Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Herping 10-31-2015

It was going to be pretty cool but we had made plans to meet Teá and her friend Paul to explore a nearby spot on Saturday morning. Our targets? Ambystoma. Both Blue-spotted and regular Spotted Salamanders. Our meeting time got pushed back a bit but by around 10:30 AM, we were all together and ready to herp. Sadly, It was still about 45°F. Some of the logs we flipped in the all-but-dry vernal had frost on top of them. Not a good sign.

It took a little while, but we eventually flipped a couple of cool Redbacks.
I use the term "cool" literally, as well as thinking they were pretty nifty.

Another splendid Redback.

So, not every animal was frozen solid. That's a relief. As I always say, thank goodness for Redbacks. Andrea flipped the next one, a plump Leadback...
and exclaimed "there's a frog under here, too".

Sure enough, there was a Peeper all hunkered down in there as well.
Not the greatest place to spend the entire winter, I'm sure.
Bleary eyed.
I made a deep thumbprint in the soil under the log and he leaped into it... Bullseye!

Well, that was unexpected!

I told Teá and Paul about a dream I'd had the night before where I had flipped a neonate Garter Snake. I offered up one whole dollar to anyone that could present me with such a sight. We were heading over to a sunny, rocky spot to poke around so my request wasn't completely off base. It was pretty comfortable in the sun, though the temperature was well below 60°.

I saved myself some cash when I flipped a rock and saw this:
A dream literally come true. Not quite neonate but a young-of-year. His little body was pretty cold. We tried to warm him up.
We kinda wanted to keep this little guy for the Winter but since we're not poachers, we let him go back to his wild-snake ways.

We enjoyed the colors of the season as we walked along, wondering if he would be the last snake of the year.

Andrea soon saw some more colors, even if they were a bit subdued by dirt. She spotted this Northern Water Snake who had come out of her den to warm up in the sun. Her bottom half was still in the ground.
Two snakes on October 31st?! Wow.

Teá and Paul decided to go on to the other side of the river on foot, which meant traversing a train trestle. We decided to double back and look some more in the sun, then meet them there after driving over. We checked on our dirty little Nerodia on the way by... she was completely out and basking by now.
Even her right eye-cap is covered with dirt. Nice Halloween costume.

We kept going up the path, looking at the sunny rocks but flipping few. We figured if there were any more snakes, they would be like our Nerodia friend: simply basking. We walked past a guy with binoculars trained intently on the trees over the marsh. I tried to not bug him as we walked by. When we were about 20 feet away, he called to us... why didn't we ask what he was looking at?! It seems he had been watching a Red-headed Woodpecker, not the most common bird in the area, and he was excited to share it with someone. We went and talked with him for a while and saw the bird, grabbing acorns from the woods and bringing them to a hollow tree. Getting a picture was another story.

He had seen 31 species of bird while there in just a couple of hours. His #32 was a need-it on the year for me, though not a lifer. But I'm happy enough with this shot of an Eastern Bluebird to post it here.
Eastern Bluebird #92

We saw a Red-shouldered Hawk being chased by a Red-tailed Hawk, too. No pictures, though. I finally got a couple of usable photos of the Red-headed, though.
Red-headed Woodpecker #93 Lifer #135
Red-headed Woodpecker #93 Lifer #135
This youngster is #135 on my life-list.

We spent entirely too much time birding with this guy. Fun as it was, we had to head back to the car and get across the river. Teá and Paul had found a Dekay's Snake over there, making it three species for Halloween. While on the path back to the car, they contacted Andrea and said they too were heading back already.

We went up to explore a sunny hill that had been in the shade earlier. I had seen a Garter there two days earlier and decided to press my luck. I flipped a pair of Redbacks.

We explored every nook and cranny and decided that it was snake-free. But walking past a mound, I heard a sound and looked to see some moving stripes. We had just found a Halloween Ribbon Snake!
Super pretty despite a still-healing scar on the side and some scrapes at the end of the tail on the underside. But just look at that red stripe.
We held on to it while we waited for Teá and Paul to get back to this section. I'm glad we did; it turned out to be Paul's lifer Ribbon. We released it and watched it slowly make its way around the mound, enjoying the sun.

What an unexpected adventure this turned out to be. Of course, we saw no Ambystoma, which had been our goal, but four species of snakes?! Unreal. (Andrea and I looked for Dekay's at our friends' house later on but came up empty... we had to "settle" for just three snake species... on October 31st!!!) This was just crazy. The ambient temperature never hit 60°, either.

That, my friend, was a Happy Halloween.


  1. Nice work! Pretty good for the last day of Snaketober! That ribbon is a beauty.

  2. Thanks, Mike! We're very pleased!