Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Change of Plans Leads to Bellies of Red. 5-27-2017

Our original plan for this Saturday was to head to Western Massachusetts to hit up some spots and to hope for Spring Salamanders and Redbellied Snakes. But Andrea made a last minute decision to go to Plymouth County instead. It wasn't going to be super warm (mid-60s, scraping 70°) so we decided to save stream searching for a hotter day. We hit the road, heading south, and got to the State Forest at around 11 AM.

It was warm enough in the sun but we were still a bit uncertain whether snakes would be out or they'd be hidden under debris. I got the answer in pretty quick order. I was just about to say something about how nice it would be to see a Redbellied Snake when BLAMMO...
Now, snake enthusiasts that do not live in MA might not be very excited by this but this is our first Bay State Redbelly since September 21st, 2013. It is our first Plymouth County specimen since  July 3rd, 2011. (Having this kind of info handy is why I do this stupid blog!)
I love instant gratification.

Within 3 minutes, Andrea flipped another, this time a charcoal phase.
It's a nice feeling to know that everything else from here on out would be gravy.

A familiar carpet was the hiding spot of a small but feisty Fowler's Toad who desperately wanted a close-up.

Our last sighting from this first stop was a small Redback that was super close to swarming ants.
We moved him away.

Our next stop was a bog. It's always a good spot for frogs and sometimes turtles and snakes. We even once saw a Hognose here so we always check it closely. As expected (and hoped for) Bullfrogs were the main attraction.

This tiny Painted Turtle was resting on top of some algae.

We realize that we have our own vocabulary when we're out and about. The following two Bullfrogs can be characterized as follows: Ride 'em Cowboy and in jammies.

This guy still has a little bit of a stub-tail.

We'd heard a few Green Frog calls and finally found a brilliant example of the species.

We'd put a moratorium on Bulls since there were dozens and dozens present but Andrea saw this guy posing with a cranberry and just had to get a shot.

Another, slightly larger, Painter.
Kind of a Bog Turtle, no?

A small Fowler's was watching me.

A dragonfly landed on Andrea's boob.

We took a short sit-down on a rock that overlooks a large pond. In the distance, some adult Painters were enjoying some sun.

On the way back to the car, another lovely Green was seen.

We went a little out of sequence due to a need for a restroom, so our next stop was a place quipped with said luxury. While Andrea was indisposed, I saw this wee Redback.

We headed over to a pond that is the hottest spot for Redbellied Cooters in the area. From 100 yards away, we could see the red of this screamer.
You never see that much red on the carapace of these guys. I moved in for a better shot but between me, Andrea and a guy fishing, it was all too much and he slid into the drink.

The guy fishing was telling me about the endangered Painted Turtles in Hanover and how these guys are common. I suggested he had that backwards but he insisted. We bid him farewell and looked for salamanders. On the way back by, ol' Screamer was coming back up.
Unbelievable. I did no color enhancement on this photo.

A pond behind us had stacks of turtles up in the distance, probably Painters.

Another peek back at the popular log revealed another Cooter up, also sporting a great deal of red.

We decided to take a walk out the peninsula and see if any snakes were around. We were treated to another angle of the popular log and saw a third  Cooter up by now, along with a Painter leading the pack. That's our screamer on the far right.

Walking along, I heard a whoosh right off the path. It was a big Garter. I figured we had no chance to catch it so I snapped a quick voucher.

It was a big one, the biggest we had seen yet this year. We did a little bit of double teaming and managed to get it in hand for a measurement. 32" of sirtalis beauty.
No scars, full tail... just a gorgeous animal. She gave me a small nip but settled down nicely.

We sat at the edge of the water for a while, just enjoying the view. Way out there was a small stack of turtles.

At this point, our snack-food neglect had caught up with us and we made a rare decision to head out of the forest and grab some food. Which we did. And it included waffle fries and ice cream. We regret nothing.

It had cooled off a bit by the time we got back into the forest but we held our heads high and went back to the trails, still hoping for a Hognose. Not too far up the pine-needle-carpeted path, Andrea lunged to the ground. I had no idea what had made her act in such a way, until I saw her with this little Ribbon in her hand.
Possibly a yearling, this guy wouldn't have been spotted if he didn't move. Remarkable camouflage...

We went back to the main path, a good spot for Garters, Greens and Hogs, the last two of which we still haven't seen on the year. We were only a couple hundred yards up this sandy, rocky path when I heard Andrea let out an "oh no, aww crap..." There, on it's back, was a deceased Painted Turtle hatchling. Always a sad sight. For some reason, perhaps to see just how small that carapace was, she flipped it over. And it's legs moved... it was still alive. Barely.
It was obviously dehydrated so we poured some water into Andrea's hand and let it soak a bit as we headed up the path, hoping that a sometimes-wetland was wet at this time. Sadly, it wasn't. (Much of this forest is still dry, despite the heavy rains that are swelling most Massachusetts' bodies of water.)

It became evident that our search for Hogs and Greens would have to wait for another day as we decided to walk this little guy back to the pond near where we parked. So, we backtracked and decided on a good spot... shallow water, plenty of hiding places and no large Bullfrogs nearby. (The first spot we looked at had one sitting right there... oops!) We put him in, head up. He dropped his head down a bit. Was he drinking?
One of his crusted eyes started to open a bit.
Obviously, we couldn't wait there forever with him but we felt like we gave him a better chance than laying on that sandy trail almost dead. How he got there in the first place, I do not know. He's obviously from a late clutch from last year and he just recently came up. Where was the nest? On the trail? Was he picked up and dropped by a predator? We'll never know but as it stands, we hope he lives.

Feeling my age, as I often do these days, I didn't have enough gas to head back in on the trail and the temps were dropping already anyway, so we got in the car and made one last stop on the way out... to Toad Carpet, an almost sure-fire Fowler's finding place. Sure enough, we scored a few.

This "soon" toad was planning a very grave revenge on us for lifting the carpet.

We ended on a beautiful Fowler's, just as impressive as the screamer Redbellied Cooter was in his own way. Reds, yellows, oranges, chocolates... what a stunner!

Considering we altered our plans at the very last minute, I gotta say we did all right for ourselves. We fell shy of our coveted "double digit species" count with nine, but we can't regret anything we did. Even the ice cream.

Now, for those who actually read this crap that I write, I have used many words that Andrea and I use together that have specific meanings. Did you spot them all? Do you know what they mean? Do you give a shit? "Ride 'em Cowboy", "Jammies", Soon..." If we can get these words into everyone's vocabulary, the world will be a much sillier place.


  1. For my money, red bellies are the second hardest snake in the state to find. They're everywhere and nowhere, just like greens. One of these days!

    I, for one, very much appreciate the occasional "Soon..." toad.

  2. timothyobrien31@yahoo.comMay 30, 2017 at 5:54 PM

    I haven't seen a redbellied snake in years! You guys are incredible at finding beautiful animals.
    That cooter is stunning too. Boxies soon on the Cape? Tim