Monday, January 23, 2017

Run to the Hills Jan. 21st, 2017

It was a Saturday morning and we had to take DeeDee, Andrea's pet Western Hognose, to the vet for a wellness check up. She passed with flying colors... she is in good flesh. This is how she looked while she waited for the doctor.

After that, we took her home. The weather was turning out to be beautiful so we decided to head to the Blue Hills to do some actual herping. It had been unseasonably warm for a few days and there had been plenty of rain. Some salamander snooping was in order. We listened to some Iron Maiden on the drive there to get pumped up.

After arriving, our first stop was a trickling stream that is bisected by the path. It is often good for Two-lined Salamanders and their larvae. Another possibility in this teeny stream is frogs... and that's exactly what we found. This slumbering Pickerel Frog is, obviously, our first frog of the year. Premier palustris.
He was actually fairly active as it wasn't very cold out... high 40s and starting to get sunny. We put him back and he returned to the underside of his watery rock.

The other side of the path is gorgeous... clean, shallow trickling water...
I got on my hands and knees and sifted through the leaves and silt. I saw an adult Two-lined Salamander... this is the best shot I could get while he was in the water:
With my face just about submerged, I was looking at the swirling silt and saw the smallest larvae I have ever seen...
Eventually, we netted a few more for observation.
We were very excited to see such tiny forms of life. Exhilarating.

We searched on for our first Plethodons of the year and hoped that they and some ambystomoids would be part of our sightings. It was proving harder than we thought. Finally, Andrea flipped a log and got our first Redback of the year.
And she soon followed up with another.

It took a while but I finally chipped in with my own.

We got to another stream area and saw some more Two-lines.

Our last critter in Norfolk County was this Leadback, who presented me with a real photography challenge.

The sun had emerged and it had become a full-on beautiful day. We needed some lunch so we stopped on the way back home. We also decided to hit our local spot to see if any noggins had decided to poke out of the snake dens. By the time we got there, however, the shadows had gotten very long and anything that might have peeked out earlier had definitely returned to the underground.

We ran into a guy we'd met the week before and he asked if he and his son could walk back with us and look for salamanders. We struck out with Ambystoma again, but we all got to photograph some Redbacks.

It's not every January day that we can get in a nice, longish hike and see three species. We considered ourselves very lucky. It felt great to get all tired and muddy. It has since become cold again, so we look at that Saturday as a gift and we say "Thank you, Mother Nature!"

Monday, January 16, 2017

Welcoming 2017

2016 went into the books as not one of the greatest years ever. That was true on many levels, though there were a few bright spots. Hopefully, I have learned by now to roll with the punches and enjoy what we get, whatever that might be. Life is only so long... we need to make the best of everything.

Monday January 2nd:
With that new attitude (and a new prescription to... take the edge off...) we embarked on a new year of nature by taking a trip to northern Worcester County to take a look for stream salamanders. It was January 2nd, which also meant we could start our bird count anew. We got a little bit lost finding the place, this being our first visit there. We finally made it and got stuck in the ice in the parking lot. Oh well. We made it out and then got stuck again. While I was pushing and Andrea was flooring it, I noticed the back tire was flat and smoking.

Calmly, I jacked it up, got the nuts off and... the tire was stuck. Rusted in place. OK, we called Triple A. Surely they wouldn't take too long. Well, they kinda did. We passed the time by starting our bird count around some feeders around the place. This is an Audubon park so it has a lot to offer. I also used my nervous energy to chip the ice away and make a clean spot. Eventually, AAA got there, got my tire off and we put the donut on and we were free to peruse the sanctuary.

Time was short by now, so we hurried along. One thing we hadn't taken into consideration while planning this trip in the morning? They got a lot more snow than we did in town.

We finally got to the stream we sought. Surely we could find some Spring Salamanders, some Dookies and Two-lines... right?

We couldn't. We peeked into a few seeps as well. Great habitat but no one was home.

Since we would be driving on a donut, we had to find a garage for a tire. That made us cut our hike short. That and tons of snow. We left herpless and with 6 bird species photographed. This place does hold great promise, however. There's a Wood Turtle on the front of the trail map, loads of stone walls and this sign on the road in (and out)...
We will be back.

We did manage to get a tire after a short stint on the highway and a look around Worcester. No harm done... just not the way we had planned our first outing.

Friday, January 6th:
Since I was stuck at 6 birds and it didn't look like we'd get too much birding in over the weekend (I was catching my second strain of flu in a month), I hit the grocery store on the way home from work and baited my #7, 8 and 9 bird species with some cereal.
#7 Ring-billed Gull, #8 Canada Goose, #9 Mallard Duck
I regret nothing.

Saturday, January 14th:
For some bizarre reason, I wanted to try finding some stream salamanders in Worcester again on a cold Saturday. Of course, we have some nearby in Suffolk County, but going the extra 30 miles puts us into range for Dooks and possible Springs. My target was Duskies, however, having ruled out Springs at this certain spot. The week had given us some warm days and though Saturday's temps were in the low 30s, we felt like we had a chance. Though it did freeze overnight.

The water was rushing,  but it was cold. And much of it was icy.

Despite the flu, I gave it my all... peeking under stones in the water, sifting with my dip-net... I really did give it my best effort. But Nature had beat me. Any stream salamanders would be in the deepest parts of the water, where I was not prepared to go. It was beautiful, though... an ice mountain.

Monday, January 16th:
Martin Luther King Day, we both had it off. I was starting to feel a bit better and we both needed some fresh air. We decided to celebrate the great man's memory by hitting some local places where our effort could be minimal but our chances would be greater. The temps were scraping 40 and it was sunny. It was full-on beautiful.

Upon seeing the trickling stream, our habitat target, my heart filled with joy. Such a beautiful sight... and sound.

It didn't take long before we found our first herp of 2017... a bright and gorgeous Two-lined Salamander.
Less than a mile from our back door.

We found another robust pair of them before leaving the place.

We headed over to our snake den spot after that. It was far too cold for any noggins to poke out (though we did give a cursory look) but it was sunny and we felt good. We hadn't been on beach patrol for quite some time and thus, we hadn't been getting much outdoor time in.  It wasn't as birdy as we were hoping. We got to observe a few Mallard couples for a while and we added bird #10, a Downy Woodpecker.
Downy Woodpecker #10

Needless to say, we're off to a fairly slow start this year. I'm not too worried about it, though. It's a long year and we'll see our animals. I just have to keep my cool on the days where we don't see as much and revel with joy when we are successful. While I make no resolutions for 2017, I hope we can just enjoy each other's company and enjoy nature... easy peezy.