Sunday, November 13, 2016

November at a Glance... The 5th, 12th and 13th.

With the cold climes, there is far less that we can do in the natural world... or rather, far less we are mentally capable of doing. We're not much for going out into the cold on purpose. But it's still not horrible, so we make plans that will fit into our hatred of cooler weather. But we don't want to hit the local dens every time. That would get old for both the animals and us.

Saturday the 5th, we planned on going up to Maine to visit the kids. On the way up, we stopped by an Essex County pond to poke around. Of course, frogs and turtles would be long gone and snakes would only be near their hibernaculums so we were going on a wing and a prayer. Our main target was salamanders, as it often is this time of year. And our first animal was a spiffy Leadback.
My own newly described "Speckle-puss Phase".

It took plenty more work before we saw our next animal... a Redback, who posed provocatively with some mushrooms.

We searched through a mile or two of powerline cut, thinking that there might have been some dens nearby, but no snakes were draped about. I mean, it was warm in the sun, but the air was only 53° and felt cooler in the breeze. On the way in, one spot that we were pretty sure was a den had been barren. So imagine our surprise and happiness when, on the way out, this Garter was poking around in the cool shade.
This specimen is as stubborn as we are. We worked hard for this guy.
In fact, we worked hard for all three animals. Those are the only ones we saw in about 3 hours. That's fine, though. We got sun, air and a few animal sightings. Always a wonderful thing.

The evening of Friday, the 11th was going to be cold and windy. Very windy. We were mulling over the possibility of pulling turtle patrol on the Cape on Saturday. Our minds were made up for us when we got officially asked to do it in the afternoon. We happily agreed. High tide was at 8:47 AM, so we'd have to leave home two hours before that. We set the alarm for 5 AM. No sleeping in this Saturday.

We got out there pretty much on time and made our way to the beach. The paths leading there were flooded by the tide, so our timing was pretty good. When we got onto the beach, the tide was high (and we were holding on) and the waves were choppy.
It looked pretty good for turtles.

But we didn't see any. We saw a couple of guys that had walked part way out the beach (which is about 4 miles out) and they hadn't seen any. Oh well, undeterred, we went on. We were going to do the whole beach like we were asked. One interesting thing... Grey Seals kept popping up. They almost seemed to follow us.

By the time we were near the point, over 3 miles out, seals were all over the place. They kept bobbing up, looking at us, diving, submerging, coming up, watching us... I swear they were showing off a bit.

My favorite hilariously bad shot...

Yes, I dare say that the Grey Seals were ubiquitous.

Not everything was fun and games, however. While we had seen no turtles in need of help, this young Greater Black-backed Gull needed a hand.
She sat there, cowering before us and when she tried to move away, we saw her leg tethered to something in the sand. She was trapped there. Andrea reminded me of the pocket knife in my backpack, so I took it out, planning on cutting the line or netting or whatever it was stuck on.

I took off my coat and put it over the bird (at Andrea's suggestion... she mentioned "razor sharp beak" and the fact that they can "turn their heads all the way around", which was being demonstrated). Unfortunately, it was worse than we'd thought.

There was a fishing lure with a triple hook going through her foot. Luckily, it was just the webbed part, through two areas.
As I worked on one hook, another would pull on her foot or stick me in the finger. Finally, I extricated the hooks from her foot. But it was worse.

There was a second set of hooks (presumably also three) stuck into her wing.
I tried to see how much damage there was, but it obviously was causing her a lot of pain and I freshened the bleeding on the wound, so I stopped prodding. I worked the ring that held the hooks stuck in her wing, planning to remove the heavy lure and other hooks. It was like a tiny, tight key ring loop and it finally came off. Sadly, there was no way I could work on the hook still in her wing. I just wasn't equipped.

I make no secret about it. I am not a fan of fishing. I have many friends who fish and enjoy it and I have no doubt that they are very responsible. But I absolutely abhor it. This incident does not help my view.
At least I got most of it off of her. I removed my coat and she bit it a few times. I thought that was fine; it reinforced to her who was boss. I held the sleeve out to her and she bit it again for good measure.

She tried to walk, but plopped back down. The foot was in pain.

But it wasn't long before she stood up and limped about 30 yards to the water, her bum wing hanging low.
She walked into the cleansing water and took a salty drink. We watched her for a while. She attempted to fly once, but couldn't do it. Yet, I hope.

We let her be and went on.

We rested at the very tip of the point for a while. A trio of young Eiders swam by.

On the way back, we saw our Gull sitting atop a throne of rock and seaweed. I looked around and found a full scallop shell that I cracked open for her.
I tried to take some noms to her but she got up and briskly walked away, wanting nothing to do with the Coat Guy. I tossed the snack her way but she ignored me. OK, well, at least she was ambulatory. Being a scavenger, she will find something. We started our 4 mile journey back to the car feeling a bit better about her.

No turtles. It was a tiring hike back. We stuck close to the water just in case the receding tide had left any chelonian surprises but there were none. Walking in the squishy, wet sand did a number on our feet.
Ah, well... we made it and wound up none the worse for wear. I fell asleep at 7 PM. For the night.

Only three turtles had turned up on the Cape the whole day, all from other beaches. Luckily, other volunteers were there to help them. All three were alive, too!

Sunday the 13th was warm. It was going to scrape 60° and be sunny. We figured we owed it to ourselves to take a quiet walk and check on the local dens. Just to see some herps. We got there after 11 AM and it was lovely out. A few Redbacks were our first encounters.

Andrea saw a small Nerodia in the valley, right near the den entrance. He was being shy, but we got a couple of pictures.

Most of the den areas were empty. We thought we'd see more than we did but there has already been a frost and some of these knuckleheads might be wising up. The Cottonwood Den had one small Garter tucked into a sunny nook. Andrea noticed this guy... I'd have never seen him.

An example of how beautiful Andrea is... I was behind her and said "hey look" as if I'd found something. She turned quickly, I snapped the camera and got this...
I was hoping for a goofy, embarrassing shot but got this ravishing creature. Damn, I'm lucky.

Up on a sunny trail, a small sparrow was poking around and I took his picture. Song? Swamp? Chipping? I was having trouble IDing it at home and asked my friend Bob for some help. It turns out it's an American Tree Sparrow, #103 on the year and Lifer #158.
American Tree Sparrow #103 (Lifer #158)
I had also added a Tufted Titmouse to the year's count earlier, so it wasn't a bad bird day at all.

So that is what November has been so far for us. Nothing Earth-shattering but good days out in nature. We expect to do many more turtle patrols in the coming weeks. I need to add some steel-cutters to my backpack arsenal.


  1. !Hola gente linda!!!.Muy bueno tu comentario sobre la Gaviota.Yo tengo experiencia ,triste por cierto ,de encontrar y ayudar palomas Torcazas.No siempre salen bien ,porque algunas no resisten y mueren.Hace poco encontré una palomita acurrucada. La levanté y acuné sobre mi pecho, ,abrigándola . y élla se quedó muy tranquila,,,cuando llegué a mi casa y la destape de su abrigo , que había muerto entre mis brazos,...amparada ...abrigada ...tranquila...Cada vez que me acuerdo lloro por ella , soy fuerte en mis emociones con los animalitos..Les mando un beso a todos.Martha

    1. Esa es una historia triste, pero hermosa, Martha. Gracias por reconfortar al ave en sus últimos momentos de vida. (((Abrazos)))