Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Opacum Ye Faithful. 9-27-2015

It was time for our Third Annual Mountain trip to Hampden County in Western MA! Short on planning, most invitees couldn't make it but the only three of us who had made both of the first two trips, Andrea, Ryan and myself, were present and accounted for on this cool Sunday, ready to rip it up on the mountain. We picked Ryan up at 7:30 AM and never looked back.

We arrived at the vernal pool that always starts this adventure at about 9:30. Our main target? The threatened Marbled Salamander. This is a known breeding pond for these rarities and this is their time of year. Last year we struck out but we had high hopes this day. We started carefully flipping and noticed that it was fairly dry under the logs. So we moved closer to what was left of the pond and started seeing some salamanders. Leadbacks outnumber Redbacks two to one here, as this photo so aptly illustrates.

Newts were abundant, in both the Eft and post-Eft stage.


Less than a half hour in, I heard Ryan yell "Marbled"! I raced back through the brush and branches, really ripping myself up... and it was so worth it.
This has got to be the most stunning Marbled I have ever seen.
Totally worth the two hour drive already.

This Green Frog was flipped and looked quite surprised by the very idea.

A black Leadback.

One of the bizarre things we always see here on our annual trip is newly metamorphosed Spotted Salamanders. They still have vestigial gills and barely any spots. They're still very cute, though.

Some bright Redbacks. (A Leadback trucked off before I got the shot.)

This year's United Colors of Benetton ad...

A newt ready for some water and a twin-SQUEEs!
Millipedes were everywhere, too, it should be noted.

We headed up the mountain, finding Efts and Redbacks every so often. Andrea struck first in the snake department with this feisty little Garter.
He settled down for an in situ shot.

We had ascended the mountain a bit by this time, so it was a surprise when Ryan again called out "Marbled"! He certainly had his Marbled eyes on this day! The sight of a small Marbled cuddled up to a large Redback was an amazing thing to witness. Inter-species spooning.

Andrea got a nice Marbled solo shot before returning the log to its proper place.

I was flipping shale on the steep side of a hill, carefully I might add, when I noticed that about 2 feet in front of my face, this slim Garter was watching me plop rocks around.
I tried to grab him for the others to see but he made his way down a tiny hole in the rocks.

I made good with another wee Garter shortly thereafter, though.

And up we went. We ascended the mountain via a path that we had hoped to never use again. Straight up on slippery shale shards. Oh well, we made it and earned a short break.
We looked down on Turkey Vultures circling.

OK, so we had reached the top but there were no herps up there, so we made our way down... flipping likely places, hoping for snakes, frogs or whatever. There are, in fact, the state's two vipers here but we knew they were a long shot. In fact, it was quite some time before another steep, rocky hill got us a baby Garter.
Andrea is nothing if not classy.

That was our last snake of the day but we saw plenty members of the Caudata family. Here is an Eft with only one spot.

Ryan flipped this rope of Redbacks (and millipede).

We got some climbers to squee at this little guy we found on our descent.

These triplets were the last herps we photographed before hitting sea-level again.

I'm not gonna lie... we were very tired, achy and hungry by now.

We checked the vernal on the way back to the car. This large Crayfish wanted a piece of me.
Come at me, bro

We found three more of the Spotted metamorphs, the last of which had fused rear toes (and a bum leg). We called him Django.

Beaten, bruised and hungry. But we still wanted to squeeze in some quick stream herping before the gate closed. We drove 10 minutes into the park and pulled into a choice stream area. Dookies, and Two-Lines were our targets. Both came quickly and in quantity.

This Peeper hopped by giving us our 9th herp species of the day.

Andrea and Ryan found a Dusky larvae.


Some Dookies.

This was rapid-fire herping and it was getting very dark quickly. This stunner was the last Two-line I flipped.

10 minutes till we get locked in... the race was on! I headed to the car when I heard the other two call "Wood"!! They had spotted our 10th species, a small Wood Frog who had hopped into their line of vision.

Nice... we had finally hit double-digits. It was actually a pretty low count for this place but for late September, we're very pleased. Plus, Ryan found us two Marbled Salamanders, so he earned a free meal.

We got home very late, naturally, but regret nothing. I didn't even mind when I took some trash from the car over to the dumpster and put my face into this web.

This was to be our last herping trip of September so I'm happy to say that it was a good one. How many more animals will we see this year? As I type this, tomorrow is October... traditionally the last month of the year to see snakes. I don't know what the last three months of 2015 will bring but if they are anything like the first 9, it will be weird and unpredictable.

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