Monday, September 28, 2015

Grampa plays with snakes. 9-26-2015

The herping year in Massachusetts is ending rapidly. Over the last week, we have seen evening temps getting into the low 50s... and even lower. This plays havoc with our herping plans. Even with a forecast of sun and warm, we have a tough time figuring out our timing, our layers of clothes and what places to hit and when to hit them. That said, I wanted to see my grand kids on Saturday, too. With them in Essex County, that seemed like a good place to herp. We hit our go-to place in Essex at about 10:30 AM.

We parked and peeked at a pond that sometimes has some turtles up basking, but it was dry. The sun was sure warm (despite it being only 62°) but no water meant no turtles. We wondered just how dry the ponds would be as we headed in.

I'm not going to lie- out of the sun it was cold. Having left our sweatshirts in the car, we just had to deal with it. Of course, no snakes would be out on the crawl in such cool temps. Or would there be one intrepid Garter, hanging out on the edge of the path?
I walked all around this orange beauty and he never even noticed me. He was a slim statue.
Andrea picked him up to look at his belly, which was a stunning orange, too.
That's a pretty snake! She released him and he went on his merry way... just in a nick of time. A pair of excited dogs came by just then, eager to see what we were doing.

We flipped plenty of Redbacks. They are back with a vengeance!

We got to the first edge of the pond (which is kind of an L-shape) and it was so low, we could walk out and not even get muddy. But along the edge, there were some rocks heating up in the morning sun and we found two young Water Snakes.
The guy on the left was pretty excitable, musking and biting, while the other guy just hung out, still half asleep. They switched sides for Andrea.
Mr. Bitey stayed for a solo shot before slithering off into the rocks again.

The reddest of the day's Redbacks.

We headed up a trail that we had discovered the last time here, one that goes up to a sunny power-line cut. We expected great things in this cut and we spent about an hour and a half exploring and flipping but were unable to see anything. We each got our eyes (or ears, in my case) on a quick snake but we never found them. Oh well, we stayed warm and enjoyed the beauty of the place anyway. We headed back down to look at a small pond. Pay dirt!
This young Painted Turtle had worked his way through the duckweed and found a nice basking spot.

We had also reached the Bullfrog portion of the hike. Hundreds of little Bullfrog noggins poked out of the water, almost unseen by us since they matched the color of the duckweed. Luckily, some of them were out further so we could get a few shots.

We peeked at the other side of the trail, where the pond drains through a culvert, and two completely adorable young Green Frogs were hanging out.

We had missed a chance to photograph three fast Pickerel Frogs while walking out on the dry pond earlier so when Andrea spotted (heh heh) another, I was going to get the shot, whether he made it easy or not.
Good enough.

This fat, green Bullfrog applauded our efforts.

Let me take a break to say hello to two loyal readers. Hi Stella! Hi Duck!

We headed over to the open part of the pond. It was low but not dry. The waves still crashed into the shore. So did the wind. In fact, it was darn cold!!! We shivered and flipped a bit but no herps in their right mind would be out in this freezing wind. We sat on a rock in the sun and nibbled on some snacks while we shivered. I enjoyed watching this Bullfrog tadpole foraging around at the edge of the pond, also taking a snack break.

We were freezing so we headed back. Once away from that part of the pond, it was warm again. The duckweed pond had a few more Painted Turtles up, trying to bask.
This little guy is just covered!

We went close the edge and started flipping some bark that had fallen from a tree. Andrea flipped a piece and we saw coiled perfection... a beautiful classic Garter Snake.
This snake had the most stunning eyes... like newly minted pennies. I hoped for a photo that would capture that but nature's beauty sometimes cannot translate to photos.
We were very taken with this beauty. He never musked or bit or seemed the least bit threatened. If we were ones to kidnap animals from the wild to keep as pets, this guy would be here with me right now. But we don't do that, so we let him go, to live the way he should. In the wild.

That was a beautiful way to end a tranquil and rewarding (if sometimes chilly) herping trip. We headed over to see the kids. Anything but tranquil, but even more wonderful in its own way.


  1. hahaha HIHI mike and andrea.......

    1. I felt two people needed a shout out!

  2. Replies
    1. Haha... I'm thrilled that anyone reads this at all!