Monday, July 13, 2015

Escape to and from the Cape 7-8-2015

It was time to make our annual pilgrimage to Cape Cod and our hopes of seeing Diamondback Terrapins and Box Turtles. We have seen terrapins each of the past two years (2014 was just a glimpse) but Boxies continue to elude us. Some rain in the forecast sounded good to us... Box Turtles like it. So we headed out very early, in hopes of getting to our destination by 9 AM.

About 15 miles into the journey, as I was laughing at the commute traffic going in the other direction on Rt. 3, I discovered that I had forgotten my good camera. I had my new pocket camera with me but I imploded with anger and self-hatred as any hopes of distant terrapin shots and all birding just fizzled away in my stupidity. Oh well, after about an hour and a half of seething silence, I came to a "make the best of it" conclusion, much to Andrea's relief. But man, I was pissed.

We got to the place at a good hour... traffic (on our side) wasn't so bad. We headed into the fray, stopping at a fresh water pond on the way to the brackish tidal marshes. Here are shots from my damn pocket camera of a Painted Turtle and a Green Frog... vouchers at IMG_0016 IMG_0017

Andrea fared better with this shot of a small sun-worshipping Painter.

We searched and searched for a terrapin but never did see one. We saw what might have been recently finished nests, though, so we alerted some rangers. One ranger, a woman we had helped in the past, said it had been a very bad year for nesting... one spot that usually averages 28 nests had only 3 thus far. Also, many adults had turned up dead. Not sure why. More signs of the past winter's rampage...

The Fiddler Crabs were ever present, though.

We spent the next 2 1/2 to 3 hours combing the open fields nearby, checking all of the shady shrubs and edge habitat, but never saw a Box Turtle. It had become quite warm by this time. We had just heard from Teá and she was about to meet us. So we hitched up, had some pizza and planned our strategy.

Our post-pizza stop was down the road, a place where Teá has encountered both Box Turtles and Hognose Snakes in the past. The three of us started down an open path, keeping eyes open for both, checking shady spots, ditches and thick grass. We made it down the length of the path (roughly a mile?) and turned back. Almost to the beginning, we saw some logs to flip. No sooner had we said "the only thing I wouldn't expect to see here is a Ringneck"... we got a Ringneck!
Praise the herp lords!

We started on the other side of the road, another open trail that was probably about the same length. (This was a powerline cut.) At least Mother Nature sent us something to break up the dusty path...
It was seriously hot by now and we were in the sun. My face looked like a beet.

At the end of this path, we saw water. And it wasn't just a mirage.
That was a good sight because we had seen a number of predated turtle nests, which we thought might all be Boxes.

I made my way down to the water and with my pocket camera got a voucher of two Painteds.

But that was all we saw on the Cape. Admittedly, we were a bit disappointed. We drove a long way to see some species we don't get back home and... failed. Oh well... ice cream helped us regroup. We spent some time planning the night and visited my boss who was renting a beach-front house for the week, just to take a load off. It seems a Terrapin was hit by a car on his road, a bumpy dirt road with a 10 MPH speed limit. He didn't do it but we told him about the turtles and he mentioned it to all of the other neighbors that he ran into. Hopefully they'll keep their eyes open for future nesters.

As dusk set in, we all headed to Plymouth County, for some evening road cruising. The rains that were promised had let us down. That hot field would have been awesome with a downpour. We wondered if rain would fall while we cruised. Since we were herping for amphibians, we hoped so.

We met up (Teá beat us there by miles) and hit some trails before it got too dark. At a spot where we saw a Ribbon Snake a few weeks ago had one again, but it slithered away unphotographed. A nearby rock had another, and we caught it for pictures.
Big and beautiful.

The sun was setting quickly. We noticed boxes of bees on a path were Andrea and I were buzz bombed and stung a few years ago...

Teá pointed out some lovely caterpillars... Phosphilia turbulenta.
Phosphilia turbulenta

Then, as it darkened... the rains came. Heavily. We got into my car and began the cruising. It was nearly impossible to see the rain was so hard. We went very slowly as water ran in rivers down the road. We were hoping any frogs would be on the yellow lines so we could just open the door and snap a shot. But as soon as we saw our first anurans, we bolted out to try to get pictures, despite the torrential downpour. A couple of young Greens, still getting used to being terrestrial, were the first ones seen.

Then we started seeing everything! A tiny Wood...

An even tinier Peeper...

We finally saw our first Fowler's and a stunner it was. My camera showed that in the clutch, it can get a good shot.

Tiny Green (lookit the wee tail!)

Miniscule Peeper... I don't know how Andrea and Teá were seeing these!

Hey, here's a big ol' Bullfrog.

Tiny Toad!

Though we had been hearing them all night, we finally saw our first Gray Tree Frog.

It should be noted that by now, we were all completely soaked to the skin... and having a great time! Let's hear it for frogs!! Three cheers for Woods...
And Greens...
and Grays!

At one point, while we were clearing amphibians off the road in front of the car, I saw a couple of toads and went to grab them. I didn't know until I got them into the light that I had a Fowler's and an American. A good time to inspect the differences.
'Murican on left, Fowler's on right.

We were about done and, being the old man that I am, I decided to "Bob it" and sit in the car and have a few things brought to me. Like a Gray.

And the last herp of the night to be photographed... an American Toad who wanted to drive.

So while we didn't get our targets on the Cape, we had such a fun time playing with frogs in the rain that it erased the tiredness and heat-stroke that we were all feeling earlier. Friends and frogs are special indeed.

Then there was the drive home. My eyes felt like they had cement lids by the time we got back. We didn't know where we were headed the next day but we would definitely be getting there late.


  1. A pesar de la cámara las fotos son preciosas !Me encantan los sapos,!!!Un beso a mis amigos Martha

    1. Gracias, Martha! Las ranas son animales maravillosos para hacer mis fotos se ven bien! Love Mike

  2. HAHAHAHA, "Bob" it. It will be hilarious next year when he gets around to reading this.