Friday, October 9, 2015

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Herper Oct. 6,7 and 9, 2015

After that cold weekend last week, we got super-excited about a potential warm-up in the forecast. Unfortunately, we would be at work instead of enjoying it. But I didn't want to be outsmarted by logic so I rushed out of work on Tuesday, Oct. 6th, and on the way home, stopped by a local spot to see if any rocks were warm enough to have snakes under them. It was in the mid-60s when I got there at about 4:30 PM.

I rushed through the main part of the hike, content with flipping a few logs with Redbacks under them.

My hurrying to the sunny rocks was almost for naught... they were now in the shade. They were, however, still warm to the touch and before too long, I found a slender and feisty Garter.
He sure showed me who is boss.

Ahhh... it's nice to see October snakes.

I headed over to the sunnier side of things and flipped another ornery Garter. His body was quite warm.
I kept trying to release him and he would crawl under my pant-leg. Finally, I got this shot before he went in the right direction and disappeared under his rock.

Further up the path, barely still in the sun, this blue-eyed Water Snake was catching some rays.
I reached in to try to move the leaf in front of her for a better shot and she zoomed off... almost 3 feet of Nerodia.

That was a fun after-work hour or so. I wish Andrea had been with me.

I wished the same thing the next day (Wed. October 7th) when I hit a different Suffolk County herp spot on the way home. It was almost 70° and I wanted to get to this place to try my luck with Garters. I hadn't seen one there in nearly 2 years.

Just inside the place, under a log that borders the path, I saw the biggest Spotted Salamander that I'd seen since Spring Migration. A gorgeous adult.
Already a successful stop.

It was pretty chilly in the woods. I managed to flip a stubby Redback.

I got to the pond and was sad to see some people there with their off-leash dog who was jumping in and out of the water. The man saw my camera and asked what I was shooting. I said I was hoping for frogs and turtles but it looks like I wont look here. He apologized. Lucky for him, the other side of the pond had a nice basking area being utilized by a few intrepid Painters.

One was in for a swim.

In a waterless stream bed, I flipped some Two-lined Salamanders, one of which looked just like this.

That was that for a while. I continued walking and flipping, pretty much giving up on snakes but looking for salamanders. As I was getting near a stream that guarantees 2-Lines even in the dead of winter, a flipped piece of bark held a sweet surprise.
I had never seen a snake on this side of the woods before. This thin rope of a Garter lay still for the photo. I had to pick him up to make sure he was OK. He was and he slid off into the leaves and disappeared.

The aforementioned Two-line stream indeed had Two-lines there.

Not a bad after-work hour again!

Last year, an unprecedented number of sea turtles washed ashore in Cape Cod, stunned by the cold. We read of the disaster and the heroic efforts of the many volunteers that assisted in the rescue of these endangered animals. We decided to volunteer this year ourselves. Being so far away, there may not be much we can do but we'll be happy to roam the frigid beaches on holidays and weekends and transport ailing turtles to the aquarium, which is on our way back anyway.

To volunteer, we needed to take a short seminar to see what is involved. Unfortunately, the only available time was Friday (the 9th) at 9:30 AM. I took the day off from work so I could attend. Our Fall and Winter are going to be BUSY! But hopefully we can help make a difference.

By 11 AM, the meeting was over and there I was on the Cape. I decided to look around. I didn't expect many herps, especially Box Turtles and Diamondback Terrapins, but hope springs eternal. It was fairly warm and sunny but there was a vicious wind cooling things off. I spied a pack of Painted Turtles basking through the trees.

A Bullfrog was sitting atop some lily-pads... just like they are supposed to.

This Painter is a tree-hugger, like me.

I walked out through the salt-marshes to the beach. No terrapins but a flock of Brants had just landed. Not a need-it bird but beautiful none the less.

A trio of preening Greater Black-backed gulls were there, too.

I headed back to the woods to try my luck with Box Turtles, though it was sunny and cool. Again, through the trees, high above from the path, I saw an 8-pack of Painters sunning on the shore.

A Green Frog posed nicely for me, bringing my species count to 3.

I put about a hour or more into Box seeking. I saw a few empty forms but no turtles. That's fine; I would have felt horribly guilty had I seen one without Andrea. I hit the road by 1:30.

Of course, I was hungry so I figured I'd pull over at some point and get a bite to eat. Hmm... Plymouth is only about an hour or so away... maybe I'll just go there. And since there are herps in Plymouth...

OK, I'm not proud but I pulled off the highway and drove to the National Forest in Plymouth and went directly to a spot that we found three snake species at on our last visit. I got out (and my teeth fell into the sand. Really.) and it was very cool now. I had driven through some rain, heavy at times, and the wind was raw. I flipped a bright Redback in the sandy soil. Just as I clicked, a cricket jumped on his head.
After regaining his composure, the Redback posed nicely.

The only other herp I saw at that spot was a large Spring Peeper.
Perhaps it's an Autumn Peeper.

After that, I hit the road, hit the traffic and got home after an extremely full day, a day mostly full of driving. A pretty good week of herps but I can't wait to get back out with Andrea. We have a three day weekend and the weather is looking good. It ain't over till the fat Peeper peeps.

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