Monday, July 25, 2016

Hot Fun in the Summertime. July 22 and 23, 2016

In the middle of a heatwave, it's always so tough to figure out how you want to spend your time. Of course, we have to go out but we don't want to overdo it. Most animals don't even want to be out in the sun on a 95° day. With thunderstorms in the forecast for Friday night, we planned on going to a state park to look for Gray Tree Frogs, at a friend's suggestion. Our best spot is 30 miles further away from this one, so we're interested in a closer spot. We headed out the door at 7 PM and figured on getting some dinner on the way. Except when we stepped out, the sky was blue and the sun was out. Plans changed instantaneously.

We went instead to the nearby decimated place that we've been keeping an eye on, our weekly jaunt. It was still well over 90° but what the heck. The shadows were getting long and there was a nice breeze. We saw no animals and when we got to formerly-known-as Racer Alley, the breeze was cooling. Then it became a cool wind. The clouds moved in. It's entirely possible that we underestimated the incoming storm. It was coming in fast as we headed back towards the car, which was about a mile and a half away. The rain started; though mercifully, not really hard. The woods more or less shielded us from the worst of it. Almost back to the car, we saw our first non-bunny animal, an American Toad that was hoping the rain would bring about a nice worm or two.

We changed our plans back to the original ones... hit the highway to go to that state park. We stopped for pizza at a sports bar on the way. We were out of place. Then we punched the park into Andrea's GPS and it took us the long way, to a back entrance. It was after 10 PM now and the rain had subsided. In fact, much of the pavement on the roads was dry. We were having a helluva tough time figuring the night out. While checking a paper map like we used in the reliable olden times, we figured out the way to the front of the park. We did hear a few Gray Tree Frogs calling from the wetlands. It was the sound of promise.

We got into the park, which was open to campers, and we started cruising the roads. A few roadkills were seen first but we finally got things started with the first Wood Frog we had seen in a while.

American Toads were plentiful.
This next guy looks like a tennis ball with legs. He hasn't missed many meals.

While driving past a pond area, we saw some very small, newly metamorphed Green Frogs.
OK, now that you're out of the pond, BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!

Another roly-poly toad.

A gorgeous Wood Frog hopped across the road and I couldn't find him. Finally... I spied the little camouflaged critter.

Other than a few more toads, we only saw one other animal... one we really didn't expect to see.

Something was truckin' across the road that looked like a large centipede or a salamander, but in the middle of a heatwave in July, there wouldn't be any salamanders up! Or would there?
We hadn't seen a Spotted Sal since the middle of April. This guy, a bit smaller than breeding sized, was a total surprise and we couldn't have been happier.

After circling the parking lot a few times, we went back to the back entrance where we had heard Grays calling earlier. It was now silent and there had been no more rain for a few hours. We headed towards home but damn, I needed to get gasoline badly. It was almost midnight, and I was on fumes. One more joke was going to be played on us that night.

We got to a gas station on a main street in Hingham. At the pump, I opened the door and we both heard it... a Gray Tree Frog. There were calls from across the street and maybe one on our side. While I filled up, Andrea put on her headlamp and looked around the sides of the lot. This, of course, brought out the amused proprietor who wondered what she was doing. After talking for a bit, he said there was a pond across the street, fenced in because of geese, where frogs called all night long. He let us park in his lot and we headed over to try... try again for a damn Gray.

When he said geese, we figured Canada Geese. Nope... these ladies honked like mad as we got near the fence.

The far-side of the pond had a couple of Grays calling, so that's where we went. That side of the pond was bordered by a residential street. Of course, whenever we got near, the frog calls would stop. Something jumped into the bush. Nearby, a light colored Green Frog watched our frustration.

I had one Gray in my ears... I knew just about where he was. He was on the other side of the fence, not far... but he stopped calling. I shined my lamp around. Nope, not a Gray.
This big Bullfrog explained something to us. It was after midnight and we were shining our lights over a fence, into a pond in a quiet suburban neighborhood. It was time to call it a day and go home. Our plan was to get up at 5 AM to hit a spot Saturday morning before the heat came on. That was only about 4 1/2 hours away.

Still, we had a great time and even added a species on the night on what was supposed to just be a gas-stop.

Believe it or not, we managed to get up and out of the house and deep into Bristol County before 7:30 AM on Saturday. Who needs sleep? Well, me... but we figured we'd be home in time for a nice nap by mid-afternoon. We got the best parking spot in the lot at our park of choice and hit the trails while the temps were still low... in the high 70s.

Our first herp tipped us off to the fact that it was now tiny toad season. This wee Fowler's was so damn cute, we almost threw up.

Our early arrival paid off quickly. Heading down a shady path toward the lake, two beautiful Garters were up and at it, looking for breakfast.
Look at that olive and cinnamon beauty. These would be our only snakes of the day.

Fowler's Toads were the animal of the day, though. We saw bucketloads of them. Oddly enough, we didn't get many good shots of them. This beautiful one was such a pain, we had to catch it for a shot, and the photo still blows.

By 8:30, the sun was already very hot and the temps had skyrocketed. The next pond we hit got a nice up-close inspection. Oops... we stepped in. Oh well. These two Bullfrogs watched us get swamp-foot.

Andrea caught a pair of fritillarys being frisky.

We were walking the shallow pond for a few reasons. One was to cool off, though the shallow water was fairly warm. More importantly, we were checking the edges and shallows for Water Snakes and small turtles. Andrea called me... evidently, I had walked right past a Musk Turtle.
He was feisty... he even bit the top of his own shell once.
When we put him back, he illustrated why we don't see them easily...
He scooted into the mud and plants and was all but gone.

The master at work.

We took a shaded path that we usually blow off. It was too hot for snakes already but we hadn't yet seen any turtles up basking so we decided to give them a bit more time. The trail had a few standing puddles on it and we found some teeny, brand-new Pickerel Frogs inhabiting them.

We eventually got to see some Painted Turtles up basking. Not as many as usual, but I can't complain.
Red-bellied Cooters are often perched at these spots but they were a no-show this day.

A cool running stream provided us with more cool water to soak in and a bright Green Frog.

Our last spot before turning back provided us with a wee Bullfrog and a tiny Pickerel. Let's hear it for frogs!

We sat in the shade for a bit. I wanted to explore the water's edge a bit more while Andrea remained seated. I managed a decent shot of some bumblebees working over a flower. (I know, Matt and Bob... too tight at the top.)
Andrea, however, managed something even better.

We hadn't seen our Black-eyed Toads in a couple of years but she saw one hopping across the beach in front of her.
We've seen about a half dozen of these over the years, always in this park. This one was much deeper into the park than the others from previous years. It is a bizarre gene... pitch black eyes, black backs, orange feet and a somewhat translucent belly.
We have thought about collecting one some day to keep for a bit but not this wee one. He was too far from the car, it was too damn hot, and he was too small. If we find another adult, we might bring him home for a bit.

Heading back out, we flipped a few more stones. I flipped one and saw a toad noggin buried deep in a hole. I held the stone up and called Andrea over. A tiny toad hopped out. Then, my hand caught fire. SHIT! There was a yellow-jacket nest under there, too and one just got my hand. I dropped the rock and immediately wanted to go make sure that toad was still deep in his burrow, but there was a dozen bees buzzing all over there by now. And my hand hurt like hell. Oh well, we moved on, hoping I didn't give him a headache.

A bit further up, after I stopped whining a little, we got to spot that has cracked up blacktop to flip. First flip got us another Fowler's, all burrowed in. Bonus... no bees.

Another one had a small, dark toad that I thought could be an American Toad, a rarity here, and when I picked him up to inspect him, he peed on me. Right on my sting. I'll be damned if it didn't make it feel a bit better. I never got a decent picture of him so it's a moot point what species he was. After a closer look, I think he was a Fowler's, anyway.

Andrea, always with an eye for carnage, shot this Eastern Pondhawk munching on a Wood Nymph.

The sound of off-trail running water caught our ears. We have always heard it and maybe inspected it once or twice but we decided to follow it this time. We went down to where a pipe, probably from the nearby lake, was dribbling into a clear pool, which then ran in a stream into the woods. We followed it. We discovered it running into a small pond buried in the woods. Through the trees, it looked like it opened up more so, with our already wet feet, we went through the muck and saw twin hidden ponds... we had never seen these before. A slice of paradise surrounded by trees. No trails lead to them.
There is a lot of this park that we have not seen but this really surprised me. We checked Google Earth when we got home... they are there but we'd never have known without seeing them ourselves.

Heading back, I saw a frog jump into the dribble-stream so I stepped closer to try to see him. Oops.
The muck wasn't quite as sturdy here.

OK, I was filthy and I fell back into the wet saw-grass, but I got this shot of a Bullfrog's butt, so it was worth it.

Still filthy, we got to the parking lot. I checked the bog and saw a pair of Green Frogs sitting in the mud that were cleaner than me.

We drove up to the front, to park at a lake where I could clean up and we could look for turtles. The mud had baked on to my legs and it didn't come off very well. (In fact, that night's shower didn't get it off until I used Perfectly Posh Gender Bender™ charcoal soap, available from my daughter.) We did see a small Painted Turtle basking near the shore, though.

Though we said we could only get ice cream if we saw 10 species of herps (we fell short at 7), we still had lunch and ice cream. Bee stings used to count, so why not. Also, adding in the night before, we had seen 10 in well under 24 hours. Shouldn't the black-eyed toad count as extra? Plus, we'd been out for hours with the temps in the high 90s. OK, I think I justified the ice cream pretty well there.

We hit one more spot before heading home. It had become obvious that there would be no naps for us so why not hit one last spot? We'd hoped for a last minute Nerodia but it was very very hot. We did, however, get treated to two frolicking Painted Turtles, foraging for algae and maybe taking a nosh or two on a dead crayfish.

The little one got up to sit on a log in a shady tunnel.

Andrea lay down on the bridge and just watched them being turtles for a while. This is what it's all about.

We got home in time to shower, have a light dinner, and go to bed. After all, tomorrow is another day and we're going out... even though it will be in the 90s... again.

1 comment:

  1. thank goodness you're not allergic.
    ok you had a wonderful time, i have envy
    those tiny toads are too much
    and if you're breathing........that qualifies for icecream in my book
    i am so glad you two didn't get heat stroke