Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Connecticut Herp Tour 2015! 9-5-2015

We had been itching to get back to Connecticut and herp some of our pal Ryan's favorite hot spots. It's hard to believe but it was 3 years ago that we last did this trip. Overdue much?

With Matt, the son we never wanted in tow, we hit the road early (if not bright) and got to our destination in Hartford County, CT. by 9 AM. Our first stop was a place where Ryan had had splendid luck in the past, though on our trip here we failed. Still, there was the possibility of Wood Turtles and Black Rat Snakes. In we went.

Our first two herps were Pickerel Frogs, a species that would prove to be ubiquitous throughout the day.

With everybody scouring the shores of this lazy stream, I decided to look from the other side and waded in for a water-side view. I had spare sneakers in the car... nothing to lose. The stream looked good for salamanders, too, though I found none. We spent over an hour in and out of the water, digging under branches, feeling around in crevices but coming up empty. I did manage a couple of young Green Frogs during my search.

A massive Fishing Spider watched me as I sloshed through the water.
Dolomedes tenebrosus- Fishing Spider

We spent some time there scouring and then got ready for our next stop, not too far away. This next place used to be a Water Snake heaven but after some pruning, Ryan said it hasn't been so great. Since I already had two soakers, I strode into the stream (a different part of the same one as before, I believe) to get a different angle. A small pool off to the side had a Bullfrog hanging out.

Unbeknownst to me, a Painted Turtle was up basking and plopped into the water before I had laid eyes on it. I waited patiently, sinking into the muck, for him to emerge for a photo.

We set out to explore a small field adjacent the stream, still hoping for Wood Turtles or a formerly abundant Water Snake. A small piece of tarp revealed the latter, who was not pleased to pose for pictures. I had bloody knuckles to prove it.
In a year that has been somewhat light on Nerodia, this guy was a welcome sight. Best of all, while making its escape, it crawled right up Ryan's pant-leg, all the way up to the knee! Luckily, no bites were landed.

We found a sprinkler and cooled off a bit (it was quite warm by now) and Matt enjoyed it a little bit more than he should have.

Our next stop was a new one to me, a rocky hillside covered with flat shale pieces. It was mouthwatering to look at... so many possibilities! Ryan struck first and flipped a beautiful reddish Garter.
I took that photo upside-down. Better than most of my rightside-up shots.

That guy was our only find at that spot so, undeterred, we went on to the next place, a pathway that was filthy with Water Snakes on our last visit. We started out with a pair of Garters. I thought there was only one until a second head started crawling away.

It was fairly dry compared to our last visit but there was enough water there to keep the Painted Turtles happy.
^ He's balancing a piece of duckweed on his nose.

Matt soon flipped his first Connecticut snake record, a pretty Garter.

A Painter wearing a false mustache.

A little guy that was on to me...

This Green Frog hopped in front of me and I was stunned at its patterning. Turns out much of it was duckweed but its a beauty all the same.
Oddly enough, we saw no Water Snakes here.

We had one more stop that we wanted to make but first we stopped to pick up Ryan's girlfriend Angie, who slept in like the rock star she is. Then we hit a place that has been very tough for us in the past. Andrea and I even made a special trip a couple of years ago and wound up in the pouring rain. This is the place that ate multiple cameras a few years ago. Luckily, there were no clouds in the sky.

There is a pond right at the entrance to the place and we were greeted by a Painted Turtle and a Bullfrog.

On the trails, Ryan suggested that we were in a good salamander spot. Ever the expert, I said that it was probably too hot for them that day. Shutting me up but good, he uncovered a dark Eastern Newt.

Andrea followed it up with another.
A Redback was found as well, but he squiggled away.

Crow never tasted so good.

Andrea found this toad that still confuses me. Spotless belly, cranial crests touching partoid glands, but no real Fowler's spots.
I'm calling Fowleri but hybrids can and do happen.

Yup. Another Newt!

We got to an open field and we kind of split up. Andrea and I went one way while the others went the other. Our targets? Hognoses and Box Turtles. We managed a Spring Peeper, which is cool.

We heard yelling from afar and thought they must have found something. We hurried to the other side of the big field. No, they were just worried they had lost us. Awwww!

Since I never got a photo of the one Redback we had seen yet, I offered a one dollar bounty to whoever could find me another. Ryan won on his first flip.
Not a great shot but I'm posting it since it cost me a buck.

Two more specimens proved easier to shoot.

We descended a trail that lead down to a pond, a new spot here for me. A large Bullfrog noggin was up.

After telling a joke that I'm still wincing about 4 days later, Angie grabbed this guy... (almost) certainly an American Toad.
Man, the toads here are tough.

Matt and Andrea found this cool caterpillar, a Cucullia convexipennis.
Cucullia convexipennis
Teá said we did good.

A nice Green Frog hopped into the path.

Andrea found this bruiser...

Evidently, I had said I'd give a dollar to anyone that found a Spotted Salamander, too. Andrea won that one, much to our delight. I didn't expect to see one at all. Matt added a newt to the picture.

Their close-ups:

Another bright Redback...
What was that I said about no salamanders?

We were winding down the hike and Matt got bored. For those of you who think that he is out of his tree, I assure you he is not.

Relaxing at the end, before the car ride home, Ryan and I decided to check one spot again. I swear I flipped this shit on the way in but lo and behold, this flip produced another small Spotted and a Toad that I refuse to classify... too many clashing characteristics.

This guy was under some tarp. Pure Fowler's.

On the way to the parking lot, a chorus line of Painteds bid us adieu from a branch.

Whew... what a day! Ryan apologized for us not finding our targets, but that's just ridiculous. We got 10 species in New England... no easy feat. Best of all, we got to all hang out, goof off, have some fun and see some animals. The long drive home went quickly, with thoughts of the day's animals slithering in my brain-pan.