Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Beyond the Valley of Nerodia 11-27-2015

Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. A time for humans to spend money, display greed and get into a fist-fight for a cheap TV. Fuck that. The temps were going to be in the low 60s and it was going to be sunny. We wanted to herp. Late November means salamanders and that's what we wanted to look for. As long as we were far from the rabid consumers, we would be happy.

We decided to go to a spot in Norfolk County to look for Ambystoma but since it was sunny, we thought we'd stop by a nearby Suffolk County spot on the way out... would our friend Robles the Ribbon Snake actually be outside his den again? We got there at about noon and looked, but he wasn't up. We did see a Redback, though.

We looked around Sly's den and pond, hoping for some salamanders but saw none. Deciding to check the whole den area before heading back out to the car, I took the long way around. Much to my shock, at the bottom of the mound, a large (3 feet, easy) Water Snake was stretched out, catching some late November rays.
Unbelievable. She was cool (obviously) and I got right up in her grille for photos.
She had a wound that was mostly healed... no scales over the skin but that white spot wasn't leaking or infected looking.
How the hell about that? November 27th... we shattered our old record.

We decided to walk the "valley" in between two den mounds. We learned early this year that the next den area was a Water Snake hideout. Walking along, I startled two snakes... a Water Snake (with one bad eye)...

and a Garter Snake, also with a bad eye... a nasty pus-filled eye.
He was in good shape other than that eye. I doubt that eye will last the winter so we'll be on the lookout for a cyclops Garter in the spring.

While photographing those two, we noticed more Water Snakes within sight. This little guy was #3...

Andrea couldn't resist #4...

#5 was this big, black Water Snake... Black Friday indeed!

Andrea informed me that I had nearly stepped on #6 while going over to photograph #5!

So, this is #2, 3 and 4 and ol' pus-eye sort-of as found. (I added the Garter.)

Walking further down towards the further den, I saw this guy, #7.
If you look closely above, you can see #8 and 9 in the background. I had no idea they were there yet. When I did see them, they looked like this.
#9 showed me an entrance to the den.
Another cyclops, that one.

#7 had a stunning belly.

Since we were at ten snakes on November 27th, we chucked our plans for going elsewhere for salamanders and decided to stay where we were and check out some other suspected den areas. On the trail, two hikers were ahead of us when they stopped and one woman said, "I don't want someone to step on it..." We asked what was up there. It was a Garter, which Andrea took out of harm's way.DSCN9450
This guy wasn't even really close to the den!

We went up a trail that we don't use as much as others and the sightings stopped until we got to a stone wall that we always thought looked likely for snakes. This Garter was out basking in the leaves. A perfect coil.
When he noticed that he was being watched, he slithered to the top, presumably closer to the entrance of his winter hideaway.

We turned back, still flipping occasionally for salamanders. We wanted to, of course, peek through the Valley of Nerodia (as it will now forever be known) on the way out, too. Andrea went up over the first den and startled this good sized Water Snake.
We can't tell if it's a new one of perhaps #7 or 8. We're not counting it just in case.

Andrea did, however, spot a new Garter here.

Some of the Nerodia had gone back to the den but many were still in the same place. I moved #5 back towards the den and got musked for it. Ol' Pus Eye the Garter was still out. Noggin Nine was still in the den's doorway and when #2 (probably) wanted to get back in, there was a logjam.

We thanked our lucky stars and headed out, peeking over at #1 who was heading towards her den when we passed. (I wonder if she is Sly's roomie...)

What an extraordinary day. At least thirteen snakes. If this is global warming, I might be inclined to grab a case of Aquanet and spray it toward the heavens. But seriously... this is a gift from Mother Nature and I can't thank her enough for the happiness that we felt on this late November day. Tack!

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