Monday, June 26, 2017

Coming 'Round the Mountain 6-24-2017

Our dear friend Teá asked us to meet up with her and her friend Jon on Saturday. Since we hadn't had the chance to spend any time with her lately, we would have gone anywhere to herp with her. She chose a mountain that we had never been to, but had been planning on visiting, so it was win-win! The weather forecast changed some early plans (to hit a river in the area first), but Andrea and I decided to scope it out anyway. We hit the road by 9:30 AM, into the heavy-at-times rain, and finally found the first spot at around 10:30.

It is a river habitat in Worcester County and I'll be damned if Google Earth doesn't make it look like it would be good for Wood Turtles. In fact, many locals have either seen or heard of Woods being here. We didn't know the terrain at all so for our limited time, we walked trails, hoping for some nesting turtles of any species. The place is gorgeous and when the sun came out, we kept expecting to see snakes dart across the path, but we saw none. (It looks as though a lot of razing has been done here, too... I hope they don't upset things too much.)

In fact, though we heard Green Frogs playing the banjo, the only cold blooded animal we saw was this Painted Turtle up on the path that was very surprised to see us.

Our time had run out and we were ready to get to the other place to meet up with Teá and Jon. We consider the 2 or so miles and the two hours spent here as reconnaissance. We're armed with a little bit of knowledge about the layout now. And we know that at least one Painted Turtle lives there.

It was plenty hot and sticky when we all got to the mountain spot. We all hit the trails and it wasn't too long before we saw a small American Toad.

The trails were damp from the morning rain, making the underside of rocks and logs nice and moist, perfect for a Redback, our first in a few weeks.

You know, Andrea and I are sometimes not the brightest bulbs in the pack. This was a mountain. We had to climb a mountain. It should be noted that Teá and Jon were both very patient with us huffing and puffing up the incline. Here's another American Toad from about midway up, who is quite lovely despite the spider-web across his face and the scar on his butt.

Jon flipped this guy. It was nice to see multiple Redbacks on such a hot day.

We saw a few Garter Snakes on the way up but they were well-warmed and too speedy for the camera. There is plenty of flipping here, too, but evidently someone was here in front of us; the rocks looked recently flipped and they were snake-free. Teá managed to flip one Garter who was like greased lightning... we got no pictures.

Still, once we made the summit, we were rewarded with a lovely view. Of course, Andrea is always a lovely view.

I spent a good 5 minutes on the side of the mountain watching this Dark-eyed Junco flit back and forth, peck for food on the rocks, fan its tail, chirp and just be a Dark-eyed Junco.
We bonded.

We made our way down the mountain, enjoying the shaded woods. Jon bushwhacked a shortcut down the side, planning to meet up with us again at the car. This, the largest of the Toads we saw, posed nicely for the camera.

About mid-way down, Teá, who was roughly15 feet in front of us, announced that there was a Garter laying ahead. We snuck up and we all finally got our Garter shot of the day.
The fourth time's the charm.

That was about it for animals but if that seems light or disappointing, you're wrong. We got to hike with a dear friend, met a new like-minded friend and proved to my old ass that I could climb a mountain in the heat, even after going for a few miles in the morning. That said, we all drove to New Hampshire for ice cream. (Thank you, Teá!!) We could hear Grey Tree Frogs calling near the ice cream place, but saw none.

Teá and Jon were staying in New Hampshire for a meet up with the New England Entomological Society so we said our thank yous and good-byes and started towards the highway. Gladys (Andrea's GPS) gave us some oddball instructions and it's lucky she did. Cruising along the road at about 40 mph, a Painted Turtle started to strut out into the road in front of us. I hit the brakes, pulled over and ran up to her. Mercifully, nobody was behind me.
Cars in the oncoming lane were blazing past. If she didn't get scared by my running at her, she might have been in the other lane and those cars would never have seen her. We got her to safety and drove on, noticing 4 smashed turtles in the road. Obviously a hot nesting spot; I wish they would put a sign up. It just makes me sad.

We were toast once we got home but very happy that we had tried something new. The next day was to be committed to family stuff so we felt good knowing we'd made the best of our nature day.

Of course on Sunday morning, knowing we didn't have to be anywhere until the afternoon, we thought about Musk Turtles again. Always the Musk Turtles. Since (thanks again to Google Maps) we'd found the Musk Turtle spot that our friend Sārah introduced us to last year, we decided to drive deep into Bristol County to see if we could come up with our first Stinkpot on the year. Last year, this spot was in drought condition. Being a lake, there was plenty of water, but it was low. Not so this time. Deep deep deep.

The first thing we noticed was the millions and millions of shiners all around the edges.
There was a guy fishing there and he pointed out all of the jumping bass and perch in a full-on feeding frenzy. He was fishing further out. "Let 'em eat" he said. Did I mention that there were a few shiners in the lake?

I got down into the water at the edge and started to look under rocks for Musk Turtles. For the most part, the small fish got out of my way. It didn't take long before I found our First-of-Year Musk Turtle.
I so love these guys.

The fishing dude said a turtle had it's head up way out. Sure enough...
Red-belly or Painter. It was a big noggin and I'm leaning toward a Cooter based on shape but it was so far away, I'm calling "inconclusive".

I searched on for more Musks but never did find another. There could have been more but something was blocking my view.
That's OK... we got what we'd driven all the way out for and got to cool our tootsies in the lake. Some other guys came in to fish and were dropping their lures down into the mass of swirling shiners but the bass were ignoring them false food. Too much real stuff to fall for their crap.

That was our weekend in nature.

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