Easter Sunday was very nice out... hot, even. But we were otherwise engaged with family so our nature consisted only of sitting on the back steps of Andrea's mom's house with my grandkids and seeing a Cooper's Hawk almost catch a House Sparrow. I wonder how the kids would have reacted. We both had the next day off, Monday the 17th, and while it wasn't going to be as toasty out, it was still going to be very nice.
We decided on a spot in Bristol County that would give us a good chance to see Toads mating. Yes, sickos that we are, we wanted to peep at some toads doing it. We got a late start and didn't get there until nearly 11 AM. It turns out that we were just in time to pull this little bugger off of the path.
This little guy overwintered in his nest and chose this day to emerge and join the world.
We gave him a helping hand down to the water, in a nice shallow part with lots of weeds to hide in.
There was plenty of foot traffic on these paths so we kept our eyes out for any other wee shells.
There is more traffic here these days because the DCR is doing their best to attract human activity and it's working. We saw plenty of freshly discarded bottles and chip bags. Our boards have been removed now, too.
This spot used to be full of boards, broken picnic tables, and tiles and we'd found Racers, Milks, Garters, Ringnecks and Ribbons here. They piled it all up 2 years ago but didn't bother removing it until this year. I guess we got two free years of habitat. Hopefully, the animals will find new places to stay.
Funny... they remove the good "trash" to make room for humans to litter.
Walking up a path, we saw a tool on a mountain bike go tearing by. Just as I was saying "try to kill lots of baby turtles, you bastard", I noticed that he'd missed this Garter only by about 3 feet.
What a cutie. And our only snake of the day.
We saw a woman with four dogs walking along with one hand held high. In it, she had another baby Painter. We told her the best spot to put it back, where we'd released the one we'd just found. She said oh, yeah... cool! It later occurred to me that she was most likely taking it home where it will die within the week. We scoured the "beach" area where she'd found it, hoping to save some more. I found one, but it was already deceased.
In a hole right in the middle of a path, this exposed American Toad was snuggling in. Perhaps a bike had kicked off a rock that was on top of the hole. Or some other such human stupidity.
We didn't see many Redbacks but this shy guy was captured in our camera.
Another flip of a moist log got us something new... our first Four-toed Salamander at this place.
He was a brute...
As we neared the midway point pond, we could hear American Toads calling. Our timing might have been pretty good for a change. Under a big rock about 100 yards from the pond where the Americans were calling, this First-of-Year Fowler's was hiding out, waiting for his time.
Amidst the calling toads, there were strands of American Toad eggs that had already been laid and were beginning to hatch.
Tadpoles were emerging before our eyes. This small Bullfrog was enjoying the show...
I had hoped to get a shot of toads in amplexus but the only pair I saw was out in some deeper water and the mud I'd kicked up walking out there clouded up the water. (Yeah, soakers were in the plans from the get-go.) Finally, we saw a couple in a shallow puddle, doin' their thing.
While we were watching, the female scooted away (with the male in tow), squirting out a strand of eggs.
It was fascinating to see this happen...
Wet footed, we headed back to the trails. On the way out, I made sure the little green guys were Bulls. Yup- they were.
We could see some turtles up basking (something that had been eluding us thus far) through the trees but couldn't get a clear line of sight for photos or even a positive ID. We went up a new path hoping for a better perspective but it didn't happen. We decided to stay on the trail to see where it went. It was a very lovely, less travelled trail that wound up taking us to other pond areas, one directly across from the "beach". Eventually, we turned back. A bike almost made me shit myself... never heard him coming up behind me. He tore up the path. In a sunny, open spot, Andrea said "this looks good for nesting"... and then saw some egg shells. Then, even better, she saw this...
The third Painted hatchling from as many different nests.
Nice egg-tooth! We gave him a lift to the shallow water.
We finally got to a spot where we could see some adult Painters up basking. It was about 71° with intermittent sun.
Another section, this one with way too many humans, there were two more Painters up catching rays.
Right next to where some humans were fishing, quite a few frogs were braving it. This first-awake-of-year Pickerel was a treat.
There were also a few Bullfrogs... this one was the biggest.
We looked around at a few more spots on the way back. Andrea asked if I wanted to look at the toad-mating pond again, since there were no more stoned kids with their dog tearing in and out of the water. I said sure, and I'm glad I did. I followed the calls and it got me way out into the reeds where the action was. Of course, the toads got quiet and hid when I got close, but I was patient. I shot some Painted Turtles while I waited.
Eventually, noggins popped back up and the American Toad Chorus started up again. This little yellow guy was a maniac...
Keep an eye on him in this video...
I hadn't noticed the couple under water getting knocked around until I uploaded this.
Throat sacs were a'blowin'!
We had done over 7 miles so were were pretty tired when we got back to the parking lot. One last look into a bog found a few comfy Bullfrogs chillin'.
So, that was a wonderful day, in most respects. Eight species and we actually got what we wanted... mating toads. (They're never not amusing.) My only worry is that this magnificent place will suffer from the reopening to humans and their destructive pastimes. The paved road in it has been open for a couple of years now and it looks like they might be getting ready to bring camping back. That can only harm the animals that live there. Ubiquitous litter, careless trampling and general stupidity is all I really saw from humans there. The days may be numbered. Hopefully, nature will prevail.