Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Post-Florida Whatevers... Feb 20th-22nd.

In the couple of weeks that we have been back from Florida, we have not been in the field much to speak of. It has been frigid, the ground is frozen and the SAD has taken hold of us (me, anyway). This past weekend, we had to break out of our slump. The temps were going to be milder and we had some turtle stuff to do, too.

We headed to Cape Cod on Saturday morning to do some sea turtle necropsies that we were on the schedule for. While waiting for data-entry training, we grabbed a turtle and Andrea did the cutting while I took the notes.
Here, she is inspecting an intestine for contents.

Much to our delight, our friend Tim was there as well. After our training, we assisted other people until Tim suggested it was time that I cut my own turtle. He would help me out. I went to choose a turtle. 6 Kemp's ridleys were lined up and I chose the largest. Carrying it to the work station, I noticed the flipper tag. This was the first turtle that we had found last year!! The tag said clearly where it was found ("300 feet from the house" and named the beach). The person who actually wrote that tag, Rebecca, was working on this turtle too, taking the notes. Here is where we found this poor guy... the first turtle. We knew that day that this specimen was dead so it's not as heartbreaking as it could have been. (Our other two from that day lived!) I cut in and did my thing, with Tim's and Rebecca's help. Here is Tim inspecting the spleen up close after I removed it.

I cut another Ridley after that while Andrea assisted on a huge Loggerhead. We also helped with data-entry.
According to this photo, data entry is way more fun than one might think.

After 6 hours of pathology and clean up, we headed home. It was beautiful out so we stopped at a favorite herping spot in Taunton on the way, just to see how Spring had been progressing. Still frigid and snowy but I took the time to spread out some of my boards at a good snake spot.

The following day, Sunday the 20th, I had wanted to go stream-salamandering in Worcester County. Andrea shot down the idea, saying she would leave me if I made her stand in ice water. While I don't listen to threats, I had to consider the welfare of the cats, so I acquiesced and agreed to look for terrestrial salamanders closer to home. The son we never wanted, Matt, joined us. We hadn't seen his scruffy little face in a while so we were happy to have him with us.

On the way to our Norfolk County destination, we decided to check out the dens near us. It was surprisingly sunny and already (by noon) a good 10 degrees warmer than forecast... about 50°. We looked in the Vally of Nerodia, New Garter City and the usual places but nobody was out. We went up to check on Robles on the way to the car when Matt saw this:
Not Robles, but his sirtalis cousin! Our first February herp (in MA) was a Garter. This was also the 12th consecutive month with a Massachusetts snake sighting. With all three of us gathered around him, he slid up the hill a bit to catch more sun.
This dusty beauty was Matt's first snake since a January Coral Snake he found on his Florida trip. We enjoyed watching this guy for a while.

We grabbed some chow and headed to our Norfolk County spot. We flipped many a'rock and log and sifted through streams but there was nada Caudata. Finally, after a couple of hours and a lot of work, we found a stubby Redback.

Andrea made the crack that one more species would tie us with each of our last two days of Florida herping, so the hunt was on. On the way back to the car, I hit a small stream where I was unable to photograph a 2-Lined larvae earlier. Luckily, I netted him this time and we got species #3 on the day.

We did hit the dens again on the way home but nobody was still up. Still, not a bad late February day in the frozen North.

I am off work this week so I decided to do my coveted stream-salamander trip Monday morning... alone. Sadly, Andrea had work. Of course, I'd always rather be with her but since she isn't keen on winter stream-herping anyway, I soldiered on alone. I was in Worcester County by 9 AM and faced hours of this habitat...

And completely struck out. Not a 2-lined larvae, much less a Dusky or a Spring. I feel good that I gave this place (and another nearby one) a good, thorough search, through stream and seep, but the fact is... I saw no herps at all. With my tail between my legs (and realizing that once again, Andrea had made the correct choice for Sunday) I snapped a pity shot of my #44 bird on the year, a ridiculously cute Downy Woodpecker.
Downy Woodpecker #44

We'll be doing some more birding this week while we await the warmer temperatures. But wait... what's that? Heavy rains and 50° after dark tomorrow night? Dare we even think? Salamanders?

Knowing us, we'll probably give it serious consideration.


  1. Hey, I never threatened to leave you. I just would have sat in the car and knit while you and Matt fruitlessly flipped rocks.

    1. Maybe Matt would have had better luck. But isn't he the guy who once said "I've never heard of anyone targeting Duskies before."