Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Age of Musk. 9-20-2015

The season is winding down, whether we care to admit it or not. Baby turtle season has come and all but gone with no hatchling sightings. With that in mind, we went over to a place in Bristol County on Sunday in hopes of seeing some babies. At the very least, this place has plenty of different snake and turtle species to keep us busy, babies or not. We went out for pancakes first and got there at about 11 AM.

A falling garage on the property, which miraculously still stands, was the spot of our first encounters. Andrea spied a large Pickerel Frog hopping around.

The temps were in the 70s so we figured most diurnal snakes would be up on the crawl but this young Garter was resting under a piece of tarp.

Right outside the building where a stack of 4X4s are piled, we flipped another small Garter. 'Tis the season.
Slightly blue... perhaps the first guy was as well.

Another board produced a Redback.
Not too shabby... 3 species in about 15 minutes. On we went.

This American Toad was standing tall near the path.

We made our way down to a slow moving section of the river expecting to see some Painted Turtles basking, even though it was slightly overcast. To our surprise, the Musk Turtle was up, taking a rocket ride.

A couple of Painteds were also catching some rays, however cloudy it might have been.

Andrea flipped a teeny tiny Leadback. That is my thumbnail for size reference.
All noggin.

This American Toad was a cutie.

Getting off path and back down to some water got us a few more Painted Turtles. Check out the legwork of that one... using the bottom guy's head as a footrest.

We had a vernal pond to explore... one that had dried up. We wanted to try to find Newts and Spotted Salamanders. What we came up with was... nothing. But a second vernal that we also tried out got us a young Spottie!

As a bonus, this Peeper hopped into our line of vision, too.

We got top a spot where we have seen and helped baby Snappers emerging from their nest before. We found some predated nests but no babies, living or dead. We went down to the water's edge. This Pickerel...
alerted me to this Green Frog.
Don't look now... we were at 9 species. Double digits was within our reach.

Heading back to the trail, Andrea said "Garter... in the path". She was right.
This adult sat there, periscope up, while I crawled all around him taking pictures.

Some more Painters basking. The clouds were dissipating.

The place where I got stung by a wasp last time had a large snake skin under it but the wasps were still there so I didn't hang around too long this time. A different piece of metal had this Garter under it though.
It is wearing a mask of spiderwebs.

We hit the water again and I craned my neck and saw some turtles up. Yup... a Painted...

And behind him a Musk and Painted duo! Now that's exciting.

So, we were walking along the water's edge and wondering just why in the world we have never seen a Water Snake here. We saw a huge, keeled skin once (at the bottom of the waterfall) and a dead baby one up near the garage, but that could have been dropped by a bird or something. A guy we know that herps here says he has seen them but... well, I need to see it to believe it. I was going on and on (as I tend to do) about no Water Snakes and how if there are any here, they'd be after the waterfall. Half way through a rant, this guy slithered down the hill next to us.
Hey... that's a Water Snake. We weren't yet to the falls, either. I went in for closer shots.

So, that's the first Nerodia we have seen here in eight years of visiting this place. Finally! But the skin on his neck looked sketchy and I wanted to inspect it closely. We were hoping it wasn't going to be fungus (which we have not encountered at all this year.)

It turns out it was just some retained skin from its recent shed and it was dirty. He had a tender spot at the corner of his mouth, probably from rubbing it to remove the skin, but I'm pretty certain this was a fairly healthy snake. In keeping with the theme of the day, he musked me into oblivion and bit a number of times, too. He wanted no  help in removing the skin. Look at that belly, too!

Our eternal target for this place FOUND... and our 10th species of the day. We poked around at the waterfall briefly, while these Painters fought for space on a small rock.

Moving on, we crossed a stream where a Green Frog was trying out a new hairstyle.

I like flipping carpet. Nothing gets hurt. Andrea and I had been double-teaming rocks this day and skipping ones that I have flipped dozens of times before, but don't now feel comfortable with. But carpet? Love it. This baby Garter was in it, happy as a clam.
Not sporting much of a dorsal stripe there, bro.

Some plastic tarp got us this beautiful youngster... Andrea fell in love with him.
It musked her, too, of course.

Hitting the trail again, a Wood Frog hopped in front of me and into the bushes. As a new species on the day, I stayed there for about 5 minutes, endlessly snapping photos, trying to get a decent one. Finally, I got this.

Less than a minute later, this bright Woodie hopped by me and politely posed, making all of the work on the other guy seem pointless.
Oh well, at least it illustrates how variable this species can be.

A piece of parachute material that netted us a young, in-the-blue Garter last time here... did it again.
For all I know, this is the same guy on his next shed.

We finally sat down for a real break. The week had been tumultuous and disturbing, then uplifting... But it all has left me confuzzled. But really, the beauty of nature cures all. We sat there, looking out over the river, watching birds fly past, watching the grasses blow in the wind and the water flowing by. This was what we saw for 10 or 15 minutes:
If anyone knows of anything more worth looking at than that, I want to hear about it.

We headed back, realizing that we were pretty tired and hungry. We didn't add on an extra leg of the hike as we often do here. We stopped back at the beginning of the river and said goodbye to the Painted Turtles basking there.

Dare I say that I can't wait to get back out?

Well, actually, we saw this Dekay's when we went up to our friend's house to look in on their cats the next day, Monday. He was coiled up under a rock he was sharing with a Wolf Spider.

With cooler weather approaching, we plan on immersing ourselves in nature as much as possible. For sanity's sake.

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