Saturday, April 29, 2017

What a Difference a Week Makes. Late April, 2017

So this time the plan was to go to the Chiller Theater Convention in Parsippany, NJ on Friday night (April, 21st), stay over, meet some friends there at noon on Saturday, then head out to meet our friend Bob Saturday afternoon and herp the Pine Barrens that night and on Sunday. We had our time off from work and the stars were aligning.

Except they didn't align. At all.

We went to Chiller and had a lovely time, hanging with good friends and buying some nice horror-themed goodies but the weather wasn't going to cooperate and we were shit out of luck. Four targets and we hadn't a chance with any of them. I made the call... cancel the herping part of the trip and head home after Chiller. At least we got a consolation Redback outside our hotel in Parsippany.

So, having cancelled the animal portion of the weekend, it should come as no surprise to anybody that Sunday was actually pretty nice out. Bob had some decent luck down in NJ, where we would have been with him. We decided to take a walk through our Norfolk County spot that was decimated last year to see how the regeneration was going. It was cool but plenty warm in the sun.

Our first herp was a slick Leadback that Andrea found.

We figured we'd probably see some snakes out but we did not.
It's not exactly bursting forth with new life but it's coming along. This spot has "the largest remaining freshwater marsh on the middle Charles River" so we hope it will continue to recover.

Unfortunately, the entitled dog owners were out in force and unleashed dogs were the norm. Between that and the poop-filled plastic bags that were filled, then thrown on the ground, I was losing my faith and patience rapidly. Luckily, at the end of one trail, we sat down and watched a chorus line of Painters catching some sun.

This one wee guy was closer to our shore.

Nothing the whole day (or any second of the subsequent days) has come close to how good it felt to be sitting in the sun next to each other, just looking at the turtles. We never did see a snake or a frog, though we made the complete hike. It just wasn't our day, to be honest.

So after writing that yesterday (Friday afternoon), I didn't publish it, knowing we were going to go back to the same place that night. The temps had hit 80 during the day and it was going to be a balmy evening. Andrea got out of work early and we headed back over to that Norfolk County spot, getting there by 6 PM. It was still in the high 70s.

First up was a trio of Redbacks that were enjoying the moisture under a rock, alongside some worms, centipedes and a red spider, who sadly isn't in this shot.

While still in sight of the car, Andrea flipped a rock and saw this... our First-of-Year Milk Snake, curled up on top of two crushed beer cans that were also hidden under the rock.

While she was photographing that chocolate milk, I flipped a stone a few inches away...
First-of-Year Ringneck!

We moved them to replace the rocks and posed them together... carefully so that the Milk wouldn't eat the Ringer.

We released them and watched the Milk return to his beer can-free rock area.

Talk about instant gratification! Even better... about 5 feet away, Andrea saw this little blighter crawling through the grass.
Two Milks and we barely started into the place! Talk about what a difference 5 days makes.

We went about our hike, knowing that anything else would be gravy. We didn't see much but enjoyed the warm breeze and the calling birds. We got to the old Racer Alley and saw something that is very encouraging... a Northern Water Snake who more than likely overwintered in the rocky hill.
Feisty one, at that.
This is the first sign of a snake that probably still calls this decimated hill it's hibernaculum. The search for fossorials along this stretch continues on but this is a very encouraging sign indeed.

We saw no more reptiles or amphibians at this place but we saw another animal that probably dens in that hill... an Eastern Cottontail.

So, we were much happier leaving this place on Friday night than we had been Sunday afternoon. Especially since we got Thai food on the way home.

But wait, there's more!

We were invited to head up to our friend's house that night to play some games and enjoy each other's company. Their garden is home to a healthy Dekay's Snake colony and, of course, we couldn't resist. This flip got us our first-of-Year Dekay's... a three-fer.

We had a lot of fun, playing a Lovecraft inspired role playing game then, after midnight, we headed home. I jokingly pulled out my headlamp to use on the sidewalk going home. Some joke... right in front of our friends' house, this Deke was planning some insane strategy to get across the road.
Dekay's on a midnight stroll.
We turned him around and he slithered off into the yard. Those scars are pretty well explained by his lame-brained sidewalk surfing.

Quite a week. Animal-wise, it sure ended on a high note. A four snake species day is always a special occasion.

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