Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bristol County Tour 2016 \m/ 4-17-2016

Our third straight day of herping was going to be just the two of us. The son we never wanted was going to busy. Our plans were to hit three places in Bristol County... a favorite spot, an abandoned drive-in that we couldn't find last year, and a ruined river mill that is often good for Water Snakes. We headed out a little after 9 AM and got to our first place by 10. It was in the mid to high 50s, plenty warm with the sun.

We got off to a pretty good start right away. The path in, which is usually barren, had a Redback waiting for us.

As the trail neared the water, we could see some Painted Turtles through the trees... already up and catching some rays.

The AC area (where my board line is laying) was snake and toad-free, unfortunately, but the boards were still there so I consider it a small victory. We made our way to the pond and we both saw a snake slither deep into the brush. We could still see it, though. It was a Ribbon Snake. Andrea started to figure out how she could get in there. I went around the front of it, the other side of a puddle that it was almost in. I figured I'd get a shot once it hit the water. But it never did. Andrea made an impressive grab.
Long, lean and beautiful.

We headed up the trail and both of us almost stepped on a large Garter Snake, who sped off. I got a shot of her head after she stopped...
... but she was big. The biggest of the year so far so we wanted to measure her. Andrea went around to her front and the snake immediately shot away from her... right into my hands. She measured 31 inches. Not bad at all.

Only about 10 more feet up the trail, this slim Garter was stretching out.
No need to catch this one, though Andrea did boop it's nose.

The next pond wasn't hopping with frogs but small Painteds dotted the logs that were poking out of the water.

We got to a spot in between two ponds that was flooded, like it often is. It has been a good place to see frogs, Water Snakes and tadpoles in the past. Off went the shoes. The mud felt nice squishing between our toes.

I went through and declared that nothing was out. Andrea begged to differ. She found a lone American Toad hanging out, waiting for the orgy to begin.
We heard other American Toads calling but saw no others. Oddly enough, this place is usually 85% Fowler's Toads... a species we still haven't seen this year. Very interesting.

When I started into the flooded path, I announced that the little black things that were in there were not tadpoles but rather pine needles or something. Andrea showed me another error of my ways. They are too tadpoles, dammit. Most likely Wood Frog tadpoles... brand new ones.
We scooped some from the muddy edges and put them into the deeper water and they revived right before our eyes.

It was time to do some hard-core turtlin'. We went to the spot where we have seen Painters, Musks, Snappers and Red-bellied Cooters. First stop was some Painters...

It was touch and go due to a guy fishing down there but we did spot our first-of-year Redbelly down among some more Painteds. I snapped a safety shot from high up on the trail.

A couple more shots of the chelonian life on that side of the pond, starting with another angle of that cluster.

We hiked out to another pond area but it was filled with wretched humanity. A downed tree in the distance had a half dozen Painted Turtles on it, though. That is until I got the camera focused. Then there was just this one...

We flipped 3/4 of a Redback.
Bob and Matt are always teasing us for cutting the tails off in our poorly cropped photos but this time it wasn't my fault!

Andrea was flipping stones looking for more salamanders when she flipped this wee Garter coil.
Titanic cuteness.

We started to head back but wanted to hit a small vernal pond on the way out. It had been good to us before. Sure enough, the bank of the pond was lined with Painteds.

This one was parked about 4 feet away, saying "I'm a loner, Dotty... a rebel."

Somebody else was looking for frogs... I made an awkward catch...
and we got photos of a lovely, orangey Garter.

Double-checking a pond we'd looked at earlier, a Bullfrog that had ducked out of the way before was up and posing nicely this time.

Heading up a path, we looked to our right and saw a massive vernal pool... that we had never noticed before.
I mean, sure... trees would fill in, but how did we miss a huge vernal? It certainly answered some questions about where things are breeding around there. There was a huge Bullfrog in there that we could see from about 50 yards above...

We walked along the flooded bogs before heading out. We saw nothing. Next stop, the abandoned drive-in.

We had looked last year but failed to find the remnants of the movie house. I studied Google Earth and noticed that the screen still stands, too. That would be our target. From there, finding the projection house/ concession would be easy. We poked through brambles and pricker bushes and mucked through puddles until we finally found... the screen.
Yeah, this shit was overgrown. The theater, that opened in 1957, closed 30 years later. So in the last 19 years, the swampland has taken over. We persevered and pushed through. Eventually, I thought I could see the top of a building. We worked our way through an BOOM... right in front of us stood a dilapidated building. We went in and started to flip, hoping for some snakes or salamanders.

I'm not going to lie, it was creepy as hell. If we're ever going to find a dead body, it was going to be here. This is a look at the screen from the concession stand, probably right below where the projection room was.

Herp-wise, we saw a pair of squished, mummified Garters between a pair or boards. This place has obviously been a hang-out for bored suburban kids. Spray-paint and even a (*yeech*) mattress proved that. This used to be one of the bathrooms.

We decided that it would be better for snakes come the hot weather, and we left. It was decided that a return in the summer would warrant machetes to do the bushwhacking. On the way out, we scored a Leadback under a board.
We also realized that the pile of rubble that we flipped along the main (partially concrete) path was the fallen ticket booth. Sadly, we found no sealed bag of mint condition movie posters.

Our last stop was the old ruined mill site not far away. We drove over and found a full parking lot and tons of putrid humanity. This section of the river is a Herring run and the herring were indeed running. People we reaching in, trying to catch the fish. One douche had a net and was netting them, despite the sign saying to not bother them. There was, in fact, a volunteer guy there allowing them to do it. ("As long as they have a proper ID." ???)
It was sickening to see the human greed and their lust to kill but then again, I'm often saddened by my own species. One good point was a kid with a long stick trying to help a fish who was stranded on a clump of grass back into the water. He got it and earned a round of applause.

The entitled humans weren't the only ones looking for a free meal...
I can forgive the avians. They didn't use nets.

So, that was a busy day. It was filled with animals, adventure, exploring and my usual distaste towards my fellow humans. Overall, a pretty good trip. But we were exhausted. Would we be able to make it out on Monday, our 4th herping day in a row?

Stay tuned.


  1. i still have turtle envy

    1. It took a while for Turtle Season to get under way but it is sure her now and I couldn't be happier!

  2. 29 years since the drive-in closed, not 19. I'm a girl, but even I can do that math. ;)