Monday, April 25, 2016

Searching for Vipers in Massachusetts 4-23-2016

My friend Ryan and I are all about the big, annual events. Last year, we got a group together to go to a nearby reservation to look for the fabled Timber Rattlesnakes of Eastern Massachusetts. We saw a ton of Racers that day but no vipers. Andrea and I had planned this past weekend to hit this spot for the racers but when Ryan suggested trying to get the gang together for another search, it sounded like a good idea. Sadly, nobody else could make it so the three of us went by ourselves. Ryan is hell-bent of finding a Massachusetts viper. We were glad to help him.

On top of the lower than wanted turnout, it was cold and rainy. We figured that starting in the cool rain at about 10 still made sense as it was supposed to clear up as the day progressed and we'd be up where we wanted to be. But, damn... it was cold when we started out. We could hear American Toads calling from the reservoir, though. They were cautious but we saw a few. This guy was looking for a mate...

These two pairs were already entangled in committed relationships, at least for the time being.

We made a slow but steady ascent. Ryan knew he was hiking with an old-timer. He had just said something about what a crock-of-shit flipping is when I flipped a Ringneck.
It was only about 50° and it was raining but this guy picked up our spirits.

Within 10 minutes, we scored another, slightly larger Ringer.
This is the first time we had seen this species in this spot. Already, the effort was deemed "worth it".

We got up to an open spot at the top. We looked around. I'll be damned if this spot doesn't look perfect for what we were looking for. Crevices, south-facing, lots of nooks and crannies... if the sun had been shining we might have been able to better decide.

We searched the top and sides of this peak, moving West for a few hundred yards. The only herp we found was a decent sized Spotted Salamander.
We spent a couple of hours searching the area and deemed it worthy of rechecking in the future. A Towhee caterwauled in agreement.

Our descent to the next spot netted us our only Redback of the day.

We headed back towards where we started and took a new path to a different spot. There was plenty of rocky slopes to explore. Andrea uncovered a small, reddish American Toad.

Ryan had gone to the top of a hill and called Andrea (on the phone) and suggested we come up... it looked good up there. We hauled our aging bones up. I did find one venomous animal up there... a Northern Black Widow.
Northern Black Widow
It had rolled up into a ball and yes, I used my finger to roll it over.

Ryan decided to head down as we got to the top. Hell no, wee one... we hauled ourselves up there, we were going to look around. See, our frequent rests had conserved a bit of energy. Besides, we saw this place:
Again, South-facing, hiding spots, crevices... everything we need. The sun had started to poke out a bit, too. We took the coordinates again. This spot looked very good indeed.

Admittedly, we were all a bit tired by this point. We'd been in for about 5 hours. Plus, we got a bit lost heading back to the cars. I saw a Hermit Thrush, though (thanks for the ID, Bob!) which was a lifer (#154) and #84 on the year.
Hermit Thrush #84 Lifer #154
Ryan also scared up a Racer who had emerged with the sun but it made a typically Racer-like getaway.

Finally, we got back to the cars but we could hear the Toads still going mad out in the water. When we got there, we saw that a couple of large Painted Turtles were catching the day's first rays as well.

The Toads were far less attentive than they were in the morning... in fact there was a full on orgy in progress.
In the picture below, there are at least 14 couples (and one single guy that is striking out).

For a recon mission, I'd say we did pretty well. We scoped out a couple of places that look like likely viper homes and, best of all, we didn't completely strike out on herps while finding them. It's always good to be in the field with like-minded friends, too.

By the way, the sun was strong and warm when we left at about 4 PM. Figures, doesn't it?


  1. was that snake really as purple as it looks?

  2. Tanto estar con estos bellos bichitos , se van a convertir mágicamente en habitantes del bosque ustedes también JA,JA Un beso para todos Martha

    1. Son todos estos bellos animales! Andrea también !! jaja

  3. I just realized that you have the date as 2-23-2016!