Wednesday, August 31, 2016

¿Dónde están los bebés? 8-28-2016

One last chance for the weekend to see if we could come up with some hatchling turtles or wee baby snakes. SPOILER ALERT! We didn't. But just the fact that we dragged our bones out of the house (a bit late as we were playing with the kitten we were watching) yet again means that we were at least trying. We went to a spot we'd recently hit because it has a large turtle nesting field... created just for that purpose. We got there a bit after 10 AM.

We might not have scored newborns but frogs kept us happy. Remember back in April when we still hadn't seen a non-hibernating Pickerel Frog? Well once again, we started the trip with a sighting of the August Frog of the Month®, the always beautiful Pickerel.

Next up, the August runner-up (who made a strong surge in the late days of the month), a Green Frog.

Painted Turtles were up, as always, enjoying the sun. The top photo has some upload surprises in the background.

Getting to our favorite spot, we started seeing a lot of frog and turtle action. Another Green and a large Bullfrog that I didn't see even when I stepped right next to it. He just sat there, unconcerned.

This Painter did a splash-down when we first walked by, but did a nice hoist for us when we were past.

Green Frog noggins were ubiquitous.

The next pond was dreadfully dry. Waterless in many spots. It kind of gave us an idea of the underwater landscape that we're usually unable to see. Mental notes were made. Where there was still pools of water, Painted Turtles were above, sunning on branches and mud piles, usually looking quite fabulous.

The exposed pond bottom attracted a few migrating avians. Two Great Egrets were hunting the shallows. Here is one at work.
We don't see them much up here.

A half dozen little shorebirds were picking around the mud and I got a few shots. My pal Bob Fergusen ID'd this for me... Least Sandpiper, #98 on the year and lifer #156.
#98 Least Sandpiper Lifer #156

It was then that we saw the cryptozoological wonder... Swamp Thing! He was much smaller than I thought he'd be.

Unimpressed Bullfrog was unimpressed.

What time is it? It's August time.

For the next couple of hours, we made a fruitless search through the nesting field and continued into the reserve via a trail that has had hatchlings popping out of the ground on it in the past. Nada. We decided to make a watery area about a mile and half away our destination spot. Of course, foremost in my mind was the bench that sits near the water. Feet had become a little tough to lift. It wasn't hot hot but it was sticky and gnats were being assholes again. We saw no animals along the hike and I flopped onto the bench when we reached it.

When my energy returned (or rather, my butt started to hurt), I got up to look at the water. While I was sitting, this Bullfrog (even larger than the last one) had been resting on the shore. Great minds think alike.

A startled many Green Frogs into the drink, many of them blasting me with a squeak before splash-down. This one didn't care about me one way or another.

Casually walking along the edge, I finally saw our first snake of the day, but it was no baby. This lovely Water Snake was enjoying the warm water of the shallows, and probably enjoying a few froggy snacks.  You're welcome, Greens.
We had never seen a Nerodia in this spot so this rusty 2½  footer was a real treat.
Our hike back was uneventful. I played with a mushroom and Andrea made me wash my hands. No babies.

When we got back to the super-low pond, one of the Great Egrets was in a tree.

Andrea spied another Swamp Thing... with a hidden surprise.
and the secret Bullfrog!

Double your fabulous pleasure!

This clump was prime real estate. I was watching the bottom two Painters climbing up and knocking the other one off for a while. Very amusing.

While walking back, Andrea heard a swoosh... it wasn't me mincing along this time, either. She saw a thin Garter in the brush. No chance for a photo. I went around the back of the bush where it was facing and got in front of it. The snake noticed me and gave me all of its attention. This allowed Andrea to lean in and make a grab for photos.
A gorgeous specimen who didn't really appreciate our teamwork.

So, that was that. No babies and nothing really fancy but for us, every animal is a treasure. We got home and despite our weariness, we didn't nap. We just basked in the glow of having seen some beautiful critters.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Where the Babies At? 8-27-2016

Another day, another attempt to see hatchling turtles and baby snakes. We got off to a late start, however, because we were going to watch a kitten for a friend for the weekend... an 8-week old all-ear cutie-pie. (One that I didn't have time to get pix of...) Would that be our only baby of the day? We headed out a bit after 8 AM and got to our (usually turtle-centric) spot around 9 AM... ready to look around.

Water levels are, of course, low. Still, the edge of a pond gave us our first sighting... a hiding Pickerel Frog.
As stated elsewhere, Pickerels are the August Frog of the Month®  for 2016.

Small Fowler's Toads were abundant. This is but one of many.

Our board lines had again been picked up and placed into a pile. A pile that has been sitting there for over two years. Again, I removed them from the pile of broken picnic tables and put them on the ground. We thought that this spot would be fruitless because of the board disturbance but a Garter was hunting in the dewy grass, probably looking for those toads.

Somewhere nearby, there was a very clean Racer.

Hiking back toward the water, a slither in the brush sure looked like a Ribbon to me. I had to make a valiant lunge to try to capture it to photograph. The Ribbon took exception to that.
Andrea fared much better.
Neither of us nailed a great picture; this will have to suffice.

Flipping in a spent fire-pit in a sandy area got us another toad.
Hey, wait! That's one of our Black-eyed Toads!
We're still trying to understand this mysterious morph... black eyes, translucent bellies and smoother than normal skin. They remind me of those scale-less Bearded Dragons that you see at shows.

This Bullfrog looks positively dumbstruck as well.

Off trail, between ponds, we flipped a large, hidden piece of plywood that held one in-the-blue Garter underneath.
We tried not to bother him.

This Laetiporus mushroom is pretty rad.
Laetiporus sulphureus

Here comes Miss August!

We got to the next pond(s) and went in. What's a couple of soakers when you can get a good perspective on the pond edges? We found a few Bullfrogs... a small one and, well... a smaller one.

Turtles were, as you guessed it, not too easy. We saw no babies in the nesting areas and none in the pond's edges. In fact, in the whole first of two ponds in this section, we saw just one Painter who was quite far away. I tried like hell to get a decent shot because it has a beautiful, red plastron.
I failed on "decent" but you get the idea.

As I headed back out the trail that runs between the two ponds, this Pickerel was the Gatekeeper, holding his ground against my exit.
Until I got too close and he leaped off.

We got out deep into the place, well into the best turtle area. There weren't many to be seen but we got a few fabulous Painters up doing some sun-worshipping.
^The guy on the left was an upload surprise!

Down by a brook that runs from a waterfall to the pond, we saw a small Green Frog enjoying the cool water.

A bit later, Andrea spied a cute Wood Frog!

Notice how the narration has fizzled a little here? That's because somewhere around the turtles, I had become so fatigued that I could barely move my legs. Plus, I was a moron and had worn Chuck Taylors on my feet with no socks in anticipation of walking in the water. So my feet hurt and I was full on exhausted. Not sure what has come over me lately. I completely lost my steam... again. Must be getting old. We went back to a spot we'd already hit and I laid down on a shady dock while Andrea searched the pond's edge. I flashed back to my childhood... cool breeze while I lay outside, sun shining on my face and tree branches throwing shadows across my eyelids. Very pleasant.

But I had to stand up eventually. Knowing I'd be no good to flip anything else, I said to Andrea, "From here on out, we just have to keep our eyes open." No sooner had I said that than a new Garter child went trucking across the paved path.

Our last animal photo of the day was this August Frog of the Month® sitting in a tree. Sort of.

We'd heard that there was a downpour during the night that was super-heavy... for about 5 minutes. The evidence was present... wet morning grass, ponds a bit more full than three weeks ago (about 3' less shore on one pond), flowing water lines in the sand, and healthy looking frogs. While we're still suffering from a drought, it wasn't as bad as last time.

So, nothing gangbusters this day... no hatchling turtles and just one cheeky baby Garter, but we were out, we were together and we enjoyed ourselves. Except for the sore feet. I walked the last mile to the car barefoot.