Sunday, July 26, 2015

July 23 (Thursday) - Unexpected Free Time (Guest Blogging)

Hi, it's Andrea.

I had an unexpected day off on Thursday, July 23. Mike had some major dental work done the day before, and had a follow up appointment the next day. There was no way he would be able to get there on his own (due to painkillers), and things were pretty slow at work. I had the PTO accumulated, and decided to take the day off.

Later on in the day, after he was home from his appointment and I had all the laundry put away, I decided to head out to a local place. I parked up top near the soccer field, and took a walk down toward the canoe launch, since I had seen some drainage ditches along the way with rocks in them.

It was pretty warm out, so I didn't figure on anything being found under rocks. A piece of carpet on the top of one such drainage ditch intrigued me, so I flipped it.


Well, someone had been hanging out under said carpet, and left behind a nice, big shed.

A debris pile off the road also failed to produce.

The canoe launch is said to sometimes have water snakes basking, but today there were a couple of women down there whose dogs were swimming in the river. I figured that any water snake or turtle with half a brain wouldn't be sticking around. I went down the wooded paths to the other access points to the river, but each one had the same contents. I did hear something in the bushes that sounded like a slither, but whatever it was, it was long gone.  I went back onto the main path that went alongside a small brook.

I managed to work the zoom (I had borrowed Mike's camera for the day) through the foliage to score this photo of an immature black-crowned night heron doing a bit of fishing:

Immature Black-crowned Nigh Heron

I also got distracted by some birds in the tall grass, to the point where I decided to try to get a picture. I don't remember how many shots I got right after a frigging bird flew off, but I was getting pissed and just HAD to keep trying until I got a shot. This is how it begins, isn't it? Fucking birders.

Song sparrow

Yeah, it's a song sparrow. Everything is a song sparrow lately, but Mike keeps trying, because there are so many kinds of sparrows that look vaguely alike, so maybe he can add to his count. Me, I'm not even going to make an attempt at birding until I become better with my camera.

Enough with the avians, already...bring on the herps!

So, this place has like a million rocks alongside the paved path. These rocks are on top of gravel, and some of them are much larger than they look, and it's easy to end up dragging one instead of lifting it, and injuring a snake that is under it. For that reason, I don't flip much here, and just go for the "low-hanging fruit". Today, though, it was so warm that there was little chance of there being anyone under the rocks, except for maybe milks, hence the low-hanging fruit flips.

I expected there to be some basking, though, and I finally got my wish.


This was a decent-sized garter. I couldn't tell if it was awake or not, so I tried to get a bit closer. It was awake all right. I managed another shot before it disappeared.



Further down, there was a break in the foliage and I was able to see into the brook. There was a log, and I could see a small, rust-colored shell on it.


Another scan of the log showed that it wasn't the only one enjoying the sun.


My mere presence disturbed them enough to send them into the water, destroying their lovely basking. They hadn't come back up when I was on my return walk, so I guess I really did ruin their day.

Turtles can be such Debbie Downers.

Hey, check it out! I got a much better photo of a big garter snake, before I scared this one off with my mere existence!


I know that I've gotten pretty big on the in situ shot, and handling as little as possible, but I wanted to maybe get a snake in-hand so that people know I am capable of doing it, and don't just stand around letting the menfolk do all the work so I can pose with the snakes.

Of course, it was impossible to navigate some of the rocks due to my choice in footwear that day. Hey, this was an impromptu trip!


There were a few more skins about, confirming that, yes, there were garter snakes around.


I didn't see signs of any other species, though I have seen plenty of nerodia around here, and a couple of milks. Still, middle of a warm summer day -- they're probably off somewhere enjoying it.

I headed back up to the car, because it was getting late and, frankly, I needed to pee. I knew they had port-a-potties by the parking lot, and figured they were probably fairly well-maintained. I hit a couple of the drainage ditches to see if anyone was under any of the rocks. As I went into one to flip, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and made a grab.



Yeah, I got musked. Not really bad, but the snake wrapped its tail around me in order to wipe the musk all over me. I was pretty happy to hold one, though.

Now, I'll let you in on a secret: snakes don't really like being held, especially when most of their body is hanging like above. When you pick up a snake, their instinct tells them they are about to be eaten, which is why they musk, thrash, bite, poop, etc. One thing that I found helps them calm down a bit is to have their whole body touching a surface, so I will often drop down to the ground with a snake (especially a larger one), or offer both my hands. Some of the more arboreal snakes will calm a bit if you let yourself be a "tree" for them, and will climb up your arms.

I sat down, and, with my purse on my lap, put the snake on my purse.


It stayed for a few moments, and I was able to stroke it a couple of times. All that moved was its tongue and tail.  I even managed a 30-second video:

I know, it was probably petrified. I soon picked it up and put it back on the ground, letting it slither away quickly through my feet.

One last flip before I left for the day yielded a small American toad.

DSCN1023 DSCN1024

I'm often tempted to take a toad home. I'm guilty of mistaking their cuteness as meaning they are personable, and think they'd make good pets. Maybe they would. Then the rational side of my brain takes over, and I tell myself that it's unfair to take an animal from its home and put it in a tank, even if that means it will get fed well and be safe from predators.

So I let the toads be.


  1. Queridos amigos,las fotos siempre son muy hermosas,y me emocionan ,porque los animales son mejores ,"en mucho," que la mitad de los humanos,que ocupan este hogar , llamado tierra.Los abrazo. Martha

    1. Los animales son nuestros mejores amigos!

  2. I admit that I've taken toads from the wild, although it was in much more suburban/urban areas. I've purchased various toads from pet stores over the years as well, and they do make good pets, in my humble opinion.

    Also, your frequent posts get me through the work week haha. I wish I could get out and herp as often as you guys do! I get jealous.