Friday, August 18, 2017

Another Bristol County Saturday. 8-12-2017

Same story, different week. The weekdays were pleasant, the weekend forecast was iffy. Whatever. We took a chance and went to a formerly favorite spot in Bristol County, one of the many now-Racerless, cleaned up for human consumption parks. Still, the place has its magic and we can't give it up so easily.

We got there under threatening skies but luckily, things held out for us. It was cool and cloudy when we hit the trails. Turtles probably would be hard to come by so we kept our expectations low. Our first animal sighting was a very small Green Frog, looking quite bewildered as it sat at the water's edge.
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All noggin on that guy.

Out boards were removed earlier in the year and the ones that we'd hidden yielded nothing so we carried on our usual route. A pretty Garter was waking up just off the path in some brush.
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As we were photographing that guy, Andrea saw this large Fowler's Toad spring up out of a hiding place.
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Did I mention toads? This place has been referred to (by us) as the toadiest place on Earth. While it doesn't always live up to that label, it did this fine Saturday. We saw them in all shapes and sizes... tiny ones, molting ones and "soon" ones were seen in short order.
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On a beach near the far pond, we saw an old friend... a beautiful Fowler's with a bum back left leg.
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His back leg drags as he hops but as you can see, he's otherwise quite healthy and his disability doesn't slow him down at all. That's an impressive survivor.

As I was scanning the water's edge, Andrea was struggling to corral a weird specimen... a small Fowler's Toad with 5 legs.
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This guy was unencumbered by his extra appendage. He was a tough one to get photos of.
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I think this is just a conjoined twin deal, rather than an environmentally mutated specimen.
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I like to think that somewhere out there, there is a mad scientist toad (Dr. Fowler?) who is farming extra body parts for this colony... perhaps this extra limb is intended for our friend above. The mind boggles.

Where can one go from there? How about to a log that was covering two snoozing Garter Snakes?
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Turtles were indeed few and far between but these two Painters were attempting to bask.
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In the distance, we could see a turtle basking high above the water, perched precariously on a branch. I said to Andrea that it must be a Musk... they seem to be the best at climbing like that. I was wrong.
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We had never seen a Red-eared Slider here before. (Welcome back to the park, humans. Please deposit your unwanted pets anywhere.) This one seems happy and healthy enough. Good on him. I snuck around for a different angle.
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The Painted Turtle creeping up in the background makes me laugh every time.

Another duo of intrepid Painters.
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It was a short while before we got to our next fruitful spot. The grass near a vernal was sure to have some young Pickerel Frogs in it. We searched and saw none. Then we searched again and the grass started moving. We were right... wee Pickerels were there but they were so small, they'd hop and disappear under the grass. I finally got the camera on one before he did his magic act.
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I'm embarrassed to say just how difficult it was to get that one photo!

Heading back along the trail, Andrea nonchalantly flipped an unlikely piece of bark and found our first Milk Snake in this park in a couple of years.
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This feisty little Lamp bit her repeatedly, even broke the skin once or twice. Tough guy!
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He made his point. We think he is post-blue, ready to shed at any moment. We didn't handle him for long.
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We headed back to the car. In a beach-like area, a group of teens were being loud, vaping, screaming, littering (I hope they cleaned up after themselves) and reminding me why I think humans that aren't us should be banned from this place. Not 50 feet away, in the grass, a pair of large Garters were resting, oblivious to the caterwauling.
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Oh, to be deaf like them.

We left the place and went for some lunch (Mandarin Buffet). After a little shopping, we headed over to the Water Snake place down the road a stretch. Our first sight there was a beautiful, bright green Bullfrog.
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Further in, this large Nerodia was laying atop the wall.
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She made a very slow, deliberate retreat into the wall as we were watching her.

I was dipping into the stream looking for turtles. I flipped a rock under the water and was very surprised to see a small Water Snake coiled under it.
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A nearby woman came to check it out. I love snake fans.

Spotted Sandpipers were poking around the place and, even though I already have them on the year, they were making some irresistible poses.
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The shadows were getting long and even though we were enjoying ourselves (and we knew that the following day would be herpless because of family stuff) it was time to hit the road. Our last sight was a Nerodia noggin poking out from some rocks overlooking the water.
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Not bad... a nine species day. I still don't think we've had a ten species day in Massachusetts this year, but it's not about the high counts or Facebook likes or any of that shit. It's about experiencing nature, learning about it and doing what you can to preserve it. And for a change, we didn't get rained on.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

More Fun than a Barrell of Water Snakes 8-6-2017

The summer of 2017 struck again. My band had a gig Saturday night so I wanted to hit a place in Norfolk County in the morning... nearby, easy trails... and it was supposed to be nice out. Until the forecast changed and it wasn't going to be nice. Then it was. Then it wasn't. Saturday morning, I still was planning on going there. But Andrea said it would be foolish. Rain was coming soon, so we went to our "Green Snake" spot (where we haven't seen a Green in a couple of years) and saw nothing. I'm reluctant to flip too much there because I know some others who go there and I don't want the spot over flipped. Yeah, it's a thing. We saw one Garter, got no picture, then it started to rain. Meh, I cut my losses and went home. I only got a distant, shitty shot of an Osprey nest through the rain for bird #72 on the year. They looked miserable, too.
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The show that evening went well and after a solid 4 hours of sleep, the cats woke me up. Some days, I wake up bitchy but this day, I let her sleep in for a couple more hours. When she was up and we were ready, we made our belated trek to the spot I had been wanting to go on Saturday. Our first sight was our first Cedar Waxwings on the year (#73)
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We saw this mushroom being munched on my a slug. His precision work looks like he's making a Halloween mask for a Bullfrog.
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We got to a vernal that was bone dry by this time last year but this year, it is still nice and full. Andrea spied this Green Frog near the edge.
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We could see movement as we walked around the pool but couldn't discern if it was water skimmers of larvae under the surface (the sun was all wrong for us). By the time we walked back to the front, this gal had come in looking for a snack.
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Needless to say, the Green Frog took off like a bolt of lightning and she foraged on...
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We got to the middle pond and, as usual, a stack of Painters were up grabbing some sun.
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Along the (fairly busy) path, this lovely Ribbon Snake (with a meal in her) was looking for a spot to digest.
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A couple of solitary Painted Turtles. The top one is a Yoga-Master.
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Heading back to the main trail, Andrea spotted a good sized Garter next to the path. A kid was nearby so I picked her up for a little education-time.
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She had her teeth buried into my knuckle while the oblivious kid touched her midsection. I also got musked pretty well.

Even though it had been a rainy week and the temps were a bit cooler (about 72° at that point, around noon), I didn't expect to see any salamanders, but this wee Redback was a delightful surprise.
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We saw a bunch of Milkweed Tussocks scampering about. (Thanks again, TeĆ”!)
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Could it be? A four snake-species day in Massachusetts? Yes. Under a rock (that I put back as it was found... take note, everyone), this gorgeous Ringneck was coiled up. Look at how orange she is. That ring!
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I also flipped a log that had a Bumblebee nest under it. Very very cool.
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We went some time then without photographing anymore animals, though I got this shot of a sexy hiker. I tried to sneak it but she was on to me.
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We got back to the main trail after a while and saw a beautiful Nerodia basking under a bridge. It was another good teaching snake... pretty and at a "safe" distance. Gotta sell snakes to people little by little.
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The large Garter was still up there, too. She might be looking for a place to dump some young.

The turtle stack had improved during the intervening hours.
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We took one last look around the front of the first pond before heading out. There were a bunch of people there. One lady was aghast that there was a snake basking on a rock, pretty much out of view.
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We taught her that this stunning Nerodia was not a Water Moccasin and she eventually admitted it was very pretty.

A couple of young kids were there, too. The little girl said she'd seen a snake go under a big rock. Sure enough, there next to the rock was this small in-the-blue Water Snake.
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I taught her about the dry, rough scales, the stinky musk (I got nailed) and skin shedding. As is often the case, the young boy was more reluctant to get close to the snake.

Within another minute or two, a young couple showed up, interested to see snakes. We pointed out the big basking gal and the girl said she saw a black snake between the rocks. I knelt down and craned my neck... she has good eyes because I could barely see it, but yes... there was another small Water Snake right there. I reached it and the lessons began anew.
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The beauty of these high-red Nerodias can really spark a person's interest. By the way, you can see the snake-blossoms from the Garter on my knuckle in this shot. There was another large Water Snake around but she kept submerging as I got her in focus.

Before quitting, we saw part of a Garter having a bask in the dappled sunlight.
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So, by now my hands smelled like a rotting skunk asshole so we went up to the visitor center and I broke out the Posh Charcoal Soap (be sure to order from my daughter, Karmellah Barter).  After washing up, we saw a small, blue Garter basking atop a wood pile.
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OK, we were finally done. It was crowded around the Visitor's Center and it was time to go. We walked toward the parking lot. In the ground cover next the wall, we saw some movement. I went around the inside and saw this...
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Noticing I'd cut the tail off in the photo (and Bob and Matt would yell at me about that), I took another shot, but got only tail. Haha... bad photographer. Until I uploaded the pic at home and saw the wee face of another Garter in the shot...
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Andrea had been sitting on this rock and concrete wall as I took the photos. We didn't know we'd already had a shot of that second guy when Andrea looked down, saw him and picked him up for a closer look.
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She put him back inside the wall and he crawled into a crack in the foundation. Then another small guy slid in behind him. Meanwhile, that first one was in a sunny patch, hidden by a bush. And we swear there was a fourth one somewhere in there.

We finally peeled ourselves away. It turned out to be a pretty good day. Four hours of sleep, then six hours of hiking. It might kill me early but it's how I want to go.