OK, so despite a very tempting offer from Teá to go look for Milk Snakes, we stuck to our original plans to head a bit further than her destination... into the wilds of Western MA in search of Box Turtles. We figured that we have been having pretty good luck with finding targets this year so our white whale Boxies were only a matter of time. We headed out early and drove for two hours and got to our spot at about 10 AM. It was overcast and a bit cool.
Right off the bat, we found a couple of American Toads. Good start!
This place supposedly has Hognoses too so its nice to see their food source so readily.
We poked around and it became evident quickly that some clearing has taken place. A whole field had been razed. No worries... this place does controlled burns and stuff. It actually made it easier to comb the fields for Box Turtles. But we didn't stumble upon any. We got a few Redbacks when we found our way.
It was becoming evident that a lot of this place had been razed. Evidently, they chop and burn this place from time to time but it just looked like destruction to me. It was sad. I know, since it is a wildlife management area that they must know what they are doing but it still makes it look like habitat destruction... and Boxes and Hogs aren't exactly common in this state.
This fledgling Robin agreed. Atrocious!
There was plenty of fallen lumber to flip but it wasn't producing anything until this toad.
We split up for a bit to cover more ground. Andrea did the impossible... she got a fleeting glimpse of a Garter Snake.
We hooked back up and worked our way back toward the car. This place never fails to depress me. When we got to the car, we decided to take some of the dirt roads around to see if we could find the alleged pond. A friend said there is one but we've never seen it. But then, he sees Boxes and Hogs here so who knows? He might be hallucinating.
We took the ol' Corolla Four-Wheelin' and it hated it. We were cruising slowly in the hopes that something would skitter across the road. We took another barely-there road and cut branches scraped the undercarriage. I just wanted to go somewhere else. I turned around in order to do just that.
Andrea had just gone all Yogi Berra on me with an "it ain't over till it's over" or some such happy horse-shit when one of the sticks in the road looked a bit different. It was laying across a tire track in the mud and I thought, "oh great... I might have run something over on the way in." I knew what it was before I opened the door.
Mercifully, it was not mushed.
I lay down in front of it so it wouldn't be gone by the time Andrea got to my side of the car. When she first saw it, it looked like this:
No Box but we finally had a Hognose here, somewhere around the four-hour mark on the day and probably our twelfth time searching here. And a cute little guy he was!
Seeing something like this really takes the edge off of your disappointment.
Unnoticed by us, there was a truck coming down the skinny, one-lane, dirt road. To them, there was a running car and two people laying on the ground in the way. We said our farewells and moved the little fella off the road and we moved the car out of the truck's way.
We explained to the guys in the truck who had no idea what they had just seen.
So we headed over to another spot but wanted sammiches first. On the way, we passed a pond and noticed a shell basking. I pulled over to snap this Painted catching some rays.
I could hear some Bullfrogs grumbling too, but didn't see any.
After we ate, we hit the next spot... a great place for stream salamanders. That's exactly what I was ready for. The last place, with no shade left, got pretty hot. Sure enough, Duskys were in great supply.
I spotted (hah!) a bright Eft on a log.
Andrea lifted a flap on the log and this was inside!
Dookie in a mud bath.
I was finding tons of Dooks, which is awesome because I love them.
Oddly enough, we weren't finding any Two-Lined Salamanders yet. They are super common here. I flipped a log and saw nothing but Andrea noticed this: our only Two-Line.
Andrea was pissed because I was having all of the Dookie luck. She finally got a big fattie to call her own. (Not me, the salamander.)
One more chubba-bubba.
Frankly, we were tired. I haven't mentioned that this Dookie-fest was taking us up a very steep hill. It was a mountain stream. So that, coupled with the heavy mosquito presence, made up our minds to turn back. Another Eft greeted us on our descent.
Andrea flipped this stunning Leadback.
A field that we passed (where we were unable to photograph two Pickerel Frogs on the way in) had a gravel mound with rocks around it. I climbed on top of it and flipped a rock. I was greeted by a decent sized Garter coiled there. I picked it up to take down to show Andrea. I got the ol' mustard-mayo musk and quite a few bites for my efforts.
Oh well, it was nice to see my first Garter of the day all the same.
Our last stop here took us to water's edge and a large, bright Green Frog.
Walking back to the car, Andrea spied a bird's nest. I reached up high with the camera and snapped this shot of young Phoebes, almost ready to leave the nest.
The drive home was very quiet. Because my lovely wife slept for the whole two hours! We stopped to look in on the cats at our friends' house before returning home. It was Andrea's turn to find a 6-pack of Dekay's.
That last coil was about the size of a half-dollar.
That was a long Saturday but we're happy. Teá and her crew did very well too, with Milk Snakes, Garters, a Ringneck and more. Hopefully, we'll all hitch up again soon. Vacation is coming and herping will happen.