Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Celebrating Sunday. 5-21-2017

I'm not much of a birthday person. In fact, I like to try to let it go by unnoticed. But Andrea usually has other things in mind, being the giving person that she is. She asked once again what I wanted to do for my birthday. I said what I say every other day of the year... to get out into nature. So Sunday being the dreaded 21st of May, we planned on a trip to a nearby spot in Norfolk County. We were both admittedly pretty beat from our mountainous hike the day before and wanted to stick to a very familiar place. The temps were supposed to be in the high 60s with sun and our prospects looked good.

We got a super late start and blamed our early non-sightings on that. There were also far too many humans on the trails for my taste. Eventually, we found our way to a familiar vernal pool and were happy to see plenty of tadpoles in it, probably Wood Frogs (though we couldn't get a great look at them).

It was nice to see a small Green Frog at the edge. We haven't seen to many of them yet this year.
Look at how much pollen is on the water's surface. No wonder Andrea is suffering this year.

After breaking the Green Frog seal, we heard dozens of them calling on our walk around the pond.  We didn't see any more but their presence was made very clear with that beautiful detuned banjo-string sound. One pond denizen that we caught sight of was this young Painted Turtle poking around in the shallows.
We only saw one other young, foraging Painter and that was it for the weekend for turtles. You can't win 'em all.

We reached what we consider the half way point, surprised that we hadn't seen any snakes. The temp was fine and the sun was up. Again, we blamed our tardiness. We walked through the bog for a bit but turned back before too long... it was, as expected, flooded.

Back on the trails, we finally saw our first salamander- a long Redback.

We got to a spot that Andrea discovered a couple of years ago on a solo trip: the Hobo Camp. It was here that we flipped a large flat stone and found our first snake of the weekend. A perfect Garter.
Gorgeous, perfect tail tip and no scars. This one has been living the good life. Decent sized, too.

A nearby rock had this bright Ringneck under it.
Check out the belly! (But ignore my eczema-cracked fingertips.)

It felt pretty good to finally see some squamates. It felt even better when we were down by the stream next to Ringneck Hill when I heard a slight swoosh and looked down to see a Milk Snake pull it's head back under a rock. I flipped and tried to get my mitts on him but he had other plans. So, we took a voucher shot before I lost him.
I was about to let go when he unexpectedly started to loosen up and back pedal. I was able to extract him safely for pictures though it should be noted... he would not sit still for a portrait.
He put himself into a time-out in Andrea's camera bag.

While Andrea was holding him and I was unsuccessfully trying to get decent photos, a couple walked by and got a nice lesson on Milk Snakes. Mr. Feisty kept striking forward at me as I talked. We finally acquiesced and let him go back to his hole. The couple were telling us of "20 baby Water Snakes" up at the dock area, disturbed by some masonry work going on up there. He knew they were young because they weren't all black... you could see the banding. Sounded good enough to me. It was good to hear tell of snakes with no "ewww" interjected into the conversation.

Before heading to the dock and dozens of baby Water Snakes, we flipped a wee Ringer on the hill, living up to the name we gave it.

When we got to the dock area, the workers were on break. They are building rock and mortar steps from the raised beach area to the water. While it does go through an area that houses many snakes, I was doubting that they were disrupting a den... this spot is too windy and cold in the winter; I don't think it would be a proper setting for a hibernaculum. But it's a much used summer spot, based on the number of skins and live snakes we've seen there over the years.

I looked around and saw no Nerodia. Andrea did, however. She stood on the dock and said "there's a tangle of them right below me."
Sure enough, there was. I can forgive the guy for exaggerating the number... most people do. And I can appreciate his noting the stripes of the smaller males. But these horny devils were not babies. They were lookin' to make some, though. They were drunk on pheromones and completely oblivious to us. While we sat there, another male came over to join in.
I made a quick porno.

The workers returned, noting that "this place is filthy with snakes". At least they were cool with them and showed respect. One guy said "oh yeah, I've been here for years and they're always around." Yup- that's why we love it. There were some Garters basking not 10 feet from the commotion of the work crew.

The female Nerodia got spooked at one point and darted off but the males stayed on, poking all around, crawling under our feet as we sat and one ever crawled between one of the worker's legs as he stood in the shallow water.
The female must have dumped a lot of pheromones. The males never strayed too far.

I wanted to show Andrea the basking Garters but one had moved. I thought this guy, who was exploring a worker's water bottle, was the first coiled guy but he turns out to be a third Garter from the spot.

Once we started seeing snakes, we really started seeing snakes. We saw no more on our walk towards the car but we still enjoyed the final mile and a quarter. We stopped at the spring and got some super cold, clean water from the spout. A search for Two-lined Salamanders came up empty.

So, you might ask how was my birthday? I'll be honest- I had a lovely Sunday. We followed the hike up with pizza and some ice cream. You can't go wrong with nature, pizza and ice cream.


  1. Happy birthday!

    I had a similar tug-of-war situation with my lifer milk snake a couple of weeks ago- only I lost. I think I may be cursed.

    The last week has been surprisingly stressful and your regular posts, as always, are a nice salve.

    1. Ryan told me of some of the bullshit you've encountered. Glam my rantings can help in some small way! Hang in there!!

  2. yeah for andrea!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and i am so happy you had a good birthday.... again YEAH for andrea!

  3. Happy birthday Mike! Sometimes these birthdays are for the people who love us more than ourselves.