Monday, April 11, 2016

Trying to salvage the Spring. April 8th and 9th, 2016

The snow and the ice sure hit hard last week. Temps got below 20° some nights. How could the animals that we saw last week have survived? I decided to (once again) walk the dens at our local spot to see if there were snakecicles crusted to the ground. It was sunny but only 45° when I hit the place at about 10 AM on Friday. Just how many dead animals was I going to encounter?

Up by Robles' den there were no carcasses. Not a bad start. I even flipped a (live) Spotted Salamander under a board. I'm pleased... we saw only one specimen here in all of 2015.

Going down the path, I saw that Sly's den had a small Garter grasping for some rays. Good... good...

This small Garter was slowly exploring the area close to his hibernaculum.
(Got the tail in, Bob.)
I was pleased. No dead snakes and two live ones. *whew*

I decided to hike in to the Cottonwood den. Well off the beaten path, it usually had a snake or two out. Hopefully, I would find no casualties of the cold. I saw, in fact, some brave, sunning warriors.
(And right behind him, from another vantage point...)

The orangey guy from the week before was up again. He was also almost impossible to photograph again. He sped off, went under a log and hid. But I saw him trying to peek out...

Satisfied that the animals were smart enough to get back underground when the serious cold hit during the week, I departed. On the way out, I did see one dead snake. It was suspended from a thorn bush. I doubt it died like that. More likely, someone stepped on it or their off leash dog killed it (or maybe it did indeed freeze) and it was tossed off the path and it landed like that. I removed it and lay it further back from the trail. I'm sure something will find it and eat it.

Our Saturday plans were to go out to Western MA, to Hampshire County, to look for salamanders. We hadn't seen any Dookies yet on the year and they are there, along with plenty of other species. Before hitting the (long) road to Holyoke, we peeked in at the dens. Andrea wanted to see some Garters, too. Being sunny (though still in the low 40s), we figured some of the knuckleheads were up.

I think this guy at Sly's den might be the very same one as the day before. It's his spot.

The Valley was empty as was the Cottonwood den so we went on to the rock wall den. Andrea spied a little flop of Garter, which quickly turned into a streak of Garter.

Satisfied, we headed back. On the way, another Garter was stretching in the sun.

We hit the road and started our two hour drive.

Typically, I took the wrong route there after getting off of the highway. I was taking us to the main entrance to this park rather than the rear where the vernal pond is. Oh well, that just meant we'd be stream-salamandering first. As it turns out, that worked well since the place was locking up at 4 PM. We hit the stream, dreaming of Dukes.

The son we never wanted, Matt, once said "I've never heard of anyone targeting Duskies before". We always do. We don't get them within 45 miles of home and we love them. It was with great delight that our first three finds in the stream were Dookies! First of the year.
How about a little habitat shot, too...
I just love this place.

Two-lines started turning up, too. Both adult and larvae.

A few weird non-herps were flipped, too. Andrea found a soil centipede.
Strigamia epileptica
I netted a tiny, rambunctious pupa of some kind.

We were eager to hit the vernal so we went through the park to the other side and grabbed the last parking space there. It was pretty well attended inside the park but we knew we'd be alone down by the pool. Said vernal was huge... way bigger then we had ever seen it. It looked like many trees had fallen in the area over the winter, too. It was a mess. But more downed trees meant more salamander hideouts so, in we went.

We had made a lunch bet... first Ambystoma gets lunch bought for them. I had lost the week before so I was a salamander searchin' machine. Andrea struck first, not with an Ambystoma, but with a stunning speckled Leadback.

It was I who finally flipped the first Spotted Salamander.
He was a big guy who had probably dropped his spermatophore recently.

We spent the next two hours all around the pool, flipping and observing. We'd hoped to add a Jefferson's Salamander to the mix, or a newt or any of a number of frog species that are present here, but we found only Spotteds and Redbacks. But we saw them in quantity! Most of the Spotteds were large males who had recently moved. Here is a small photographic essay of the two species:

I found the source of a small stream that runs next to the pool. I'd never seen that before. It comes right out of the mountain.

Back to our regularly scheduled salamanders...

So, that was a well spent couple of hours. We were filthy, tired, sweaty and happy. We saw so many Redbacks and Spotted Sals that we stopped counting and photographing. That's a good day.

We went into Amherst to eat. Andrea paid. (yay!) We sat there, feeling extremely happy. We arm wrestled, too. We laughed. We smelled. We were covered with mud. This is how we like it. The drive home was uneventful. It was a good day.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes... pure happy is rare and we just love when it springs up!