Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Rare Day of Nice Weather! 6-3-2017

And there we were, into the sixth month of 2017 and we had a... wait for it... NICE DAY! It was going to be sunny and scraping the 70s. We had plans to go out to Western Massachusetts for a friend's surprise birthday party and, being the people we are, we decided to hit a favorite spot that is somewhat near their house to River-Herp for a while.

On the way out to the western part of the state, we noticed the car's thermometer dropping. The skies turned cloudy as well. It seems we had both checked the weather in the Boston area and here we were, two hours away. Oh well... we went in and out of some light rain and got to our first stop (after a kick-ass yard sale) a little after 11 AM. Sun was poking through and it was pleasant, if a bit cool. We stopped to "look for Wood Frogs" inside an ice-cream place and outside we saw a very plump Redback.
She looks about ready to pop.

We got back on the road and drove another 10 or 15 minutes up to our spot, a state forest. It is an exceptional amphibian spot and the river that runs through it is filled with wildlife treasures. It was fairly cool and we wondered if we'd get to see any snakes. Spoiler Alert: we didn't, but we got to see a number of wonderful animals. First up here was a tiny Eft that we almost didn't see.

I lifted a large rock and saw this American Toad scoot deeper back into his burrow. Almost too deep for a shot but I managed.

I came prepared for stream-salamandering; I wore a pair of sneakers that were meant to get wet, so... in I went. HOLYBEJEEZUS it was cold! But my feet went numb pretty quickly and I got used to it. On to the salamanders! This larvae had me a bit confused in the field... I thought it might be a Dusky but upon uploading the picture, I can see it's a large Two-lined.

We soon saw an adult of the species.
I should rephrase that... we soon photographed an adult. We saw plenty but they're fast and tough to get a shot of. This one is obviously too chubby to move fast. (I know the feeling.)

Since learning more about the needs and habits of Spring Salamanders over the past few years, we had discovered that this stretch of river is optimum habitat for them, so they are always a target species here. In another case of (near) instant gratification, I flipped a rock on the edge of the river and was greeted by the biggest Spring I've had the pleasure of seeing.
I mean, this guy has got to be 7"! That's my fat mitt next to him.

We kind of fell into "anything else is just gravy" mode. Our first gravy was this beautiful (if gravy colored) Northern Dusky.
I know I'm a weirdo but I just love Dookies!

Andrea and I split up for a bit, she searched the field and woods while I concentrated on the water from the frozen-feet-in-the-water vantage point. I daresay, she did a little better than I and looked darn good doing it.
Andrea in her preferred habitat.

I saw loads of Two-lines but only got a decent shot of one more.

This place is a very good one for the erythristic (all red) phase of the Redback Salamander and that's what Andrea was actively seeking. She got this high-red but not-quite-there specimen and a pretty Classic Redback.

She wasn't without a Two-line or two herself.

I wisely got out of the water and hobbled back to the sun. On the way, I got a nearly erythristic Redback... missing his black sides at least. Very pretty and different at any rate.

Andrea had been spending some time at the edge of the river watching Caddisfly larvae. She'd seen a frog jump in over at that spot and had been taken away by these weird animals. We went back over there and a Green Frog jumped in and swam into hiding. We sat on some rocks, resting and watching the larvae.
Caddisfly larvae
These guys construct their own cases to wear. These ones had used mostly twigs and tiny bits of rock. Fascinating creatures... there were a dozen of them foraging the silt.
Caddisfly larvae
Look these guys up... there are some mind-blowing cases out there.

This spot (and I'm sure it would have been just as magical anywhere along this stretch) was breathtaking. Watching the Caddisfly larvae tuned us in to a lot of other animals in the vicinity. Andrea got this great shot of some Blacknose Dace, which were flitting around the rocks.
Black-nose Dace
(It should be noted that I took about 30 pictures of the Dace and they all sucked. Andrea took one. This one.)

This Sculpin was skulking around...

A large Fishing Spider was on the side of the rock next to me.

Party time was nearing so we started to gather ourselves up to head out. Last stop before the car was a dribbly hill under a bridge that was good for another Dookie.

Once in the car, we kept our eyes out for anything that might be warming on the road, but we saw nothing. We did make one stop and saw this Dook of a different color.

We soon got to our friends Jen and Dave's home, also known as Frog Hollow. I think I have described Frog Hollow as "idyllic" in a previous post and I stand by that. It was Dave's birthday and the surprise was successful. They are two of the most wonderful, kind hearted people that we have the pleasure of knowing. I can't think of anyone who more deserve the beauty and magic of this place. Here's proof: while walking their dog once, Jen noticed he had peed on an Eft (which are plentiful here). She actually took the Eft home, washed it and returned it to the spot. That, my dear, is a friend of nature.

Of course, we had to poke around the place ourselves. This Redback was our first sighting.

An old board leading to a shed had two guys under it... a bright Eft and an American Toad that was almost the size of my fist.

We were scolded quite a few times by an Eastern Phoebe... there were two nests there. This one was so full of baby birds that it looked like an ice-cream cone ready to topple over.
Eastern Phoebe nest

A few of us went down to the river (yes, it runs right behind their property... I tell you, this place is heaven!) and Andrea and I got to talk about salamanders to people who seemed to actually be interested. This Dook was there and it was the first one we've seen at Frog Hollow.

That was it for our nature sightings for the day, though down by the river, I flipped a stone with a Two-line and another almost-erythristic Redback under it, so the gene is pretty abundant out this way. More importantly, we got to see some friends that we just don't get to see as much as we'd like, and make some new friends.

The drive home was long but we had good memories to tide us over until we made it. The cat's were wondering where their 4:30 food was. It was well after 9...

1 comment:

  1. yous had a fantastic day.........i should send bernie to you to be educated on the ins and outs of small obscure animals