Saturday, April 30, 2016

April 2016 is over. Fyu-Cha isss NOOOOW! 4-30-2016

We had hoped to get out to a local spot after work on Friday evening, April 29th but it was much cooler than expected. I had gone out to Raynham during the day to look for an "anaconda" that someone reported but I couldn't find it. That night, when Andrea got home, we took a 3 minute walk up to our friends' house, to say hi and flip their garden. We got a couple of cool Dekay's and two all-noggin, teeny Redbacks.
Then, it was early to bed for the next day's adventure.

The last day of April, 2016... where did the month go? We had been jonesing to get to a spot in Essex County and that Saturday seemed like the best time to do it. Sunday was going to suck and we wanted to get a good, full day of herping in. We got to our destination at about 11 AM.

From the parking area, we saw some turtles. I snuck closer for a shot. 3 or 4 Painteds became one.

A Bullfrog was in the same area, trying to warm up in the morning sun.

Not bad... two species before we even headed out on the trail! To make things even more exciting, after just a short time, we found a Four-toed Salamander.
We have seen them here before, always right around the same area. Conditions must be good.

We followed that guy up with a Red and a Lead.
Back, that is.

I went over to a log, intending to flip it, when I noticed some big attitude on the other side of it. A slow, sinister tongue wave warned me of the impending danger...
This shoestring Garter meant business, but Andrea successfully tamed it.

Further up, the path goes between the large pond and a smaller overflow pool. The pond side was very windy. I looked it over quickly, then went to the far end of the smaller pool while Andrea started at the beginning. At roughly the same time, we saw snakes. Andrea saw this large Water Snake...
while I saw this large Garter.
The Nerodia slid into the water before I got there, though I saw her head poke up through the algae a little. The Garter (who was easily a 30 incher) stayed for Andrea, who booped her nose then got a shot of her propping up her head between the uprights.

We continued up the path. Andrea spied another large female Garter.
She measured in at 29 inches. Then  she went into a hollow log for her close-up.
It was obviously going to be a good Garter day. It was in the high 50s and sunny.

As if to hammer that point home, we saw another Garter, this one was skinny and long.

We were eager to get to the power line cuts. We had had a bit of luck last year up there but never looked around before it had grown in. We headed up, peeking into the next pond from above. Painted Turtles were starting to haul up in there.

The cut is very Racery looking and we spent some time examining the terrain closely.

There were many rocks to flip. I headed to one and scared a stub-tailed Garter who was in the grass nearby.
The tail trauma was fairly recent... this year, I'd say. Still, the snake had good movement and the injury looked like it was healing well.

We turned around and went  up the other end of the cut. I was looking around some wood-chip-stuffed bags (landslide barriers?) and startled yet another Garter.

Andrea was diligently flipping rocks along the path and found this sleepy sirtalis.
Nothing makes a herper happier than flipping a lovely coil.

We explored a few new trails up that way but saw no other animals. Heading back down towards the wooded trail, we saw a pair of young Nerodia nestled together, warming in the sun.
That's about as cute as it gets.

There was an annoying amount of motorbikes and three-wheelers tearing up these trails. Not sure if it is legal there. I'll have to look into that. A handful of joy-riding ass wipes had just buzzed past when we saw another medium sized Garter. I didn't break my butt trying to get a shot as it went into some brush. It stuck its head out and I snapped a shot.
... errmm... that's a Ribbon head.

We had never seen a Ribbon here and this one was a brute! It had been years since I was last confused between a Garter and Ribbon... this guy had to be caught and inspected.
It was girthier than most of the Garters we had seen.
This Ribbon had a stub-tail as well. Dropped last year? The year before? It wasn't going to confide in us.

That was pretty exciting. We headed down to the pond. Many Painted Turtles had emerged. Here are some of them.
Another loner... a rebel.

This pond is now known to us as Bullfrog Pond. Here's why.

Not only frogs, but there were hundreds of Bullfrog tadpoles.

I wanted to net one to get a closer look at the size of these behemoths. While kneeling down ready to try my luck, I noticed a gorgeous Garter next to me, possibly looking to do the same thing.

I managed to catch one. That's my massive mitt next to this tremendous tadpole.

Andrea got the shot of the year so far, however, when she got this shot of a huge Bullfrog 'pole pooping.
We thought it was a newly formed leg until we uploaded the photo.

That would be hard to top. We carried on, heading to another pond-side area, but the wind was quite cold there. Heading back, we scoured the edges of Bullfrog Pond again. I saw a small orangey Garter slide away. I knelt to catch it and saw a second one, too.
The larger one had some lumps, similar to the frostbite we had seen earlier in the year and some scars. SFD? It's possible, I guess, but overall it looked pretty clean and healthy.

I could hear some pecking. We'd heard some Red-bellied Woodpeckers but hadn't seen any yet. I couldn't find the source of the knocking. It seemed like it was coming from the dead tree right in front of me, but nobody was on it. I noticed a hole on the underside. Could it be? I put on the flash and pointed my camera at the hole.
Looks like it was a chickadee making all that racket. House cleaning day, I guess.

The far side of Bullfrog Pond is a Great Blue Heron rookery. The nests were still up but we saw no birds... until one flew up and landed.

This isn't the snake that was hunting tadpoles with me earlier (head markings are different) but this Garter gal had obviously enjoyed something large and tasty.

We got back to the main path. There was a small split... Andrea took the "low road". I took the "high road". So high, in fact, that I was walking the side of a hill, intending to flip some flat rocks that were still in the sun. No flipping necessary... this thin Garter was still out sunning.

I told Andrea what was up there and when she came to see it, she saw another Garter, about 10 feet away.
They both slid into different unseen holes in the pine-needle covered hillside. What a gorgeous sight.

With the shadows getting long, it was cooling off rapidly. We saw a couple of other Garters heading for cover for the night but got no pictures. I did manage to get the parking lot Painteds before they dropped into the drink, though.
I am sorry if this causes turtle envy, Duckie.

So, even though Sunday was supposed to be cool and rainy (which it was), we felt like we had a good weekend's worth of herping. Photos of 17 different snakes is nothing to sneeze at. I'd like to have seen more frog species but I can't complain about this wonderful trip... a rare trip to the North of Boston.

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Day at the Racers. 4-24-2016

Oh, how we wanted a sunny day. And we got one. It was still going to be chilly, in the low 50s, but the sun was out and we wanted to try to get our cameras on some Racers. We went to an obvious spot in nearby Norfolk County. Much to our dismay, there was an overload of cars outside the park. We found a spot but we knew there would be more humans than usual there.

We started in and before too long, we saw a Garter Snake laying in the sun.
I know, I cut the tail off in this pic... let me get another... oh, wait... two off-leash dogs are plowing through the area... let me... just...
I didn't get a great shot but the snake made it to safety without being trod upon.

We flipped a Leadback who was safe from the ruckus of the path.

We were poking around an open sunny area when Andrea found someone who did need a helpful hand...
This hatchling Painted Turtle was making his way across the busy path. Having overwintered in his nest, this was his first time above ground and he had no idea how many huge human feet might be tromping by. Andrea moved him down to the edge of the water, making sure no snakes or Bullfrogs were nearby.
He is the size of a quarter. May he live to get 10 times that size.

Up the path, another small animal was out in the sun... a White-footed Mouse.

Despite the heavier than usual traffic on the path (which wasn't really that bad), we got to Racer Alley and found our target. We looked up the rocky hill and saw beautiful, smooth, black coils about 25 feet up.
She was noisily poking through the leaves... this is the best shot I could get of her face.
She slid into a crevice when she sensed our presence.

I scrambled up the rocks to peer into the hole.
To the side, a movement caught my eye... a poking tongue. I thought she was sticking her head out of a nearby opening... but this noggin was much much smaller.
My camera could not capture it properly but you can see just how adorable this wee racer's face was.

While trying to focus on that impossible shot, I heard a commotion about 15 feet to my right. I pointed the camera over to a noggin poking out of the leaves...
We had found the Racer sweet spot. These are the first Racers we have actually laid the camera on this year so they are technically our FOY.

While I was 25 feet up the side of the hill, Andrea found a good sized Wolf Spider in the sun.

Another cool insect we saw hovering around was a Bombyliidae (YES!), a bee-fly.

We made our way to the river and I saw a stack of Painted Turtles basking on the other side.

Closer to us, just across a small inlet, we saw this Painter standing there...

His neighbor was laying flat, like a respectable turtle.

We made our way into the wooded area. Out of the sun, it was much cooler so we didn't know how our luck would hold up for snakes. We flipped a couple of gorgeous Goldtop® Redbacks, though.

Having made it to our destination spot without adding more animals, we headed back, getting back to Racer Alley after a couple of hours. We heard a commotion in the leaves across from the rocky hill... this is what we saw.
We looked up and saw a nest about 25 feet straight up a tree... two baby squirrels had fallen out. One's eyes were still not open. The other was burying itself in leaves. We didn't know what to do. We put them together, first.

We decided, since the Racers were all over the place this day, that we should take them to the Wildlife Rehab place. Andrea called them first. They said that the mother would come for them eventually and we should build them a nest off of the ground. (They were overrun with squirrels people had brought in and this would be more helpful for the animals anyway.)

The tree next to the nest tree had a kind of bowl about 3 feet off the ground and a broken branch next to it. On top of that, I placed dozens of sticks around it until I had a fairly stable platform. I covered it with leaves and we placed the duo in the nest.
Hopefully, Mum came by a short while later and scooted them back up to the nest.

Directly across from that spot, on the rocky hill, we saw another decent sized Racer. And another about 50 yards further along. Those squirrels would have been mere snacks for these guys. Not that I'll ever root against a snake but I hope the little mammals made it.

So, that was our day. Hopefully, the various babies that we encountered will grow and live to have their own babies. It's a tough world out there in the wild and every species needs our help to survive and thrive.