Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In Love with the Common. May11, 13 and 14th, 2016

It is no secret that we have been battling the weather this year. Up, down, up, down... all around. The weekends had been frosty so we planned an evening hike on Wednesday the 11th because it would still be in the 70s at 6 PM. That's about when we got to our spot in Norfolk County.

We hiked for a couple of hours, climbing the rocky hill and flipping warm debris. Our only herp find was a lovely Redback.

You just never know what you'll find. We expected to see some snakes up but with the wonky weather of late, you just can't predict. I managed to get a shot of my 86th bird on the year, though... an Eastern Towhee in mid-song.
Eastern Towhee #86

Animal-lite, but we had a great hike and the smell of the evening Spring air was a treat.

That Friday, the 13th (mwahaha!), I had made plans to drive to the center of New York state to hitch up with my sister and go visit my father. He's having a rough time of late and she thought I should get my ass there and give him a little bit of time. So, I drove there and spent a little time. Before getting back into the car for another 5 hours, my sister and I herped her yard. She has a lovely place in a fairly rural part of town... yes, I am jealous. The weather was cool and rainy so we didn't know if we'd find much.

In a pond in her backyard, we saw a plump Green Frog.

Her koi pool, that is often full of snakes and frogs, was being difficult but we finally unearthed an in-the-blue Garter.

I made my farewells. Before hitting the thruway, I stopped for gas and cheese curds. Before leaving the station, I peeked out back. Hey... lots of rocks, asphalt and concrete. I investigated. Two wee Garter coils were sleeping under one stone.
That was enough joy to get me home. Then, once I was home, I had the cuteness that is Andrea, so everything was great.

We got up fairly early on Saturday the 14th to head down to Bristol County to peruse a favorite spot. We had Milks on our minds and this place was pretty good for them. SPOILER ALERT: we didn't find any. We only photographed Garter Snakes. BUT... we saw a lot of them. Here's how it went....

We got there by 10:30 AM and went in. It was already over 60° and the rocks were warming up. Andrea struck first with a pair of shoestring Garters in the flower garden. That made for an exceptionally rewarding photograph.
A favorite on the year...

Right nearby, we saw the Phantom Toad of the Opera... a one-eyed little guy who was pretty quick on his webbed feet, thankfully.
American Toad

There were no turtles up at a very reliable perching spot. We figured maybe a boat had gone through. At a point further up, we saw a young couple fishing. While we talked to them, I checked a perch visible from there and two Painted Turtles were up.
These two kids were cool... hope for the future.

We flipped a big-noggined Redback® next.

This pretty Garter was standing tall next to the path.

At a vernal pond, I was trying to get distant shots of some frogs while Andrea was playing with another Garter. This one had gotten comfy in her hand and rolled up in a ball.
Note the stub-tail.
It pretty much stayed in the ball when she put him down.

Here are those frogs I was trying to shoot... a huge Green...

and a Bull.

It was pretty warm by now. We both wished we had worn shorts. Snakes were pretty speedy, too. A gorgeous specimen was speeding off and I had to make a lunge catch to get a picture. It was worth it... this Garter is a stunner.

A big, fat American Toad was our next encounter.

Howza 'bout some more Garters? #6 was good sized and had a snack in her middle.

#7 posed in a perfect periscope.

Across the pond, I could see a stack of turtles. Good ol' 60X Zoom came through...
10 Painters in a row.

The 87th bird on the year was in a tree over our heads... one of my favorites, a Baltimore Oriole.
Baltimore Oriole #87
I've always liked the baseball team, too.

We flipped this good-sized Leadback. Check out the tip of his tail. It's regenerating but has no color yet.

Garter #8 was a tough guy but we finally got this shot of his noggin at the top of an incline.

Another 4-pack of Painteds.

I thought it was a big mosquito day. Then I thought I might have hit some poison ivy. I don't get affected by it, but I was breaking out in welts. We finally figured out what was happening.
These brand-new mini Gypsy Moth caterpillars had been falling on us all morning and when they hit my bare skin, a super-itchy welt formed. My right arm had dozens.. the welts are still there 4 days later. Bastards.

Further in, we got to a plastic table that we always flip. We'd never seen anything under it but today, an in-the-blue Garter was all coiled up having a snooze.
We didn't notice it at the time but later, when we were eating lunch, Andrea noticed that on her shot of the table-snake, a second one was making his get-away! Check out the left side of the picture below...

Another big-noggined Redback®.

We got to a spot that has lots of junk... old appliances, carpets, trash... stuff snakes love to hide under. We flipped an old, detached car door and this Garter, #11, looked up at us in surprise.
Looks like he too was sleeping off a meal.

An old plastic air mattress was the next spot of snakey success for us. In fact, it was nutty. The plastic was warm and wet and Garters kept popping out of it.
We had a lovely 3-snake bouquet.
What are we up to, 14?

It was time to humiliate an American Toad.
When Andrea put him down, he snuggled into the leaves and disappeared.

Right around here, Andrea flipped a tie that had a Ringneck under it at the far end. It slipped into a hole in the ground before you could say punctatus. Oh well...

We were heading back now. At a spot where the trail splits, Andrea took the high road, and I took the low road. Near the end, where its about to hook back up, I heard Andrea fall and looked up to see if she was OK. She had lunged for a large Garter. I ran up to help... this girl was big and we wanted to measure her. It took some doing but we finally got our hands on her. 29" of sirtalis beauty. Tied for the young year's longest Garter.

Further up the path (thankfully) we saw a Woodland Jumping Mouse, a new one on us. Andrea booped its nose and it lived up to its name.
Woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis)

This Jumping Spider popped out to say hi.

We went along the river for a spell before returning to the car. A tree had some Painters hanging out on it.

Nearby, in a quiet spot just off the river, our question of where all of the turtles were was answered. There were dozens of Painted Turtles frolicking in a duck-weed covered love nest.

A voyeuristic Snapper was also in the mix.

This American Toad hopped by... nothing to see here.

Back near the beginning, we were poking around that flower area again. I saw a large female Garter slip into some rocks... no picture. A family was resting there. I flipped a vibrant shoestring Garter.

I thought I'd heard the kid say he had a snake. I asked the family what they had, but it was just a pollen strand... one of those wormy looking things that "looks like a snake". I asked if they wanted to see our little shoestring, which they did. While we were showing it to them, Andrea made a great grab on a larger Garter that sprang out of the cover in the garden.
That wowed 'em.

Before leaving the garden, we saw one more Garter... that would be #18.

Just before the car, Andrea spotted #19... this full-bellied guy.
How he could move is anybodies guess.

I know some people who like snakes might think that seeing only Garters is a bit of a let down. Not here. Sure, we were targeting Milks and didn't see one, but I never take any animal sighting for granted. Garters are a real favorite of mine; they're always a treat. They are common, variable, beautiful and they almost never let you down. A nineteen Garter day is like heaven to me.

That said, after grabbing a bite to eat, we headed over to another nearby spot to flip our board line. We have seen plenty of different kinds of snakes there, including Milks. On the way to our line, we spied a small Bullfrog.

Our board line was there but had been moved around a lot. This place, which will be offering camping for humans later this year, is in a real state of change. Hopefully, the wildlife will survive the influx of humans.

This is a great place for Fowler's Toads, a species we actually haven't yet seen this year, but we didn't see any. We spotted another couple of Bullfrogs in the bog, though.

Getting through May has been an ordeal so far but this day gave us a full day of herping time together and there is nothing better for our souls than that. Are we sad that we didn't see anything fancy or rare? Hell no! Every sighting is a privilege. All animals are special. Remember that.


  1. snakies with flowers and that toad that looked like a king on his throne! (andrea's hand)....... yup yup

  2. also are those cranberries with the froggie in the second to last?

  3. ANDREA se ve como EVA en el paraíso jaja...,,Hermoso todo!!!!!Martha