Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Andrea's Weekend of Wonders. July 21st thru 23rd, 2017

We done had us a heatwave on that there third week of July. Still, we planned on going out at dusk on Friday evening to poke around our Norfolk County haunt. You know, the one that was plowed over and decimated last year. We hadn't checked on it in a while. We headed over at about 6:30 PM while the temps were still a balmy 91°. But with an evening breeze coming in, it wasn't too bad at all.

We hadn't seen anything but we knew that a certain "bike ramp" in a sandy area would be a good spot for our first sighting, and we were right. A huge cow-flop of an American Toad was laying there, though he quickly jumped up and climbed atop the plank.

The Alley was green, which is a good sight. Mulch still covers much of the ground but the recovery continues. Andrea saw a young Garter slither off the path into the brush. OK, so at least one snake was up at. We wondered if things were waiting to wake up as the night approached since it had been so steamy during the day. A board lay off trail in a muddy spot, a board that has never had anything under it. Until this night. A gorgeous Ribbon Snake was under it and I barely got it for some pictures before it sped off.
It would not cooperate for a fake in situ shot.
We let this perfect specimen slither off. What a wonderful sight it was.

Not much further along The Alley, an old rusty-rimmed tire lay in the mud. It too had never produced before, but tonight it had a dark Garter hiding under it. Again, I barely corralled it for photos.
It was actually pretty chill.

So, while we've still seen no Racers, Dekay's or Ringnecks since the destruction, two snake species in a night isn't too bad for the Alley. Add in a few tiny toads and an adult one and I'm optimistic again.

Back into the woods, it was pretty dark and we had to use headlamps along the trail. We saw a pancake batter Garter spilling out into the path.

Our last sighting was under a rock flipped by Andrea. This American Toad was huddled under it.
Not seen here is the small toad that emerged from the sand next to his right arm and hopped away. It had us laughing for an hour.

Friday nights are always a bonus for us. Saturdays are a given. We had family plans for Sunday so we really wanted to make our Saturday excursion a good one. As always, we wanted turtles. And maybe our first damn Racer on the year. We went to a spot deep in Norfolk County that we'd only been to once before, but we'd had plenty of shells and a couple of Racers there. We got up early and got there before 8 AM. Birds were up and flying around. That's always a good start.

It was in the low 70s and a little cloudy. It should have been great snake weather, but we didn't see any right away. Our first animals photographed was a trio of Toads huddled under a piece of black plastic.
Presumably Americans, though that "soon" one on the top left looks like a possible Fowler's. I didn't check them out in the field. Dumb of me.

Admittedly, we got a little side-tracked a few times.

We got to a part where two ponds kind of blend together, with a little stream-way between. This Bullfrog was bathing there.

A Northern Water Snake was poking out from some rocks that we had to step over. It scared a spider with an egg sac on her ass out for a moment. Then it shot off and I was lucky to get this blurry voucher shot.

From here, we walked out another 2 miles or so, out a strip of trail that bisected the water, around the perimeter and then basically back to the same spot. All we saw was a lot of very discouraging litter. The locals have a really beautiful place here and treat it like a dump. Disheartening. When we got back to that stream-way spot, a different, smaller Water Snake was poking around the edges. I got a portrait of him.
The Bullfrog was still there, holding his ground. He was too big for this guy but that first Nerodia might have given him a go.

Not far way, two Muskrats swam by. Here is one.

One of the cool sights we got to see was a Crayfish munching down on a freshwater clam.

Andrea saw this Viceroy Butterfly stretching out some bent wings. We wondered if it had just metamorphosed.

The side of one pond was awash with Tiny Toads. Andrea even flipped a "soon" TT, which is just to the left of the coin.

There was a sea of these massive beasts.

The sun had come out and the heat was rising. Surely some turtles would come up now! We stayed on a shady path for a while longer, though, and one joining path that lead to the pond presented us with a small Pickerel Frog.
It took the longest time for me to see what Andrea was pointing at. He is pretty damn small.

Back on the sunny main drag, we searched long and hard for more animals. Turtles weren't up. Birds were hogging all of the good basking spots. Mother Nature teased us with two fairly fresh Racer sheds.
Oh well, better luck next time.

So, we had been hiking for over 6 miles and it was barely after noon. Though it was pretty hot by this time, we decided to get a snack, then go somewhere else. Of course, having already hiked a good distance, we wanted to keep it low key. And we wanted turtles. Seemed like a good time to go to our local cemetery and see who was up for some begging. We did, after all, have some pop-chips to open.

Standing at the water's edge seems to be enough to attract the attention of this crew. A "hungry" Red-eared Slider was our first visitor.
It should be noted that I ate most of the bag. A few crumbs might have fallen to turtles, though.

As we walked along, zillions of small Bullfrogs jumped into the water with a squeak. We got over to an open spot when we saw the first noggin...

Then ol' White-head showed up.

They showed a lot of interest in Andrea.

The Slider made a beeline over from the other spot in quick fashion.

Right around now, an older guy came up, carrying a bag of bread. He is one of the crack-pots (like us) who visit these turtles and might accidentally feed them a morsel or two. Andrea and I had two Snappers and a couple of Sliders when he got there but his presence brought out more turtles... a third (and the biggest beggar) Snapper and some Painters. DSCN0145
And eventually a fourth Snapper.

We sat and stood there for roughly three hours hanging out with turtles and talking with this guy, who has been doing this a couple of times a week for two years. Now, I don't know how much turtles can "recognize" people but they sure seem to know this guy's shape or something. The third Snapper was very excited and kept coming up for close inspection of our hands.

It really gave us a chance to observe and even interact a little with these amazing creatures.

A Robin took a bath not far from our Turtle-fest. I like this picture.

I managed one small Bullfrog shot from a distance on the way out.
So, its fair to say that we got our turtle-time in. I know, interacting with Snappers isn't particularly safe but we are nothing if not careful.

Sunday was family day, so no herping. We took Andrea's Mom up to Maine to visit my kid, her husband and my grandkids. We had a lovely time. We got stuck in thick traffic coming back, though. While going about 10 MPH heading toward the toll booth in New Hampshire, we saw this lady Snapper leaving the concrete, heading back toward her water.
I just pulled over and hopped out for a photo. I barely lost my place in line. She had actually been moving faster than the traffic. Bonus turtle!

That, my dear, is how our weekend went.