Monday, August 17, 2015

Herping cures the gimpy! 8-15-2015

When it gets into the hotter days of summer, it can get tough trying to figure out where to go herping. Snakes are usually not around so its best to plan on ponds and streams for frogs and turtles. That said, we were playing it by ear coming into this past weekend. Wait and see. We did try to get a jump on things by going out Friday night (8-14) to a place near home. We got skunked, as the kids say. I saw one Garter up-periscoping...
and then he pulled back and was gone. We also startled a Leopard Frog into the brook. That was the extent of the herps we saw in a couple of hours. Was Mother Nature gearing us up for a slow weekend?

We decided to go to a turtley place in Middlesex County on Saturday. It was going to get very hot so we got up and out early. It was already well over 80° when we arrived at 9 AM. We hit the (mercifully shady) trail. My leg was in a great deal of pain (the mysterious "injury") so I was using a walking stick that helped a bit.

Flipping was producing nothing but Andrea is good at spotting the movement of tiny things. This Wood Frog was so small, she practically had to put her finger on it while pointing it out before I could see it.

She had to do the same thing with this Pickerel. Look at the green spots... kind of makes those "no green on Pickerels" IDs look stupid.

Andrea's anuran eyes were indeed keen this day. She next saw a small toad and a Peeper almost simultaneously. The toad had no speckles on its belly and some multiple warted spots of a Fowler's but also the cranial ridges of an American. We're calling American though a hybrid could be possible. Never seen a Fowler's here.
^Pure Peeper.

Much to our displeasure, some weed-whacking was going on; a groundskeeper guy was at our favorite spot, buzzing down the grass. This spot is great for garters and turtles but none were to be seen. Oh well, I guess it had to be done. Further up the trail there were some volunteers clearing his clippings and pulling some invasive plants. All for the best, of course. Being a bit quieter down-pond, away from the buzzing machinery, some Painters were up catching some rays.

A wee Pickerel was enjoying a soak as the temps climbed higher.

I love frogs. For one thing, they rarely seem to give a shit that it's hot out. These Bullfrogs were enjoying the heat and humidity.

We got to an open field that is a good turtle nesting spot. We're still a couple of weeks early for hatchlings but we went at it, flipping and walking, in hopes of finding young snakes beating the heat. The sun was beating right down on us and it was pretty steamy. The God of Snakes smiled on us for a moment and we flipped a new-for-this-place Ringneck.
Not only that but it was a nice big one... 14".

I always hate to be a pussy in the field but my leg was swelling up like mad and had become very painful. We turned back, sat for a while and I contemplated calling the doctor when we got home. Getting back on our feet, we headed back towards the car. Andrea accosted this tiny American Toad.

We saw some action out in the pond... it looked as if two smaller Painteds were trying to climb on top of a larger one. Whatever for?

A Green Frog saved the day.

My last photo here was a Chipmunk posing beautifully atop a rock.

Almost to the car, we heard a Blue Jay screaming blue murder and then, flying quickly by in front of us, was a large Owl (Barred?) getting the bum's rush from the Jay. I wish we got a better look (or a photo!) of the owl but it all happened too fast.

With air conditioner blasting, we drove out of the Refuge. The walking stick had helped with my leg but it was still in a great deal of pain. BUT, there was still some herping to do, so I took an unexpected turn to head over to try to find a spot we had visited once before. I pulled into a small, dirt lot thinking it was the place, but it wasn't. It was a different wildlife area that connects to the one I'd been looking for. Good enough for me. The map said there was a pond with a trail around it. Surely I'd be capable of handling that.

The funny thing is, my leg had stopped hurting. We walked along and it was tight and tender but it didn't feel like stepping on a broken bone anymore. Praise the herp gods! We got to the pond area and saw a distant Painted Turtle basking.

I shifted to try for a better position and Andrea said "oh shit! That stick was a Water Snake". She'd been thinking just how much a stick looked like it had scales. I'd startled it when I moved... this was the best shot I could get.

And a Green Frog was right there, too.
We already decided we liked this place.

Small American Toads were everywhere.

We took the path close to the pond (duh). At one bend I could see some Painters up basking through the bushes. I got some photos before making our presence known.

Stepping into full view, we saw another small Painter up, right close to us. I think he saw us...
Yep... pretty sure!

Andrea somehow saw this nearly all black toad.

Painted Turtles were up pretty much everywhere around this beautiful pond.

We got to a picturesque wooded bridge that had water on both sides of it. I saw these two Painters up on the far end of a log...
while Andrea noticed this one much closer...
It pays to have two sets of eyes.

A small Painted came up right below us and looked around. I got him in focus, snapped the button and...
Oh well, it's still an amusing shot.

We had a bit of a tough time finding the trail out, but a kindly ambystoma pointed the way.
Much of this place is marshlands... I'll bet on cooler days, Spotted Sals should be a snap here.

We got to the car and decided to stop at one last place... a nearby waterfall. We had seen snake skins there before but we saw nothing this day. Up at the water's top, some cool green Bullfrogs were enjoying their Saturday.

We went and got some food at a burrito place after that and I actually chewed a burrito bowl (well, the food in the bowl). It was our first lunch-date out since my teeth were pulled. Between that and the leg healing, I can't say enough positive things about herping in a heatwave. Healing Herps!


  1. If that "turtley place" in Middlesex County is what I'm thinking it is (and it may not be), then I don't know how we managed to miss each other! I was there until about 11 AM looking for Blanding's, and actually managed to see one just off trail in a slow, more riverine habitat.

    1. I'm psyched that you saw a Blandings! None for us at the place we went... nothing riverine at our spot... must have been a different place! We have 3 spots in Middlesex that have produced said species.