While 2017 continues to confuse us, we both found ourselves with a Thursday off. I was home to meet a plumber for a new water meter and Andrea had a dentist appointment. She was going to help her mom for a bit after that but we were planning a quick hike for the late afternoon. The water meter was installed by 9:30 AM and Andrea was heading to Malden around the same time. But she got stuck there for far longer than expected. The afternoon was gone but we decided to make the most of the early evening since it was still pretty warm. I picked her up at the train station and we went over to the nearby cemetery to see if any turtles were still up, trying to catch the waning rays.
From quite a distance, we could see that at least one was still up, a very large one that we knew was a Red-eared Slider before we even got out of the car.
First RES on the year. Yes, invasive. Yes, I love them. They didn't ask to get dumped there.
Nearby a Painted Turtle was also sticking to it...
Andrea was peeking over by a tree whose branches were sweeping down into the pond. She waved for me, pointed to the pond and made a sign like brushing her hair back with her hand. I had no idea what it meant but I got my camera ready...
Nice! And the sign made sense in hindsight. It's the first male Wood Duck we had seen in a while that wasn't frantically flying away from us.
We walked around the pond. This is a look at that big female from the other side.
Andrea spotted another thing that I had missed but she was close enough to me to alert me this time... another Red-ear climbing up the bank of the pond.
What a beauty!
She also alerted me to this massive Bullfrog. This guy was a beast.
We saw the Wood Duck again on the way out, this time with his duck-frau.
So, that wasn't a bad hour. And we were really glad we did it because the upcoming weather forecast was for crappy with a chance of suck.
And suck it did. It was rainy and cold. We had to make amphibian plans. I gave Andrea a choice; either Friday night dinner and a drive to Plymouth County to look for Gray Tree Frogs or drive to the Cape at the ass-crack of dawn on Saturday to try again for Spadefoots. She chose the latter.
Of course getting up and out wasn't as easy when it came time to actually do it. In fact, we almost called it off after breakfast because we were literally falling back asleep. But we finally did it and hit the road a little after 8 AM. It was pouring rain and about 51°. We didn't get to the Cape until after 10AM. We had our raincoats on and, like total morons, headed out to the trails. We used information gleaned from our class a few weeks prior. It paid off. To be completely honest, we wanted to check the pitfall traps. And we did and we got our lifer Spadefoot Toad.
Crappily enough, my camera's lens was all foggy due to the precipitation so this is the best I could do.
But it was Mission Accomplished! Now we only need Mudpuppy and Bog Turtle to have seen every Massachusetts species. Good luck on either one of those.
We were pretty pleased, if pretty tired. We enjoyed some Bullfrogs who were enjoying the rainy morning.
We were now presented with options. We were on the Cape with plenty of the day left. Did we want to go home and nap? Did we want to go to another spot on the Cape that is a stronghold for Spadefoots? (I heard that Dom went there this weekend and scored one!! Congratulations!!!) Or did we want to go further up the Cape and look for Box Turtles? It was about 60° and pouring. It sounded perfect for Box Turtles so we drove the extra 40 minutes up the arm of the Cape to see if anyone was up yet this year. Our friend Tim, the man who keeps track of this particular population, had seen a few already.
It wasn't raining too hard by the time we got there. We headed into the woods and started looking around. The first animal was this lovely Leadback.
Cape Leadbacks are the prettiest Leadbacks of all. Or so I've sort of heard.
We weren't sure if anyone would be up. It was pretty cool when the breeze blew. But Andrea finally spied this:
I went around the other side and it looked like this:
Nom nom nom! Our First-of-Year Box Turtle.
Nearby, this white-eyed old-timer was being regal.
I just adore these animals.
So, I was walking along, minding my own business when I looked over and saw a turtle standing tall... I snapped a few pictures. It was a moment before I realized what I was seeing...
Somebody looks like they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar! Or something like that...
I tried to walk away with a "nothing to see here" attitude...
We sent the pictures and locations to Tim later in the evening and he found these two again the next day in the same area, if not the same position... they are both males.
We visited with some friends at the sanctuary after that and did some bird watching. I added four more species to my pathetic 2017 bird count. Then we went for a slice of Red Barn pizza and hit the road. On the long drive up Route 6 to Route 3, I was fighting to stay awake. Even with Black Sabbath's Master of Reality blasting, I was dozing. We finally stopped in Plymouth to get some gas and fresh air. Since we were near one of our stomping grounds, a State Forest, we decided to drive to some of our favorite flipping spots there. The sun had been trying to peek out so why the hell not?
It was unlikely that we would flip any snakes (and we didn't) but we did flip this pretty copper-top Redback.
Well beyond normal tiredness, we decided to walk around the bog and peek at the pond next to it. The bog had loads of small Bullfrogs, which is a great thing to see.
We reached the pond and could see shells up on the rocks on the far shore. Even from 100 yards away, we knew we had our first Red-bellied Cooter on the year, surrounded by Painted Turtles.
Even though we were pretty far away, the wary turtles slipped into the water before I could try for a better shot. I didn't see it but Andrea said it was very comical... the Red-bell just dropped in, legs akimbo.
This Painter had some prime real estate all to himself. He wasn't going to budge.
On the way out, we kept an eye on the bog. Andrea spied this wee Pickerel Frog who tried to hide himself under a leaf.
This side of the bog had some bigger Bullfrogs. This top one was saying, "if you filthy humans litter my home, I'll utilize the trash. Filthy human scum!"
This brute had just won a Largest Tympanum Contest.
We wound up hiking a few more trails in the off chance that there would be a snake to be seen but we were outta luck. It should be noted that the water levels are still alarmingly low at this place. That's kind of weird considering how much rain we'd been getting. We also spent a lot of time looking for Peepers and Grey Tree Frogs, both of which were calling. We couldn't find any no matter how much we scoured the thickets.
One last stop on the way out... a reliable piece of carpet that often has Fowler's Toads under it. It did.
So, we started on a toad and ended on a toad. We were super impressed with ourselves when we made it home 12 hours after we had left and didn't even get into an accident. Yay us. But what a weird day. Lots of beautiful animals, running on adrenaline and dodging the raindrops. To say that we were dead tired would be an understatement.
And we'd do it again in a heartbeat.