Monday, July 31, 2017

The Lost Weekend... July 28th and forward

I'm thinking of changing my name to Chad Boyce. Not because I think it's a good name or anything, but because it spoonerizes so well for me. As is often the case this year, I made a bad choice and we wound up paying for it this weekend. It started out good enough with an unexpected hike through the devastated place in Norfolk County.

Friday's weather and temps were very nice and we decided to ring in the dusk with a hike. I chose the same spot as last week under the pretense of "keeping an eye on the regrowth of the place". Truthfully, I still hope to see a Racer this year, if they still exist. This place is also good for Milks. It's also really good for American Toads this year and we saw one right away.

The flora on (formerly known as) Racer Alley has been sprouting up nicely. It is very green right now and in the last year, bushes have shown a resurgence. Out big three goals here are Racers (not even a skin since the devastation, first noted here) and DeKay's and Ringnecks, two fossorial species who used to be found along the Alley. Seeing any of these would be a major sign of recovery. Well, we saw none of those but for the second week in a row, we saw a Ribbon Snake here.
We thought this in-the-blue fella was a garter at first. Decent sized and stripes obscured by old, dirty skin.

The board under which we found the bright Ribbon the previous Friday had another surprise under it... the very same snake.
I guess it's fair to rename this stretch Ribbon Alley.

That was it for animals on Friday. Would we have fared better if we went to another spot? Who knows. This was my decision and we had to live with it. The next morning, my choice wasn't quite so fruitful.

We had two places we wanted to hit on the weekend. One was our usual haunt in Plymouth County. We're still searching for our first Hognose on the year, as pathetic as that sounds. The other is a new spot in Worcester County that we only got a quick look at in January. I really wanted to wait for the Worcester County spot until Sunday, even though the south-eastern part of Massachusetts was supposed to get a storm on Saturday morning. Well, the accuweather forecast that morning said no, just overcast and in the high 60s. So we made our way south to Plymouth with high hopes. High hopes that were quickly dashed when the rain came. Chad Boyce strikes again.

To be fair, the wind and rain wasn't the real problem. It was raw and 62°. It sucked. We saw a "soon" Fowler's Toad pretty quickly, though.
I don't blame him for being huddled down deep. It was cold.

From there, we went to a part of the State Forest where Andrea could... look for Yarrow's Spiny Lizards... in an inside setting. While she was indisposed, the rain let up and I got out to poke around. We decided, after talking to the ranger there about the weather over the last few days there, to take a hike up a new (to us) trail on the off chance of a Box Turtle sighting. I was a little cranky because of my morning failures but the long hike was beautiful and it settled me a bit. Except that I started thinking of Waffle Fries along the way.

Long story short... we hiked around 4 1/2 miles and, herp-wise, saw only a small Green Frog in a mud-puddle.

But we staved off our hunger and deeply enjoyed the lowbush blueberries that were all along the trail

Rain started up again, stopped again and the temperature remained in the low 60s. We cut our losses and went for some lunch (with waffle fries) before hitting the highway and going home. At one point, there was a distant patch of blue in the sky. I asked Andrea where she thought that clear patch was. To paraphrase, she said "over the place you didn't choose to go." Ouch.

As I was dozing off while driving home, Andrea woke me up with a question. She asked if I wanted to poke around the local spot in Suffolk County before going home. It was about 4 PM and it was sunny and warm here in our home county. She decided we'd go look around. Because the decision was hers, we had some pretty good luck. We got to "Water Snake Rock", a rock that we have seen as many as 5 Nerodia under before. I started my gentle lift and Andrea had her camera ready.
It's fair to say that there will be babies in the area soon.

A little further along the brook, we saw this gal tucking herself in.

A little bit further along, this thin Garter was looking for a place to spend the night.

We made it to the river and were rewarded with some basking Painted Turtles, despite there having been some off-leash dogs romping around just prior to our arrival.

This little guy wouldn't have budged had a bomb gone off next to him. He had prime, sunny yoga space.

Heading back, we ran into this cliche... an ol' snake in the grass.

That one Nerodia was all tucked-in nice and tight for the night.

Feeling pretty good by now, we discussed rock flipping. In general, we go by the "low hanging fruit" rule... we don't want to get too greedy and make things dangerous for whatever might be underneath it. I said, "for example, this rock right here is a good one. Light, open and it probably has a garter under it." It didn't have a Garter.
A Milk is always a treat.

While we were photographing this snake, a couple of men walked by and were scared of the snake but they looked at it and listened to our brief lesson before continuing their walk. Just after we released the Milk, we could hear them screaming from about 50 yards away. They said there was a big one in the grass. We ran up and, sure enough, there was a three-footer in the grass, a beautiful reddish Nerodia!
Thank you, skittish guys!

We continued on and saw a few more snakes. This Water Snake prompted Andrea to say, "I didn't choose the Nerodia life, the Nerodia life chose me."

Andrea next spied a "Garter tail"...
We pulled the "tail" out and discovered it was most of this little nipper's body. He would not pose quietly for a photo.

It is safe to say that Andrea's decision to look around the local spot was a good one. We saw four species of reptile in about an hour, as opposed to 2 in five hours. Just call me Chad Boyce.

Adding to the pain of my choosing the wrong place on Saturday was that we had a family matter Saturday night into Sunday and we lost the chance to do our Worcester County trip. July 2017 wasn't ending on a positive note in any respect.

We were both off work on Monday and we used the afternoon to give Andrea's Mom some time. It was dinner time when we decided to hit the road, but we took a stop at the cemetery to pay some respects to Andrea's Dad and look at the pond that is near his gravesite. Two early evening Bullfrogs were there to cheer us up.

There are Painted Turtles and Snappers in this pond, too, and probably a few Red-ears. I saw a Snapper shell emerge just a little bit, then submerge again. No photos and it didn't come back up while I waited. This pond is also pretty good for Wood Ducks. There was an adult female and a half dozen babies frolicking.

Townies had moved in to fish and blare bad classic rock from their car so we called it a day and headed home. We took the long way out and saw a few bunnies on the back road. There was a spot with a tarp and some rocks hidden away back there so, unable to resist a tarp, we got out to explore. Lady luck smiled on us and we found this pretty, young Garter in there.
That's the first snake Andrea has seen in her home town in well over three decades.

This bonus American Toad hopped by as we went back to the car.
I told him he had better watch out; that Garter was about the right size to be interested in him.

One last thing we had to do on Monday night... look in on our friend's cats. While there, we decided to peek under some of their garden rocks. They have a healthy Dekay's Snake population living back there. It didn't take long...

It took me a while to determine that these last two snakes are indeed different. The first one crawled away into the rocks, then we flipped the rock under it and the brighter, redder one was coiled up there. Even taking different focuses and lights into account, that second one is far darker. I'll bet they're from the same clutch, though.
Is it me or are DeKay's becoming more beautiful as the years go by, what with their racing stripes and red colors and all?

That is July in the books. Still no Racers, Hogs, Terrapins, Marbled Sals and one Musk. What a fickle year 2017 has been.


  1. listen...even if at some spots no critters, you were together, outside with the air and the trees......... got some exercise and all that
    so it's a win win either way you look at it
    key word :together
    much loves to you both

  2. Been a weird racer season for sure. It's likely they'll be listed Special Concern soon. Only place I find them with any regularity anymore is you-know-where.

    August is a good month for terrapins down the Cape because large numbers tend to concentrate at favorable locations when it's low tide. Bet you'll see some.

    1. We have Terrapin Day planned coming up in a few weeks, so hopefully we'll view one or two. We haven't been to the Cape since early May. But yeah, the Racer thing is alarming... if you don't see them in breeding season, it's tough to see them at all. Hopefully September will reveal a few more.