Monday, March 14, 2016

Are we jumping the gun? March 12th and 13th.

Our friend (and frankly, the greatest person in the world) Bob asked us what our targets for the weekend were going to be. I had no answer. Sunshine? A turtle? The 2016 herp season has really been a continuation of the 2015 season. Some animals hibernated deeper than others, I guess. Still, we had an actual migration this week so we were primed to do a real herping weekend. With no tough targets.

For Saturday, the (supposed) sunnier day of the two, I chose a place in Bristol County that has a few turtle species, but is also a good, easy walk. We could more or less effortlessly do 4 or 5 miles. Sadly, we went there right after migration a couple of years ago and got nothing. We hoped for better luck this year. We got there at about noon... it was partly sunny and in the low 50s.

One thing that was up... honey bees. There were swarms buzzing all around the ground, paying us no attention. I couldn't get a photo... they didn't land for long. We hit our feeble target pretty quickly when we spotted the first Painted Turtle of the year, far away but visible.

Another one was nearby trying to catch some late Winter rays.
We could hear Peepers going off but never got our peepers on them.

It was cool, for sure. Some reliable turtle perches were empty or gone. (The water was quite high.) It was some time before we flipped a chubby Redback.

A nearby vernal pond was very noisy... a cacophony of Wood Frog calls, mixed with the occasional Peeper. Unfortunately, all of the frogs were way out in the pool and we couldn't see them. I saw a ripple and some movement and extended my 60X zoom all the way and captured this bored looking fella...
Yeah, yeah, yeah... mate all night, call all day... blah, blah, blah.

Along the river, turtles were basking in the reeds. They were totally on to me, though. As I got close enough for a photo, they would slide in. At one point, I was fiddling with the camera while 4 or 5 Painteds slipped into the water and a slim Garter Snake slithered away from me. Not my day. I managed to get one Painter photographed before he hit the water.

That Garter would have been our only snake, had we procured a picture. Oh well... there was still a lot of beauty to enjoy.

We managed another plump Redback before heading back.

Truthfully, being our first full-fledged nature walk of the year, we were a bit fatigued. We gave it our best on the way out but saw no more animals. No worries... I was ready for pizza anyway.

Andrea chose a closer spot for Sunday... a nearby stomping ground that is a good after-work place. It was supposed to be cooler than Saturday, but sunny. This place has a long, exposed, stone-strewn hill that gets hot hot hotter than hell, so we figured we'd be making the most of the weather. It was warm in the sun and we closely inspected the area. I took to the side of the hill and told Andrea to get action shots should I fall. She only got one because I miraculously did not.

We didn't see anything, either. It was, in fact, quite warm. We knew things were out, but we didn't encounter any. Twice we heard and saw a disturbance in the dry grass but came up empty. Frog? Mouse? Snake?

Just as we were starting to second guess our choice (why didn't we go to the dens, the obvious spots? Why did we actually challenge ourselves?), Andrea leaped, saying "DEE-kay". She saw a lil' brown friend jetting across the path.
Not what we expected... a fossorial, nocturnal snake? He must have just emerged.
First Dekay's of the year. We were now pumped and decided to stay, going into the wooded area to the trails.

It turned out to be a good choice as we quickly found a speedy young Garter zipping away. I brought him out to the path and he calmed way down easily.
He slithered away and into a beautiful periscope.

Going along, we spied this UFN... unidentified frog noggin.
UFN (Unidentified Frog Noggin)
I believe it's a Green but I'm not confident enough to call it as our first Green of the year so I'll just keep it as a UFN.

Like at the place the day before, the honey bees were up and buzzin' here. Andrea managed to get a shot of one this time!
Honey bee

We went our usual route and didn't see much... except for these two massive Leadbacks.

The place was more crowded than I ever remember seeing it. Humans were all over the trails. The temps had defied the forecast and it was about 65°. As we got back towards the hill, we saw another Garter.
Some teen aged girls (who had been busy photographing... themselves) were coming by and I asked if they wanted to see a snake. They did, so I caught it and held it for them (well, one of them) to touch. It was her first time. She actually gave it a good fondling! The snake kind of looked at her like, you havin' fun? She attempted to hold it solo and did for about one second. Oh well... I give her an E for effort. It was a pretty squirmy specimen.
While Andrea was holding the snake and showing it to a couple who were hiking by, another smaller Garter went boogying past, just behind Andrea. It disappeared into the leaves and was gone.

Back on the main trail, we met a guy and his elderly father walking along and I thought they might be talking about snakes. And they were! They lived in the area and the man used to see them all the time. We told him of the Garters we had just seen and he went to check the area out. Within a minute of them leaving, we saw a small guy go into the grass. We brought him out to hang for a while.
We picked him up when people were bringing their dogs by. He seemed to enjoy our company.

Heading back to the car, we saw another Dekay's lose himself in the grass... no picture taken. Speedy little devil. We were quite happy with our four and a half mile hike and our four photographed snakes. We weren't as tired as the day before. Building up strength already? Maybe.

It was still fairly sunny so before going home, we hit the nearby cemetery pond to see if any turtles were still up. We pulled in and from the other side of the pond, we saw a big guy out there on the shore, catching the last rays of the day. As we got closer, we could tell it was a large Red-eared Slider. He wasn't going anywhere, so I finally got close enough for a decent shot, despite the sun's angle.
I'll bet this is the same guy we see here every year. Probably a released pet, I'm happy to see him thriving here, possibly the only one of his species in this pond. He looks pretty healthy so good on him. First of year.

So this was officially our first full weekend of actual herping this year. It felt damn good. Also, since Thursday, we had photographed 13 herp species in Massachusetts... and its still early March. 15 MA species on the year so far. We are pleased. I can't wait until it's genuinely warm and the Milk Snakes and Musk Turtles are back.


  1. tiny snakey......... and cute turtles
    i see you folks are having fun

  2. This greatest person in the world guy sounds awesome!