Sunday, April 30, 2017

Anything But Bland. 4-29-2017

Up and at it! We wanted to go to a spot way out at the edge of Worcester County to target Blandings Turtles. Our spot is fairly reliable and the weather was going to be very cooperative. We actually got our butts into gear at a reasonable hour and got out there by 10:30 AM. As expected, it was very wet... much of the main path was flooded, but we had seen worse here. (Like this time.)

Remember last night's instant gratification? This day was just as kind to us. A speedy Garter sped across the path about 100 feet in.

Toads were calling like mad and with the ponds being as swollen as they were, Painted Turtles were visible in many places.

This wad of Water Snakes were goin' at it about 10 feet from the path. Love was in the air.
I shot a quick porno.

I had walked right past this Garter but Andrea spied him... just sitting there.
Was he all right? Yeah, he was just otherwise engaged.

We have an off-path spot that we always like to check because it is surrounded by vernals and it's a good salamander spot. We figured that since "Big Night" was fairly recent, we stood a decent shot at seeing a Spotted Salamander. We were right.
The way this guy is wedged into that wood, it is just screaming to have an Internet gag made with his picture. Pretty amusing even without the "Oh, my achin' head" caption.

Another reason we wanted to check the vernals was the fact that Blandings Turtles are known to visit them to eat amphibian eggs. Much to our delight, resting on the hill next to a vernal, we spied our two First-of-Year Blandings.

Andrea went around the other side to try to get better shots from above. On her way over there, she saw this:
She called me over. Luckily, she got our First-of-Year Ribbon Snake in hand, or I'd have missed it.
And a stunner it was.

So, I went up the path and cut in around where I knew the Blandings would be facing. Much to my delight, the top one was making for an extremely cute and derpy photograph.

I yelled back to Andrea, who was taking a more precarious route to the spot. I then noticed that behind me was another Blandings.
We might have discovered a Blandings thoroughfare, where they travel from vernal to home-pond.

We then went back to the salamander spot to explore further. Andrea found this teeny Redback, made even shorter by having lost it's tail tip recently.

So, target achieved and we hadn't been there an hour yet. We went on, starting to get into the meat of the hike. As expected, the ponds were big and Painted Turtles were plentiful.

While I was scoping the pond with my binoculars, Andrea very nonchalantly said "Here comes a Water Snake." Sure enough, a Water Snake was coming.

I'm not sure why that struck me as so funny, but I have repeated it about 100 times since.
"Baroop? Here I come."

Here's a few more shots of some of the Painters that were up.

This second stretch of path runs between two wetland areas that were very wet. Garter Snakes are usually plentiful along this stretch and we saw many, but couldn't get photos of them all. They sported varying degrees of cleanliness, suggesting that their hibernaculum is along this stretch and some of them were just emerging.
"Ain't nuthin' here but us fiddleheads!"

We saw a few Water Snakes along here, too, like this guy crossing the path.

Much to our delight, further up the path we saw a pair of Blandings catching some rays.
Check out the shell-crack on that chubba bubba on the right!

Further still, we snuck back to the water's edge in hopes of more turtles. This young Painted Turtle had a large perch all to himself.

Water Snakes were patrolling the water's edge, probably looking for the frogs that were eluding us on this day.
This place is usually filthy with frogs but we had yet to see one, despite hearing so many toads and a few Bullfrogs calling.

Through some thickets, we could see more Blandings basking. We were having unprecedented luck with this species!

A very large Blandings plopped into the drink before I got a shot of him. While they don't roam to far when they do that, I didn't have the patience to wait him out. Besides, there was yet another one about 50 feet away posing a difficult but doable shot for me.
All right, so I wont be awaiting a call from National Geographic, but you can tell what it is.

We headed back to the path. This Garter welcomed us with open lack-of-arms.

We walked along the river, which was running quickly. Painted Turtles were forming Chorus Lines on the other side.

Garter Snakes were prevalent along this path, too. Man, I love it when herping is this easy. This little guy was the angriest of them all. 6" of sirtalis fury. He made so much noise, Andrea thought it must be a Racer or an anaconda or something.

An another.

I heard a noisy bustling in the woods. I looked over and this Painted Turtle was bookin' it, standing tall and practically running towards the river.
A pretty male. He winked at Andrea.

A lovely, orangey Garter was crawling away from us, so we grabbed her for photos. Looked like she was about to barf on us, so we didn't handle her for long.

Next up, we saw a pair of Garters behaving strangely... about 2 feet apart, they were both periscoping in the same direction. We think we might have interrupted them during whoopie time.

We got back to the main path and decided to go back in again for a little bit, if only to check on the progress of the Blandings at the vernals. There, we saw a guy with a camera set up on a tripod. He and Andrea recognized each other as herp Facebook friends. His name is Chris and he was filming a Water Snake eating a toad. Tough to look at, but a snake's gotta eat.

Water Snakes were all over this spot, foraging at the edges of the water, laying about on logs. It was Nerodia nirvana. One even crawled between the leg's of Chris's tripod.

Right near there, I finally saw our first frog on the day, a small Green that was taking his life in his hands by being present among so many snakes.

Despite the imminent danger, American Toads continued to call. Chris spied this guy in full blown glory and graciously pointed him out to me.

A couple more Water Snake shots...
That second one is an absolutely massive female.

Walking up the trail to the vernals, we were granted one last look at a magnificent Blandings, right there in plain sight where we've never seen one before.
What an extraordinary gift.

So, target achieved and expectations shattered, we saw 10 Blandings and photographed 9 of them. Countless Garters, Nerodia and Painters... what a damn fine trip this was. I'm glad to have met Chris as well, a very nice guy and a person whose nature films are extremely impressive.


  1. open lack-of-arms ok that cracked me up

    1. Haha... serves you right for actually reading!! <3

    2. hey i always read, i can't resist you two