Monday, April 10, 2017

An Actual Herp Trip. 4-9-2017

This year of crappy weather and crappy crap had to throw us at least one bone. And it looked like Sunday the 9th was going to be it. It was supposed to be in the low 60s and sunny. We could have gone to our familiar dens and seen Garter Garland and Waves of Water Snakes but we decided to try a nearby spot for Spotted Turtles. We'll get our Garters and Nerodia throughout the year but we usually only see about a dozen Spotties any given year and this is their time.

We got to our spot between 10:30 and 11 AM. It was in the mid-50s and the sun was high. Birds were chirping like mad. I added two more (easy) species to my pathetic 2017 count. The trails were flooded and we decided right away that getting soakers was worth it to take this trail. It was some time before we saw anything, though we could hear Leopard and Wood Frogs calling. Andrea struck first with a slim Garter that she had to catch for a photo.
I missed her lunge. Drat!

The flooded trails left very little land and the marshes were full. That, plus the cool weather we've been having, made us realize that most snakes should still be near their hibernaculum. So we concentrated on turtles. A basking spot that we have seen used before came through again this year, and we had our first official turtle of the year... a fine Spotted Turtle.
It's rare when we actually get our target! Anyhting from here on out would be gravy.

A cross trail that we usually have good luck on was washed out. Me, being an idiot, decided to go through anyway while Andrea waited. I saw nothing until heading back to where Andrea was waiting when I saw a Garter watching me from the brush.

Then I went back through the running water on the path.
When I say flood you best believe I mean flood, F-L-U-D.

We kept hearing dozens of Wood Frogs which of course made us think of the Atlantic Coast Leopard Frog, who is supposed to have a call like a Woodie. I really started to obsess on getting a visual confirmation on the Woods, especially since it wasn't really Wood habitat. But the calls were so plentiful that I can't seriously think it would have been a heretofore undocumented species in this area. Just a lot of Woods moved around by the flooding.

Heading up the other side of the cross path was very good to us... we found a Garter Snake hibernaculum and there were (at least) three skinny-minis out catching some rays.

This guy still had dirt on his eye.

This one was a real beauty! Loads of red.

We went up the trail for another quarter mile or so until we hit a washed out part and decided to turn around. Passing that same Garter spot, we saw these guys up... no idea if any were the same ones as before or not.

We continued up the main path, determined to go the whole 2 1/2 miles to the end. It was our first real hike of the year and we both feel the need to shed some blubber. Plus, it was downright beautiful out. We eventually flipped a Redback under a log.
The little bugger would not sit still so that picture is as good as it gets.

Way up the trail, Andrea spied another Spotted Turtle on the bank next to the water.

We made it to the end, poked around in the field next door, then headed back. We hoped our backs and legs had another 2 1/2 miles in them. (They did... we were fine.) It should be noted that twice we startled a Woodcock who in turn scared the shit out of us when it took off.

We saw a couple more Garters on the main path on the way back. As expected, not too far from probable dens. They were seen on higher, less drenched land.

Walking along, three of us all noticed each other at the same time... me, Andrea and this Spotted Turtle, who was on the path.
He pulled into his shell just as we saw him.

We ran into a guy walking his dog. He said his dog finds turtles and they had just seen two. We did see one more Spotted on the water's edge after that but it slipped into the drink and was gone. My finest efforts to find him got me only prickerbush scrapes and mucky hands.

Almost to the end, Andrea spied a good sized Garter... maybe about 2 feet long and as thick as my thumb, but it made a quick getaway. Andrea's theory, and it's a sound one, is that the slender, 18" and less garters are the ones you see at this time of year the most because they have less body mass to warm up. Surely, except for that guy that evaded the camera, every Garter so far this year has been about the same size. Like this last one, who also made a quick getaway...

So that was a wonderful gift from Mother Nature. We were in T-shirts by the end and I even got some sunburn. Only three species on the day, but it was ten for the weekend, 14 for the week. We were happy and life didn't suck. I could get used to that feeling, but I'll never take it for granted.


  1. Nicely done. I haven't seen a spotted yet this year, but plan to go out tomorrow. Hoping for a box turtle this weekend .... I really like your blog! Tim

    1. Thanks, Tim! We'll be down to help out with Boxies before too long!