Monday, April 4, 2016

Has Spring Sprung? April 1st and 2nd.

With a horrific weekend forecast, there's no way I wasn't going to herp on Friday, April first. I'm enjoying my 4-day weeks very much, thank you, and it was still going to be in the 60s. So I  headed over to the local hot-spot at about 10:30 AM to poke around. It was extremely windy and overcast but  I hoped that the animals would still be enjoying the mild weather from the day before.

On the way over, I hit my friends' back yard. A small Dekay's Snake was laying about under a rock.
This little blighter needs to get his vent in gear... there were a dozen snails nearby, waiting to munch up the garden. He's gotta get munchin' on them!

There were a few Redbacks present as well, including this massive gal... easily the most plump, ready-to-pop Redback I have ever seen.
A Vienna Sausage with legs. I rolled her out of the way to replace the cover and headed out to my destination.

Andrea had expressed that she was worried about possible snake fungus at this local herp haven. There have been many Water Snakes and a Garter or two that have had messed up eyes. While I have never thought of it as fungal, I said I'd take a good look at any specimens I encountered.  My first herps were Redbacks, however.

Up by Robles' hang-out I spied my first snakes... a couple of Garters who were hiding in plain sight. Mr. Peek-a-boo...
And Mr. Filthy.
They both looked healthy enough and their eyes were fine. In fact, every snake encountered looked fine. But I will keep a lookout for that.

Down by Sly's den was a Garter stretching out.
Could it be Sly himself?
Darned if I know.

The Valley of Nerodia was empty but I took that as a good thing. With the upcoming weather, I didn't want to stumble upon anyone too far from their dens. My next herp was a flipped Blue-spotted Salamander, always a delightful sight.

The Cottonwood Dens were hopping. Right away I saw two Garters flitting around. One got away while I photographed the other, who was quite beautiful.

The escapee wasn't far but was in a tough to photograph position...

This third one from this spot was far more cooperative.
Can we get a closer look at that doofy face, please?
Mercy, that's a cutie.

Rather than go up the path to the next obvious dens, I took a turn to go to the next park over and explore along the way. I wanted to check along the brook to see if any herps were up. A turn to the right would take me to other dens... to the left would be the summer hang-out. I went right.

Good call on my part... outsidet a known Water Snake den, this dirty lady was out catching some rays.
She was last seen in the exact same spot on Halloween. I'm glad to see she was staying close to home.

Further along the brook, I saw a couple of other herps... a Painted Turtle was up basking, despite it being cloudy.

Looking across the brook for more turtles, I got a big surprise... this is a massive Bullfrog.
No size reference but I spotted him from about 30 feet away. A brute.

I went over to the other side of the park, the summer hang-out. I only saw one knucklehead...
Hopefully, this jamoke will find his way to warmth and safety when the cold comes in a day or two.

The Tree Swallows are back. They were swarming all over... one almost took my head off. They were #79 on the year for me.

I cut through the Valley on the way back to the car. It wasn't as empty as before, but these guys were still close to den openings. A wee Garter pal...
and a white-striped sweetie-pie.

Right around now is when the off-leash dog convention went into overdrive. I had been encountering them all day, huge batches of off-leash pooches running all over. It shortened my trip considerably. But here I was, with these two Garters about 10 feet behind me, while two dog-walkers (with 7 unleashed charges between them) talked and ignored the roaming canines. I tried my best to keep the dogs away from the wildlife. Sweet puppies one and all but stupid, careless humans. When they (finally) moved on, I checked the snakes and they were fine. Sly3K was still there from earlier too, none the worse for wear.

Had I just seen 11 snakes in two hours? Yes. Yes I had.

I had hoped to show Andrea a good time on Saturday. It was supposed to be overcast and in the low-to-mid 50s, so we planned on a froggy place in Middlesex County. We had even coerced Teá to join us. Except we woke up to heavy downpours. Oh well... frogs don't mind. Teá wisely bowed out but the two of us went anyway. One other thing the forecast had wrong... it was damn cold.

When we got there, it still hadn't inched above 43°. It was windy and raw. Oh, and rain still fell. We suited up and went for it anyway. Hitting the bathrooms before the trail, we unearthed a spunky Redback... not a common sight here.

Birds were active, too. We saw a Wood Duck swimming away as we entered the parking lot (no picture...) and the air was filled with calls, tweets and chirps.

A spot where a small bridge crosses over a gulch between ponds had a run-over Painted Turtle in it. Evidently, a maintenance vehicle had driven through the low water and didn't see it. Heart-breaking. I moved it out of the water and hid him among the reeds. Something will enjoy eating him, I'm sure.

There were some American Coots swimming about, #80 on the year.
American Coot #80

We startled some Wood Ducks again. No picture again.

We walked in the rain for 3 1/2 miles and never saw another herp. I thought for sure we'd get a few frogs or a misguided turtle... but no.  I flipped and walked through seeps and looked everywhere. I struck out. Especially painful was the bet I'd made with Andrea at the halfway point. She said we wouldn't see anything besides that Redback. I said we would. We bet lunch on it. I lost.

Oh well, at least we saw plenty of birds. Red-winged Blackbirds were calling the whole time and Grackles were buzzing from the reeds. The little fucking Marsh Wrens taunted me like they always do. The Tree Swallows were plentiful. In fact, very plentiful.

We headed out, I licked my wounds, I bought lunch and we headed home.

The forecast was right. This is what we woke up to Sunday morning...
Kill me.

Today, as I write on Monday evening, we have already had about 5 inches on snow dumped on us today and there is a winter weather advisory in effect until 10 PM tonight.

Hey, 2016... eat me.


  1. well........ yous can snuggle and keep warm during the snow.... is andrea home safe yet?