Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Box Turtle Fields Forever. 5-21-2016

Saturday, May 21st was my birthday. Andrea was unable to get extra time off so we had to pass on a herping trip to the Poconos this year but she planned a nice little overnight excursion to Cape Cod. Our friend Tim, the Box Turtle Guru, had informed us that his population of Box Turtles had begun to move so we made our plans around searching for that species. Other animals on our want list were Diamondback Terrapins and the ever elusive Spadefoot Toad. Tim and his wife Kim would be there on Saturday, so our first stop upon hitting the Cape was the Box Turtle place.

It was surprisingly nice out... 72° and partly cloudy at 10:30 AM when we arrived. We set about looking for Boxies before doing anything else. We took a trail right off an open field and immediately scored.
Horn Shell
We recognised this gal from last year... she is the one Andrea almost tripped over. Our turtle eyes were definitley better this year.

About 30 feet up the path, half buried under some leaves, I encountered a fairly small fellow.
Here is Andrea's reaction to seeing one this size...
Without bothering the turtle, we noticed that it had no notches. Andrea called Tim to report and he said they were on their way.

Redbacks were also present in this woodland paradise.

My birthday present to myself was seeing this...
Old Warrior
My turtle eyes were working pretty darn well!
Old Warrior
This individual, who was very scarred up, had just emerged for the year.

A Leadback and a Redback...

I had scoured the field down near a vernal pond and moved on. Andrea was down where I had been and yelled "turtle"! How could I have missed this stunner?!
He too was a repeat from last year. What a gorgeous animal!
He checked to see if Tim had called back.

Not feeling super great health-wise, I spotted a fallen tree and made my way to it to sit for a bit. Before planting my butt, I looked into the leaves in front of it and saw this wee nipper.

We sat for a bit, knowing we'd never be able to find that spot again. Tim and Kim showed up, got their gear and headed in to see who we had found. We went right to the last one first... the little guy. Tim saw right away that it was dehydrated.
Kim took it up to the car to give it a soak.

Next up, we weighed and measured "Horn Shell", the first turtle we had spotted in the morning.
She is a real beauty!
Horn Shell
She is also really easy to ID... that shell deformity leaves no questions.
Horn Shell

The little guy further up the path (that made Andrea squee) was also dehydrated, so Kim took it to get a soak as well. Tim then said he knew who we were going to take him to next... and he was right.

The old, battle-scarred guy is a favorite of Tim's, and ours too. He is the Old Warrior and he had just emerged for the year.
Old Warrior
Look at the scarring on his plastron... and check out my dentures while you're at it.
Old Warrior
This guy is older than all of us and has been through some tough times. But he goes on, living the turtle life... eating, pooping, sleeping... while we all fret and grow and worry... Old Warrior is one smart, tough cookie.
Old Warrior
Old Warrior

After weighing and measuring him and the bright vernal guy, we went up to check on the youngsters. They had already perked up, opened their eyes, and were playing I Wanna Get Out. It did our hearts wonders.

Tim stayed with them, awaiting word whether or not they wanted to notch the two younger turtles. They were both about 4 years old... perhaps even siblings. It's still kind of young but hey... they were there and handy. We decided to look around for other herps for a while.

We peeked under a whale bone. There, we saw our first Fowler's Toad of the year. Plus, it is the first herp we have seen under a whale bone. Double win.

A nearby freshwater pond had some Bullfrogs in it.

By now, the wind had started up and the sun had gone under and it was noticeably cooler. A turtle pond had nobody up... until we looked closer. Two tenacious Painters were trying to catch some rays.

We headed out to the marsh to see if any Diamondbacks were following suit but the wind was vicious out there... we saw nobody and decided not to pursue it any further. This crab consoled us with a riveting performance of Phantom of the Opera.

This male turkey was being a total ass to the female, who just wanted to get up near the feeders.

It was time to check into our hotel so that's what we did. And we flipped loads of rocks on the hotel's grounds. Nuthin'. Then, we headed North... to the tip of the Cape. It was there that we hoped to see our lifer Spadefoot Toads.

Taking a tip from our dear friend TeĆ”, we hit a spot where she has had luck before. Unfortunately, it had become quite chilly. It was now in the low 50s and windy. We eagerly awaited the rain that was in the forecast. Rain would bring out the toads. While we waited, we flipped and flipped and flipped. It was too cold by now for any snakes to be on the crawl but with luck and persistence, we finally flipped this lovely black coil under a tie.
That is one sound-asleep Racer! Sadly, the tie had to go back so he had to be moved. This, he didn't appreciate. We broke into song together.
His solo brought the house down.
OK, any time you get to play with a Racer, it's a good time. We headed back to the car, planning on hitting Provincetown for dinner. On the way to the car, Andrea's heart skipped a beat when she saw a toad... not a Spadefoot, though... a small Fowler's.

We headed to town and looked for a place to eat. We wound up at Kabob-e-licious... a brand new place that wasn't even open yet. They offered to serve us ("to help get the kinks out") and they were gracious and sweet. Plus, the food was great. I recommend them heartily, once they open.

So, by then the sun was down, though the rain hadn't started. We headed back to where we had been earlier, in hopes of some road cruising success. Sadly, our first three finds were DOR... Fowler's, Hognose (*nooooo*) and another Fowler's. We heard scads of Peepers off the sides of the road, but saw none. Finally, we started to see plenty of Fowler's Toads.
We also saw a limping fox who might have eaten the dead Hognose that we put off the side of the road. I hope it went to good use.

We parked and looked around the area, hoping to see some more animals. We saw some more Fowler's.

And that was about it. The forecast of rain hadn't happened. We had been up since 6 AM and had been on the go all day, so we called it and headed back to the hotel.

Of course, half way back, it started to rain. Oh well... better luck next time. We finally hit the hay at around midnight.

So that is how I spent my ungraceful slip from "in my 50s" to "in my mid-50s". Thank you, Andrea, Tim and Kim for making it special. I would always rather spend my time with chelonians and the people who love them than with anyone else.

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