Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Last Weekend, We Herped. 3-25, 26 and 27.

I'm all out of clever titles. I'm so sorry.

Anyhoo, with a rainy, mild Friday night in the forecast, we planned on heading south after dark to check out the vernal pools that we had seen some action in a couple of weeks before. Planned isn't really the right word... more like, "I don't feel like cooking... let's go get some grub and while we're out, do some after-dark herping." It planned itself.

So, we got to our spot in Bristol County some time after 9 PM, and were serenaded by Peepers almost as soon as we got out of the car. The rain had let up and it was breezy. As we stepped into the woods, the trails were alive with the sounds of Peepers, Wood Frogs and American Toads, though seeing them wasn't as easy. When we got close to a vernal, the sounds would stop. We managed to find an egg mass pretty easily, though.
I'm not sure on the ID of this blob... I'm open to suggestions.

We walked along the trail knowing we probably wouldn't see anything on the move. We were able to flip a young, maybe second year Spotted Salamander, though.

A vernal that we had seen a lot of action in two weeks earlier was the spot we most wanted to see. Sure enough, right where we had seen a Spotted Salamander spermatophore garden, there were healthy egg masses present.

Nearby, a Wood Frog mass was incubating, too.

This is Andrea, herping the haunted swamp in the pitch dark.

We heard a few Woodcocks buzzing and I even startled one and saw it fly off, illuminated by my headlamp.

We walked along, keeping our eyes open and our brains alert. This is why... a Four-toed Salamander was crossing the path.

We headed back toward the vernals, hoping to spy some of the noisy anurans before we left. They were tricky but we finally saw a couple of American Toads at the edge of a pond.
Here is a video of the second one swimming off amid the calls of the three noisy species of the night...

It was obvious we'd never see a Peeper but we finally scored a couple of Woodies!
That second guy had been sitting there unnoticed while I struggled to get the underwater shot of the first one.

So we called that a successful night and headed home to get some sleep. Our plans for the next day were to hit a Norfolk County spot to check those vernal pools. Saturday was supposed to be partly sunny was warmish. That was a lie.

We got there at about noon, which the forecast said would be prime-time. It was raw and cool. Still, we paid our parking fee and headed in. We scored some Redbacks, a species that had eluded us the night before, right away.

The vernals were indeed very full of eggs, both Wood Frog and Spotted Salamander.

But otherwise, herps were going to be tough. We warmed up while we hiked and flipped but it was cold. Just plain cold. 41° cold. This nuthatch playfully hopped around, giving us some entertainment.

Our flipping got us a Four-toed Salamander, our second one within 24 hours. Always a welcome sight.

Andrea wasn't feeling well, so we decided to cut the day a bit short. We got a few more Redbacks...
... and turned back.

A bonus... on the way to the car, we saw a bunch of ducks out in the pond and when we got a closer look, we saw they were Ring-necked Ducks... a need-it on the year.
Ring-necked Duck #78

Pretty much as soon as we got into the car, the sun came out. Oh well. Rubbing salt into the wounds of my bad timing, the son we never wanted, Matt, texted Andrea and said he had seen a Spotted Turtle at a place we had planned on going the next day. *sigh*

Well, the next day did come and it was Easter Sunday. It was cloudy. And cold. Fuggit. The sun wasn't supposed to come out until we were expected at Easter dinner, about 2 PM. The son we never wanted, Matt, PM'd and asked if we had headed over to the Norfolk County Spotted spot yet. I said no. He said the sun was out. So we got ready and went, knowing full well we'd only have about an hour to look.

It was cold but the sun was warm. Our spirits were lifted. Especially when in the 43° temps, we saw a speedy little Garter!
Making full use of the sun's rays, this little blighter had a warm belly. Go go Garter!

We kept our eyes open for more snakes along the path but our main goal was a Spotted Turtle. At one point, I saw a turtle slide into the water from a sunny branch. No idea what kind. I'd have said Painted from the size and shape. But who knows...

We had planned to go as far as "the crossroads" path and we finally reached it. In a pond, about 50 feet away, partially obscured by foliage, we saw a turtle.
A Spotted, but with the sun's angle, the distance and the stuff in the way, it was going to be a tough shot. I had my boots on so I sloshed through the pond to an "island" and got within about 30 feet; I had a slightly clearer view.
National Geographic isn't calling but I'm happy with our documentaion of the year's first Spotted Turtle.

We took the crossroad path for just a short peek as our time was tight. (It was actually way late but we didn't yet know that...) The path was decorated by gorgeous Garter coils, waking up and grabbing some rays.
It was only 43° but the sun was warm and the snakes were happy. I'll be damned if that last one doesn't have a snack in its middle.

Right around here, we realized how late it was and we called to let Andrea's folks know and we hurried back out. Except Andrea took a bad step and threw her back out. Ouch. Our exit wasn't as fast as we wanted. But we saw some more snakes, now on the move since they had warmed up.

I only had a brief moment to try for a shot of a second Spotted Turtle before it rolled off into the drink.

While I was trying for that shot, Andrea noticed this nice, orangey Garter.

That was that... 2 Spotteds and 7 Garters on a cold Easter Sunday. Not bad. The commute to Malden was pretty bad though and we were pretty late. I took some good hearted teasing from my father-in-law, all well deserved.

So far, 2016 has been a real mixed bag. April is almost upon us and we have had some pretty good luck but the weather can't seem to make up its mind. The forecast for the upcoming weekend, the first one in April, is calling for possible snow. I will never take any animal sighting for granted. Who knows what this year is going to do to us?!


  1. is she any better now? tell her i so feel for her back
    and that two extra strength tylenol helped me a lot

    1. She is better. That was a horrible step, though!!