyes and went for pizza before heading over to another nearby spot... one we had been to before with little success. Despite being a lot more thorough` this time, it still wasn't very successful. We did see a small Bullfrog.

And we saw a large, fat American Toad.

Mostly, we listened to caterpillar poops hit the ground and lamented how trash-filled the place was. And not in a good artificial cover kind of way. Just dirty and yucky. On the way out, we saw a doe grazing in an open field.

Almost to the car, this was blocking our exit.
Ummm... hey there, Mr. Buck. How are ya? Standing your ground, huh?

We took a trail off to the side instead.

We hit one more spot before hitting the highway but it was overgrown and buggy and I had just put on my pussy hat. We didn't stay long.

Not a killer day count-wise, to be sure, but 8+ hours being out and about and seeing some animals always makes for a fine day. It is good to know that more than Redbacks survived the winter in Bristol County.