Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Extraordinary. That is all. 9-6-2015

We had made plans to hook up with s friend named Mark, a herper from New Jersey who was going to be in the area. After the long day we had on Saturday, I wasn't sure just how much energy I was going to have left, especially when we decided to go to a State Forest in Plymouth County, a place that can break your heart on the best of days. But it was close for him (his campsite wasn't too far away) and he wanted to compare our pine barrens to the ones near his home in NJ. So, we headed south and met up somewhere around 9:30- 10 PM.

We met up at a pre-planned place and discussed a smashed Racer we had all seen on the way in. Its skeleton was knocked clean out of the skin. Must have been a nasty car hit. But we moved on to better things and looked around the area where we were. Some Red Bellied Cooters were floating around in a nearby pond. That's a good start.

We got into one car and headed to our first destination in the park. We were just going to take Mark to places that we knew and where we had seen herps. Targets? Hognoses, of course., but we knew that would be very tough. Our first stop was a cranberry bog area that is usually very good for frogs. Sure enough, we got a couple of handsome Bulls right away.

This wee Pickerel hopped out of the grass in front of us.

A nice Green Frog completed the Big Three Trifecta.

Another bright Bull...

And another Green Frog... in the bog...

This bog is a good place for young turtles to stay safe and protected while they get a little size on them. This little Painted was doing just that.

Andrea spied our first Fowler's Toad of the day.

It was already well into the 80s and the sun was beating down on us. We did our rounds of this place and saw one more young Painter before we jumped into the car (and AC) and headed for the next spot.

The next spot is a long, flat, sandy trail that is mostly in the shade. As the heat rose, shade was sounding pretty good. We slogged along the trail with low expectations. We had explained that this place is hit or miss... usually miss. Even on the good days here don't get you many herps. Thank goodness the bogs provided us with a few species. I was just about through the sentence "this place can break your heart..." when we saw this on the path in front of us...
Yessir, that's a baby Hognose! We tried to corral it for a photo session without harassing it. As usual, it crawled under Andrea.
It thought about dying a few times but didn't until the very end when I tried to bring it back for some video. The death didn't last long... we got to see him looking over his "shoulder" and crawl off.

Not instant by any means, but gratification all the same. We were stoked. If you're only going to see one snake, this is a great one to see. The rest of this path proved uneventful except for a few Fowler's. We tried to decide on a next stop.

We settled on a place that showed promise but never got us any actual herps the last time we looked. It's a dirt bike path with lots of garbage, railroad ties and logs. We parked and went in, carefully flipping debris. I got lucky and flipped some wood and found our first ever Plymouth County Milk... a youngster, too.
Why do we call them shoestrings?

As if that wasn't cool enough, we flipped a tie and we saw an adult Milk descending into the woven sticks underneath. Mark and I excavated and came up with more Milk than we had originally thought.
In the blue and full of piss and vinegar. He took off like a blur.

Wow. Could the day possibly get any better? Turns out, the answer is... yes.

We went along the path at the same stop and saw this...
The snake gods were surely smiling down on us... a second Hognose. We all sat down right next to it and watched it root around under the sand for maybe 10 minutes, completely oblivious to us.
The colors are hard to capture... oranges, olives, blues...

Here's what it looked like in motion...

When his head came up, I swear there was a look of surprise on his face, what with being surrounded by three humans and all.

It wasn't long before the hood came out...

and he crawled away.

He nestled into a snug coil under some brush and hissed at us a few times.
If he had been there when we walked by, we'd never have seen him. Invisible from the path.

So, this day had become an unprecedented success. Should we turn back and not ruin it? Hell no! On we went.

Our next herp was a small (maybe 6 or 7") Garter who looked like he had bitten off more than he could chew...
Good luck, buddy.

We flipped some debris and saw no snakes but I finally got my #10 mammal of the year, a Peromyscus (either a Deer or White-footed Mouse).
Peromyscus #10

Nearby, another small Garter was resting under a log, digesting a meal.

On the way back up the path, we decided to check out our Garter pal with the eyes bigger than his stomach...
Looks like he managed just fine.

Before leaving this spot, Mark flipped another young Garter. No dorsal stripe! I love baby season.

So, this was just an amazing day. We thought we'd surely disappoint Mark with a typically lousy Massachusetts herping trip here but lo and behold, the opposite was true. I'm so glad that we had some luck while showing him around. We headed back to the parking lot where he had left his car.

Before saying our goodbyes, we walked out a trail along the pond there. A lone Painted was basking far away.

We flipped a few logs, not really expecting much. We flipped one and saw what looked like a baby Garter... no, a Milk... by the time I said "Juvie Racer" out loud, it jetted off and Andrea made a spectacular grab! Our first live Racer here, too.
Smallest one we've ever seen but no less feisty than a Racer 20 times its size.
He was a tough guy but we finally got some sweet shots of him in the grass.

We had hit double digits and we did it with 4 snake species! There are no words to express how happy (and surprised, frankly) we all were. It's an honor to have shared this trip with Mark, a friend we had never met in person before. Hopefully, the next time we get together, either here or in New Jersey, we'll have half the luck we did this day; it would still be an amazing experience.

We said our farewells and we headed home. I wanted to peek at a few spots on the way back to the highway. One pond had some Painters up, catching some late afternoon rays.

Stepping back, I realized that with the sun's angle and the clear, reflecting water, there was almost a spiderweb made of logs, sticks and turtles. Quite beautiful.

One last stop got us a few confused Fowler's who were about to get up for the night anyway.

What can I say but "wow". We have never seen more than three total snakes on any given trip to this place and we just killed it this day. We got some dinner and drove home, extremely happy with our adventure.

Is it bad that I was a bit disappointed that we saw no Redbellied Snakes?


  1. !!Qúé valientes son ustedes, muchachos!!!!Yo no tocaría una serpiente,por mas bonitas que sean ,!!!Guauuuu!!!!Jaja!!! Las fotos son de diez!! !buenísimas!!Un beso para todos Martha

    1. Estas son todas las serpientes inofensivas y todo tan hermoso! Es nuestro privilegio de poder ver estos animales salvajes maravillosos!

      Love and hugs!!