Thursday, July 16, 2015

We Only Wanted to SWIM! 7-11 and 7-12-2015

Thinking more with our hearts than with our brains, we woke up early on Saturday morning with a journey to Western MA on our schedule. There is a place out there that we had long been wanting to check out and it is said to be the home of Copperheads. Hey, why not take a shot... you can drive up to the summit, after all. Oh yeah, and it was going to be in the 90s.

We got out there at a reasonable hour... a bit after 9 AM. It was already pretty darn hot, but our eyes were dazzled by the rocks... tons and tons of flippable rocks. Even the walkway up to the house (which had a C-head reported in it in 2008) was lined with stacked rocks.

So, we poked around and then started on our way. Naturally, the scenery was beautiful and the habitat was extremely promising.

A large millipede was exploring the shady side of a rock.

I flipped like a mofo, hoping that it wasn't too late for some fossorial snakes. My kingdom for a Ringneck! But it just wasn't to be. We headed down a trail through the woods. (Rumor has it that one trail here was diverted a while ago because it went right past a C-head den. Haha!) The humidity was at about 345%... sweat was just dripping off of my nose like a leaky faucet. We finally saw our first herp, a tiny Wood Frog.
That's better.

The trail's descent was pretty steep so we had to watch our step. That and the possible vipers. I saw a rocky ledge (off trail) that was getting some sun so I made my way through the brush (carefully) to take a look around. I did hear a slithering sound and saw stripes. I think I caught a striped copperhead!
This little blighter was impossible to get a good shot of... this is the only one I kept. He was warmed up for sure.

Another high altitude tiny Wood Frog.

We got out of the woods when the path crossed the road that we had driven up. We had gone about a mile down the mountain so we headed back... up. There were zillions of stones to flip, but none of them produced. Andrea noticed this pretty American Toad hopping along, though.

We got back up to the summit and inspected more walls and trail heads and edges...
... but inevitably, we got back to the car and headed about half way down, to a spot that we'd noticed had boasted both a parking area and shady flat rocks.

There, we started flipping some skins... a large Garter skin, a small Ringneck skin. Then I finally flipped a Ringneck skin that still had a Ringneck in it!
A nice, big, shiny, iridescent one, at that.

By this time, I was admittedly feeling my age. I had sweat gallons and we both admitted that we were still tired from Wednesday. No problem, we had seen some animals and explored a place that will probably be very good for us on a more temperate day. We headed home and actually got some house cleaning done and got to bed at a decent hour.

The next morning, knowing the forecast was calling for more hot, sticky weather, found us looking for our bathing suits. We wanted to swim. So we headed over to a nearby pond that we know has a swimming spot that doesn't get too crazy. Plus, there are herps there. So I took my camera.

We started this Sunday (the last day of vacation for both of us) off with an all American Toad. He posed right nice for us.

The rocky edge of the pond was always good for Water Snakes but it was already after noon (we slept in a bit, OK?) and over 90°. But eagle-eye Andrea saw a small Nerodia noggin peeping out and OSH® (One Shot Howlett) got the photo before he retreated.

Only one shot was available of this young Painted Turtle too. He took off as soon as we got near.
I hope a snapper helped him out with that leech on his shell.

We walked a bog area, knowing it would be cooler in there and perhaps some snakes would be seeking refuge. I cooled off a bit by slipping on the boardwalk and going in up to the thigh.
That mark on my forearm is still scabby and surrounded by a huge yellow bruise five days later. But that doesn't make it any less hilarious.

Weird things happen in the summer. Sometimes the heat gets to people and they do weird things. Perhaps this Spotted Turtle was feeling the heat and didn't remember that they are predominately cooler-temperature turtles.
Except for one asschunk who was looking for an internet argument, my experience and literature I have seen suggest that Spotteds seek cooler climes in the summer, retreating to wooded areas and even burying themselves in leaves at times. This turtle, however, basked to the beat of a different drummer.

So, this was shaping up to be a weird day... and all we wanted to do was swim!

Still not to the swimming spot yet, we hit a stream. I was lucky enough to find a Two-lined Salamander in a mud mask.

Andrea found a Redback, no easy feat on a 95° day.

We finally got to the swimming area and I happily paid our small day-use fee. There weren't a lot of people there and we recognized most of them from previous swimming and herp trips. (We are "the snake people" to most of them.) Of course, before dipping into the water, we looked for snakes... and saw a Garter crawling in the shade.
Not a bad size, either.
We let her go digest.

Andrea went to change into her swimsuit and I chose a large rock that juts out into the pond as a place to lay out towels (and wet socks and shoes). This spot was a Nerodia den before it collapsed. Now it was just the big rock and a lot of (newly installed) smaller stones. Not able to resist, I flipped a few on the smaller ones. Huh? What's that? Coils?

I pulled out a perfect, beautiful 3 foot Milk. Some of the folks we know there came over to photograph it while I waited for Andrea. She told me later that she had predicted I'd find a Milk while she was changing.
I did.
We released it and watched it go back to its rock pile.
It stayed up top in the shade to watch us for a while.
Then went deep into the crevices to snooze.

So that was cool. The water wasn't... it was bath water. We found and savored cold spots and had a blast for about an hour. Then we headed back to the car. We managed one more Redback on the way.

That was a fantastic way to end our vacation. A Milk? Always cool. A basking July Spotted Turtle? Unheard of! Sure, we had to head back to work on Monday morning but at least our heads would be filled with great herp memories from the week.

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