Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tis the Season- December 5th and 6th, 2015

Sure, many people are Christmas shopping and getting set for a joyous holiday season. We're getting ready, too... by going to local herp spots to look and see if the sun brings out any basking snakes. Y'see, the weather is still above normal and while 52° doesn't sound very promising, the sun was warm and there might be some snakes out trying to catch some (very) late Autumn rays. It was about 1 PM and we headed over to our nearby Suffolk stomping ground, mainly to see if our favorite Ribbon Snake (Robles) was outside his den.

He was.
He had his head pointed to the sky, stretching for maximum sun.
He is looking a bit more slim than he did 5 weeks ago. We're wondering if he's catching all of the rays he can to stave off an illness. He still is very alert, which is good. We left him sunning himself, happy with our December snake!

The Valley of Nerodia was suspiciously empty but where the sun wasn't hitting, it was cool. We decided to walk down to a newly discovered den while the sun was still warm. Perhaps a garter would be poking out.

Oddly enough, one was.
Damn... we have Spring days that aren't as good as this!

Andrea was photographing that guy when I noticed a mostly leaf-covered Garter body near her foot. "Uh-oh... I hope we didn't step on this guy." I removed a leaf from his head and a tongue came out.
When he noticed us, he went flat and hissy and put on quite a show.
He crawled up the slope to the den opening with his head held up high and his mouth open and striking. We didn't even touch him! We had never seen a Garter do that before (Milks and Racers, yes) but then, we'd never seen a Garter... or any snake... in December before this day.

We headed back as Andrea was feeling fatigued (having had mouth surgery the day before). We checked out the Valley again but nobody had come out to play. It was cooling off rapidly anyway. We managed one Redback on a log flip, though.

What an extraordinary day. Happily, we had planned on coming back the very next day with TeĆ”, Paul and the son we never wanted, Matt. We were hoping to see another December snake so we can all have a new record.

We all met up at 11 AM and headed straight to Robles' hill. We didn't have a lot of time so we cut to the chase. Guess what... he was up.
We surrounded him like the paparazzi that we are and got some shots. Matt aptly called him a tank.

We hiked down to the Garter spot from the day before but didn't encounter any. We stopped for some nice birding for a while, though. We met a guy named Andrew on the way back who is Facebook friends with Andrea... he told us of a garter that he'd seen outside a den and took us to look for it. It was a new den spot to us. We looked around but didn't find anyone. Funny... it was a bit warmer this day (55°) and sunny but there was a breeze cooling things off. I'd expected a few more snakes. But hey... I'm not going to whine about only one December 6th snake!!!!

We checked on Robles on the way out. He was nestled in a bright patch of sun, looking pleased with himself. If he was trying to make sure that he'd be the last snake we would see in 2015, his mission had been accomplished. GO TO BED, NOW!

I flipped a speedy little Redback before we left for lunch.

We ate and when driving Matt to the train station, we decided to swing by the cemetery to see if any turtles were up basking. Nothing would surprise me. Well, there wasn't, but there was some Avian Action. This funky (domestic) goose that we had seen last year was once again hanging out with a flock (about 80 or 90 strong) of Canada Geese.

A lone Hooded Merganser was swimming through an obstacle course of geese, very serious indeed.
Hooded Merganser #98
My 98th bird on the year and always a favorite.

Not a bad first weekend in December! Usually at this time of year, we have to freeze our asses off looking for Two-lined Salamander larvae. We feel blessed. Now, this is the kind of Season I like... an extended herp season! Color me jolly.

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