Monday, August 29, 2016

A Shot to the Heart with Pink Bullets. 8-26-2016

OK, another scorcher was on tap. (We once heard a radio meteorologist say "there's a steamer on tap" and it sounded like he was about to take a big shit so I have altered it a bit.) Being baby snake and turtle season, we wanted to try for those but we also wanted to stay cool. Or decision was to head to Western MA and see how the drought has been treating Hampshire County. While not particularly turtley out there (except for the possibility of Woods), we always have a shot at Redbellies and Rats. What a thrill it would be to turn up a baby as our first Massachusetts Rat!

We both had taken Friday the 26th off, our second free Friday in a row, and headed west early, eating breakfast on the road. Due to walnut bladders and a wrong edxit ramp, it took a little longer than planned but we got there at roughly 10 AM. We stopped at the Creamery before hitting the river and found our first herp behind there... a twisty young Eft.

We hit the state forest and noticed quickly that the river was extremely low, but it was still running. We figured it might work in our favor for our target salamanders which are, as usual, Springs and Northern Duskies. "I've never heard of anyone targeting Duskies."- Matt. Yeah, well we love our Dookies. They're moist.

The grass was wet and the underside of logs and rocks were damp so that was a good sign. This shy Redback was in a shady spot under a log.

I was noticeably cooler out in the Berkshires than back in town. I mean, it was still 80°, but it was cool enough for this Eft to be out in the open without bursting into flame. This is how he was found, in the shade of a log.

The river was literally hopping with small Green Frogs.

Our August Frog of the Month®, the Pickerel, was also ubiquitous. This is a chubby and extraordinarily beautiful specimen.

This river is good for Two-lined Salamanders. So good, in fact, that we came up last January and got some under the ice. They were pretty speedy this day and it took a while before I got a photo of one.
I had to capture the little speedster.

Another great thing about this particular spot is the chance to see Erythristic Redbacks. It is a condition that is fairly common in this population. Since some of the best cover here has been cleaned up, we figured we wouldn't have much of a chance with them. But next to the river, under a damp, sandy rock, this Erythistic specimen was looking out at us. Yes, I yelled "Airy!!!"

This river is also a huge toad spot. (Check out this post from 5 years ago if you don't believe me.) We're hoping there was enough time for the tadpoles to metamorphose before the water level dropped. Here is at least one wee American Toad that is surviving.

Here is the first Dookie that we got our cameras on.

Nearby, in the water, was this Dook larvae... and perhaps my best photo of the day.
Unfortunately, my camera battery died right after this shot. I'd forgotten to charge it overnight. Duh.

That left me free to over exert myself flipping every stone in the river. While bad for my back and legs (which are still sore a few days later), it was good for finding salamanders. Here are two Two-lines, the second of which was huge! That's my beefy index finger next to him.
That's gotta be 5 inches of bislineata.

Right around here, we saw a tan colored Spring Salamander that was posing very nicely. It turns out it was dead. I placed it into the flowing water and let it carry downstream to become something's dinner. We were on the lookout for live, wriggling pink bullets under every rock, not dead tan ones.
Shallow and low, yes, but the water is cool and clean. It is a remarkable place. It is this top shelf water quality that makes it possible for Spings to live here. We kept hoping that with every rock flip, a pink bullet would shoot out and give us our Spring thrill for the day.

It was Andrea who struck first. She was up, about 5 feet away from the water, when she flipped a rock and this pink bullet shot out. She called "Spring" and I got in front of it with a container, ready to corral it. It squiggled like lightning (hilarious looking lightning at that) down the muddy slope, but stopped in front of me and quietly posed for a while. My camera even turned on long enough for a decent shot.
When it went to the water, it hid under Andrea's shoe.

Success! I got lucky a bit later when I flipped a rock next to the water and a Two-line jetted out while this Spring stayed put.

Happy, we headed back to start. We had become very hungry and, to be honest, the heavy lifting had fatigued me. Andrea's last animal here was this young Green Frog, posing perfectly in the river.

My camera obliged me with one more shot here... Andrea foraging in the low waters of the river.

We went back to the creamery and had sandwiches. I was also able to charge my camera for a half an hour or so. Our plans? We figured we'd hit a new spot on the way back to the highway. Sure, we were exhausted, but we don't get out this way too often and this new place would be practically on the way home.

It was late afternoon by the time we found and parked at this new spot, a lovely conservation area. We headed in along the trail. Pretty quickly, we saw a water source... a small stream-fed pool. It was busy with Green Frogs.

A boardwalk traversed a dried-up but still muddy stream. Some tantalizing rocks were sitting in the mud. A few flips and we had seen 5 Dookies! Here are two from under the first rock-
Let's take a closer look at that gorgeous big guy...
Any place with Dookies is OK in my book.

Further up the trail, another twisty Eft gave us a smile.

This is a Redback, but its unlike any other I have seen. The back is brown with silvery white flecks... quite a beauty. I had no idea what I had when I first flipped it, then I got a look at that derpy face.

Out of the wooded area, we came out on to the sunny dam. Pickerels jumped in and out of the grass along the mowed path.

Looking out to the opposite side of the dam, we thought it screamed Snapper!
A hiker we ran into later confirmed it. He said that Snappers are all over the place here. Sadly, we didn't see any. We never saw any snakes here either but we're pretty sure they're there.
There were dozens of discarded skins strewn about.

We headed to our destination, a nature blind about a mile and a half in. Almost there, we saw our 9th amphibian species of the day, a small Wood Frog.

The Wood Frog seal had been broken... here is another.

We rested my weary bones for a bit in the blind and then headed back. The shadows were getting long. Another Pickerel and another Green were our last photographed animals.

While walking back through the ever-darkening woods, we heard a couple of Barred Owls in the distance. Andrea did a decent job of calling back to them for a while.

We got home, bleary eyed and quite toasted, about 13 hours after we had left. But how can we complain when we saw 9 species of amphibian on a hot August day? We now have a new spot to explore next time we're out there and it shows a lot of promise. We got 6 species there on our first visit. Needless to say, we were very happy with our day.


  1. i'm glad yous had a good day and some cute froggies

  2. Nothing wrong with targeting duskies in Massachusetts, that's for sure! Although as a gyro nut there's still always that slight pang of disappointment.

    1. Luckily, we have one solid Spring spot in MA! Gotta find one closer to home, though.

  3. El animalito rosado parece un dibujito.Siempre te escribo y mis notas no aparecen,Esta es la última .-un beso Martha

    1. Es un hermoso animal !!!

      A veces no se ve "comentarios" para un día o dos. Creo que todo lo que han comentado es visible.

      El amor de Mike

    2. Es un hermoso animal !!!

      A veces no se ve "comentarios" para un día o dos. Creo que todo lo que han comentado es visible.

      El amor de Mike