Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Day off from Work. 10-7-2016

First things first:
We didn't go out last Sunday due to inclement weather and laziness on my part. Since then, I had been beating myself up about it, like I do. When the weather was better on Monday, I was really beating myself up. So, I hit a spot on the way home from work just to breathe in some fresh air and walk in the fading sunlight. I managed to flip a few Redbacks, one of whom looked like this:
That helped my state of mind a lot.

So, my work was going to be closed on Friday, the 7th. Friday was going to be nice. My pal (and co-worker) Ryan and I started making plans about maybe hitting a nearby spot on that day; it was going to be sunny and in the low-70s. Sadly, Andrea was unable to get the day off, too.

It's no secret, I am getting older. My adopted Native American name is "Old Man Chasing Garter Snakes". Ryan, on the other hand, has boundless energy. He has been spending a lot of time over the last couple of years researching the vipers of Massachusetts. He and a friend Dom (who is perhaps the only avid reader of this blog! Hi Dom!) have been comparing notes and both of them have found the elusive Massachusetts Timber Rattlesnake this year. Ryan suggested we do some (light) mountain climbing to see if we could find one for me.

We met up at a spot near where Andrea and I have spent some time... but we went in a new way... meaning, we'd been close, but no cigar. A dribbling stream gave us our first animal... a bright Green Frog.
That's a good start.

We climbed up and poked around. It was much warmer up in the open areas than I was expecting. We checked crevices, looked under rocks, scoured the brush and did what tenacious herpers on a day off from work do. We finally got over a ridge to the hot spot. More close inspection ensued. Ryan gave a call that was very exciting to me... "Milk"!
Look at that fella's white noggin! What a beauty.

At that point, regardless of anything else, we deemed the day a success. We searched on some more, hitting the area where Ryan had seen his Timber a few weeks ago. We worked hard but came up with no more animals. We decided to get some sustenance and hit another spot, one I was more familiar with. On the way to the car, the stream held a Two-lined treasure...

We went to the other spot and found ourselves walking a trail that neither of us have ever had much luck with. We eventually got to a pond... that was bone dry. We walked through it, getting massacred by beggar ticks. Our pants were covered. Our only score while battling these fuckers was a large American Toad that jumped out of his hide-hole just as I clicked the camera, resulting in a crappy, blurry photo.
It's funny, though.

After spending a lot of time removing the damn sticktights, we continued up the trail. We finally found our first Redback of the day.

We were near a spot where Andrea and I have had some luck, an open spot that overlooks the edge of the place and the field beyond. We have seen a few herps here and some dessicated snake eggs that weren't Racer... but might have been something even more interesting... We stayed low for a while and managed to flip this massive Spotted Salamander.
How massive?
I got about a tablespoon of pee in the palm of my hand for my troubles.

Ryan flipped this Redback who looked to be guarding eggs. Those are slug eggs, though, so this gal has some misguided maternal instincts.
(It's about 2 months too late for Redback eggs, otherwise I'd be wondering.)

So, we went on and decided that we'd turn back to try another path. While walking back, I saw some tarp off to the side, about 20 feet off trail. I went to flip through it. Ryan went ahead. As I was flipping through, Ryan yelled out "Copper". I said, "You're shitting me", but I still ran ahead to meet him. Half way there, he said "Psyche". I was ready to murder him right there... nobody would have ever known about it. I could bury him among the rocks.

But he wasn't kidding and coiled up right there in the shade was both of our first ever Massachusetts Copperhead.
Quite a breathtaking sight.
This was about 100 yards from where Andrea and I sought these a few years ago, when we still had energy for such endeavours. I wonder if we have walked right by any in the past...

Less tired than I thought I was 15 minutes before that, we went back to the other trail we were headed for. Ryan, whose snake-eyes were spot on, spied a slim Garter.

There was a particular spot that Ryan was looking for and he was contacting Dom for instructions, often uttering the phrase "I love Dom." I was getting fatigued but pushed on for a bit, but eventually, I had to acquiesce to the demands on my old man bones and head back. Ryan was going to stay on for a while, but it was 5 PM and we'd been mountain climbing for roughly 7 hours. We fought hard for our finds and our tenacity had paid off. My personal reward on the way out was this fat American Toad, the size of my fist, clumsily hopping along the leaves.

I checked on the Copper on the way out, he was still there snoozing. Ryan checked an hour and a half later... still there.

I was toast as I drove home through rush hour traffic. Andrea beat me home coming from work. She wasn't too pissed at our success. We are watching some friends' cats this weekend, so we walked a block up from our house to check in on them right away. Our friends also have a healthy DeKay's population in their yard, so I figured Andrea could get in at least a little  herping.

Redbacks were up, but they skittered away before the flash went off. There are two here.

We haven't been up here looking through their garden much this year. They have been working on the yard and we don;t want to flip their walls around too much. That said, this is always a heart warming sight...

We also got some welcome reassurance that the colony is indeed reproducing.

So, that was one hell of a day off! Many thanks to Ryan for getting me off my ass and back into the hills. Thanks to Dom for helping us out and being patient with Ryan's constant intrusion! (I kid, of course... I wish you could have been with us, Dom!) And mostly, thanks to my boss for closing the shop on this beautiful day.


  1. hey,hey,.........i am an avid reader too.....sniff

    1. Of course you are, but the joke wouldn't work if I said "one of two avid readers". Not sure it works anyway.

  2. we are a small but select group

  3. ahem..........discerning even

  4. I love Dom, too!
    Very pretty copperhead. I especially love the obligatory "spot the copperhead" shot. Now you just have to keep at it- timbers come after copperheads around here. It is divine mandate!

    1. I'm so thrilled to have just seen anything! Local Timbers will come... I just need to rest up!

  5. Congratulations on the copper! Such a gorgeous snake. Take me with you next time?

  6. Querido Mike- no veo los comentarios que te mando.un beso Martha