Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I Ran Out of Clever Titles... Years Ago. 8-26-2017

Do you know how hard I work to come up with clever titles? Well, forget about it. Too much effort.

We went to Bristol County on a lovely Saturday morning, the sun was shining and the garden was full of snakes when we got there at roughly 10 AM. Our first sighting was a neonate shoestring Garter who was speeding along a stone wall. No photo. As we moved in to flip a top rock, we saw a Milk moving away. Andrea got a hold of him but we didn't want to hurt him by trying to extricate him for a photo, so this is our voucher.
Andrea got heavily musked.

As expected (well, hoped for), baby Garter Snakes were all over. They were pretty fast so we contented ourselves with photographing older specimens that were laying about.

This was actually a quadruple neonate flip. One slithered off quickly... the other three were slow enough for me to get a photo.

This big Pickerel was another garden visitor. I hope he was careful... there were some larger Garters seen prowling as well.

Last of the Morning Garter Garden Shoot.

Since the gate was closed when we got there and we were parked out on the street, we'd initially thought about keeping it a very short hike but after having talked with plenty of other hikers, we decided to do the full 5 miles of our route. Evidently, the gate-keeper oversleeps sometimes and parking out on the street is fine. So, we headed toward the river and started seeing some Painted Turtles up sunning themselves.
^ Nice footrest, Clyde.

Further along the trail, downriver... more Painters.

While I was zooming way out to try to get a shot of the turtles, Andrea told me not to move... there was a wee Wood Frog right in front of my feet.

We went along without seeing much for a while. A reliable Redback spot was salamander-free. It was only in the mid-70s now but it was fairly dry so that wasn't a huge surprise. Our next stop was a vernal that was also drying up, but it still had some water and this late in the year, most frogs and salamanders have metamorphed by now. From a distance, we could see a ton of frogs on the edges, many of them jumping in to the drink with a squeak. A few stayed put, like this large Bullfrog.

There was a huge commotion in the middle of the water and a Bullfrog came shooting out of the pool. We weren't the only ones looking for frogs... a decent sized Water Snake (only the second Nerodia we have seen at this place over the course of nine years) was looking for lunch. It sped off quickly when it noticed us looking on.
I wish it was a better shot but with the distance and the action, I'm glad I got anything.

Under a board that was in the wet leaves not far from the water's edge, this new Spotted gave us hope that this year will be a good one for new salamanders!
This is our first maculatum since April 29th of this year. 

This Bullfrog was posing just too perfectly. I might need to make a calendar... So-so Photos of Super Common Animals. I'd buy one.

This Garter was also hunting the pond's edge, completely oblivious to us.

Seeing that Spotted Sal had perked us right up. It made us so happy that we didn't mourn the lack of photos of our next two on-the-move Garters. One crawled into a hollow log that we didn't know was hollow. Cool. The next Garter we saw was warming up in a patch of sun. A really beautiful specimen.

I went down to the river again to look out over the water (one of my favorite things to do). There was a splish and a splash at my feet and I looked down to see this not-so-stealthy Pickerel hiding.

To flip the rusty car hood that is almost always occupied with buzzing wasps or not? What the hell. I did and no wasps came out and we were rewarded with this chubby Garter Gal.
Looks like more babies might be on the way. 

From the waterfall, we could see another small stack of Painters in the distance.

That was our turn-around point so we hit the trail to get over to some different areas on the way back. I'd walked right past this Lady Painter both on the way in and the way out but Andrea saw her this time.
She was passing from a tannin-stained stream to go to the river and she was stained pretty orange herself.

Andrea spotted this Mantis. I would never have seen it.

Flipping a cinder-block got us our Redbacks. There were 3 under this. I only saw the third when I dug that half-hidden guy out before returning the block to its place.
Don't look now... we were at nine species. (Yes, I'm counting the Milk.)

We were excited to get back to the garden to see who had come up to sun in the last 3 or 4 hours. On the way, we saw this periscoping beauty of a Garter.

The garden was indeed a garden of delights. Garter Garden. These two larger models were up in the "hot corner" as another hiker/ snake photographer called it. Check out how perfectly green that second one is. Stunning.

Shopping for a new suit.

This guy musked Andrea into the stratosphere.

Here's a wee one that we flipped and moved to a less ant-filled space.

Andrea caught one last Garter to photograph. We'd missed plenty of speedy subjects.

We went to lunch next, washing our hands very thoroughly, and planned our next move. Our friend had told us of a place nearby where she has seen plenty of turtles and snakes while she rides her bike. We checked the road atlas and made that our next stop.

Sadly, the pond was dry.
It was muddy and wet but there was no water at the moment. There were quite a few Pickerel Frogs in a shaded area, though.
We also added another bird to the year here (Least Sandpiper, #78) but decided to hold off further exploration until the Spring.

One last stop before the highway, our favorite picturesque Nerodia spot. And one was hanging out there to greet us.

Much to our delight, a small Musk Turtle was foraging in the water.
We just haven't been seeing our little Stinkpot friends as much as we'd like this year.

This Painter was up watching us, as well.

We observed this larger Musk foraging and eating plants from the rocks for a while. Getting a photo was pretty tough but I kind of like this one.

We also saw dozens of crawfish. They are also fun to watch as they do crawfishy stuff.

That was our Saturday. We managed 10 species, though it took us a couple of different stops. But they were all in Bristol County, at least.

We had decided to go to a local (Norfolk County) spot early Sunday morning, but got a later-than-planned start. We had consulted this very blog to see when we'd had good baby turtle luck in the past. (That's why I keep it. That fact that anyone ever reads it and hopefully enjoys it is a bonus.) This spot (the one that was destroyed with "improvements" last year) had 17 Snapper hatchlings in the path four years ago on this date. Surely they'd be hatching again today!

Duh... they weren't yet. Oddly enough, we didn't see any reptiles or amphibians until about 50 yards from our turn around spot. Up there, 2 1/2 miles into the hike, we flipped a chubby metamorph Spotted Salamander. Look at the belly!
As the day before, a very good thing to see. Hopefully, it's been a very successful year for salamanders. Last year, with the long drought, was not.

Some boards at our turn around spot gave us our only other animals...Andrea flipped these Red-spotted Newts. The large one is ending its Red Eft phase, getting ready to return to the water and the little one is just beginning its life on land. It was only about an inch long.

That's all we saw during our 5 mile hike but, as I like to say, we were together and in nature so it was wonderful. Except when I tried to snap a candid from above Andrea and she was totally on to me.

Monday, August 28, 2017

If There Be Hatchlings. 8-25-2017

Andrea and I both took Friday the 25th off in an attempt to elongate our 14th Anniversary Wedding celebration. (It was August 23rd.) Our plan was to go to the Cape and try to see a Diamondback Terrapin or two, a species that we rarely get to see in this state. Being that hatchling turtle season is almost upon us, we had visions of being heroes and actually seeing sand moving in a protected nest and reporting it and having everybody happy with us and naming turtles in our honor and maybe even making a new holiday in our name. Maybe that was just my fantasy. I don't recall.

At any rate, we got deep into Barnstable County at a reasonable hour considering it's a 2 hr. plus drive. The weather was beautiful and, unfortunately, the parking lot was full. We weren't going to be the only ones enjoying the day. We entered the sanctuary and took a quick peek at a man-made pond inside. There were plenty of Bullfrog noggins poking out of the duckweed.

Andrea had a very cooperative model.
As she is wont to do, she booped him.

Another pond, also freshwater, had a stack of Painted Turtles, plus one.

Out to the dunes and the surrounding marshes we went, but no Terrapins were in view. It is rare to see them up basking but we have in the past. We contented ourselves with mantids and crabs.
Just so I can remember this fact in the future: I was in the middle of a Guy N. Smith killer crab novel at this time.

We walked the trails, always peeking into the nest protectors to see if any movement could be detected. This turtle garden was not yet sprouting.
Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. No terrapins for us this day.

We relaxed for a bit then went into Tim's Box Turtle Woods™ for a look around. Tim, the caretaker of this population, had told us that they hadn't been active lately; the weather and temp fluctuations had been keeping them quiet. We didn't expect to see much but gave it our best. We didn't want to disturb the habitat, so we contented ourselves with just peeking into leaves, hoping to get lucky. Amazingly, we did.
I was pretty surprised to see how small this guy was when we uncovered it.
We noticed it wasn't notched, so Andrea immediately called Tim and left a message. Would they want to catalog and notch it? Only 3" long from tip to tip of carapace.

We put that little guy back where he was and walked the path a bit further. Andrea saw another small Box Turtle trucking through the brush, this one a bit larger.
This guy was a tank, just bashing through the leaves and sticks. He had many scars on his shell and was a feisty one for sure.

Tim called back at this point and told us that he sees this second guy every time he steps into the woods. "Not exactly stealthy." Of the first one, he asked if the shell seemed calcified enough to notch. We are not experts in such matters (yet); it felt nice and hard to us but we shouldn't make the call. He told us to take it up and have someone determine if it is ready to be notched. We headed back to its hiding place.

On the way, we saw a quick, tiny squiggle in the leaves. There was a new Ribbon Snake wriggling through the leaves. It wasn't easy for a 200 lb. oaf like me to throw myself in front of it to gently corral it, but we managed.
That is our third neonate snake of different species seen within a week... all live-bearers. It makes me wonder when the oviparous babies will pop out.

We got the first Boxie into Andrea's camera bag and took it up to the lab. We had two staff members taking care of things. The usual "notchers" weren't present so it was up to one technician to try it for the first time. We got the measurements (they very kindly let us help).
Oh, the humiliation! 50 grams of carolina cuteness.

It turns out the shell was indeed calcified enough. In fact, notching was very tough going. This one is around 4-5 years old and the tough shell and flailing legs made it a real challenge but the notch was successfully made.

Before taking the turtle back to its hideout, the kind people in the lab threw us a bone... some of their incubating Terrapin eggs had hatched and are being held until the yolk-sacks absorb. They showed us a couple of brand new babies.
My heart skips a beat every time I see that picture.

We put of Boxie friend back, said our goodbyes and hit the road.

We had some lunch and headed back off of the Cape while the throngs of cars slowly made their way to the Cape. It was a bit after 3 PM and we figured it would be close to 4 by the time we hit Plymouth County, so we made plans to make a quick stop at the State Forest there, taking a look at some favorite spots within.

Our first spot was herp-dry, but Andrea the tracker noticed what was probably a Racer trail going through the sand. Looks like a big 'un... I wish we'd seen it.

Just as interesting were these beetle tracks. Beautiful, precision footwork.

Our next spot produced some newly awakened Fowler's Toads.
I didn't notice it at the time but that second guy's front foot looks massive.

Admittedly, we were staring to fatigue a little and the shadows were getting long.
It was time to head out.

Peeking into a pond on the way to the car, we saw a small Bullfrog who sat in the muck for a photo.

We noted with equal amusement and revulsion that the Knicker Tree is in bloom.

Back in the car and on the road, I noticed a Milkweed Tussock caterpillar walking up my leg.
Milkweed Tussock

One last stop before the highway... we can't say no to Toad Rug. Underneath, a sleepy Fowler's vowed his revenge on us with just one look. Soooon...

And that was our Friday. No work, time together, seeing animals, being in nature and getting a chance to feel like we helped a little bit. Every Friday should be so worthwhile.