Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Herpin' Back to my Baby (and I don't mean maybe) 10-10-2015

(Ace Frehley reference for the uninitiated)

Finally, I got back on the trail with Andrea! Unfortunately, the first day of our three day weekend together was going to be a bit chilly. It wasn't supposed to hit 60° but it was going to be sunny. After Friday's heavy rains, we decided to get deep into Norfolk County and look for salamanders. Surely no snakes would be up.

We got to our destination a bit late as we wanted to let it warm up some (and to be frank, sleep in). When we got out of the car, we actually tested the air to see if our breath was showing. It was not. In fact, in the sun it was nice. We hit the restrooms and before hitting the trails, flipped a stone behind the facilities... a Redback trifecta.
A good start.

We went over to check some tarp that was warming in the sun. No, nothing. But about 10 feet away, sitting in a patch of sunlight, two Garters were there.
No way... and their tails were entwined! (Though they didn't look engaged).
One more look... their Kraftwerk cover.
These snakes were so chill (literally) that the periscoping one let me tickle her chin.
OK, so two snakes were out. Score!

Within a couple of minutes, Andrea saw a big gal Garter on the path. It was still only 59°.
She had a skin tag on her neck... not a scar or anything, just a small nodule.

It was 11 AM but I guess our timing was right. The sun had been warm enough to bring out some snakes. The next one was foraging near the water's edge.

This goldtop was sunning just off the path as we made our way in.

OK, so where were the salamanders that we had come for? Andrea found a couple more Redbacks.

Painted Turtles were jockeying for position in the sun.

This Painter couldn't be bothered with that socializing crap.

Andrea spotted this speedy little Pickerel Frog.

We searched what is typically a Water Snake-heavy area here but it seems that the Nerodia crowd wasn't as desperate as the Thamnophis folks. That said, this sirtalis had just found something to her liking for lunch.
Olive noggin.

We hit an open spot and our sweatshirts came off. The ambient temperature was cool but in the sun, it was toasty. This Peeper hopped into the shade for his photo.

We flipped but one snake in the sunny part... this assertive little Garter.
This was our seventh Garter on a day we had figured on none.

Leaving that area, I almost tripped over this guy...
Super-pretty Garter! #8.

We got to the section that had originally been our target... an area where we had found Spotted and Four-toed Salamanders. None. The Devil did, however, send us these lovely Twins of Redback.

Moving on, Andrea spotted these two Garters lounging on a sun dappled hill just off the trail.
That's 9 and 10 for those keeping track at home.

We finally got to the half way mark (!) and found ourselves in the sun again, with no shade. Mmm... this is how October should feel. At a stone wall, Andrea saw a snake and pointed it out. I lunged and we had our first Ribbon Snake in quite a while.
This guy had some battle-scars.
Still, such a beautiful animal. An animal hater that was going by heard me say "beautiful" and made some anti-snake remark and I called her a C-word. (Edited for the pearl-clutchers out there.)

We went for a while after that without seeing much, just a stray, speedy Redback or two. I searched a stream bed for Two-lines but found none. We were feeling pretty tired but pushed on, intent on getting over to a place with plenty of rocks (though it's also the most popular spot for *ugh* humans). We made it and managed to flip a lovely, shiny Garter #11.

Ironically, after flipping lots of heavy rocks in the stream bed, I flipped a small brick in a mucky pool at this spot and got a nice Two-line.

We were toast by now so we headed back to the car. On the way, we decided to see if 6 hours had made a difference in the tarp. We flipped up the edges but nobody was taking advantage of the warm, black plastic. I walked away and all of a sudden, Andrea proclaimed "Garter"! Sure enough, in the chilly shade, a small Garter was stretched out. #12 of this species.
We moved him to a woodpile next to the tarp, a place where he could warm up and thermoregulate, and decide where to spend the night.
Too cute for just one picture.

For a day that never hit 60°, we sure didn't expect a count of Lucky 13 for snakes. It's yet another example of never knowing what to expect from nature. All of the experience and knowledge in the world can only get you started. The animals themselves run the show.

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