Saturday, January 5, 2019

Ringing in the New Year. 1-1-2019

It was supposed to be Fifty Degrees on New Year's Day with sunshine and a significant wind. Obviously, we wanted to peek at our local dens to see if we could see a knucklehead poking out and break our previous First Snake of the Year record (a Water Snake on January 3rd). We headed over to the local dens at around noon on that Tuesday, the first day of the year.

While flipping some rocks (looking for salamanders), we met a lovely couple named Elizabeth and Keith and we struck up a conversation about this Suffolk County stomping ground we were all enjoying. With them, we headed to the Valley of Nerodia and, sure enough, there was a beautiful Garter Snake right outside the den entrance (dentrance?) catching some New Year's Rays. First of Year (FOY)!
Obviously, this thrilled all of us to no end.

Elizabeth and Keith hiked on and we turned back to go peek up at Robles' den before continuing. Andrea spied this gorgeous and large (my guess is roughly 30") Garter gal laying right smack in the sun.
What a breathtaking sight. Again, she was just inches from the dentrance.

Best. New Year's Day. Ever.

We decided that the Cottonwood Dens were next. There were two Garters out there, though they were a bit harder to spot.
Happy New Year!

We went on for a bit, checking the Rock Wall Dens (nuthin') and took a quick walk up to the main park nearby. We saw no more animals but ran into our new friends again and got to talk a little more. Not only do we have nature in common but they were both wearing hand-knits, courtesy of Elizabeth. We made our farewells and we really hope to meet up with them again in the future!

On the way out, we went up to our new, more reliable salamander spot and were rewarded with a half dozen Redbacks, obviously our FOY. The first one was a bit shy to recieve such an honor.
2 New Year's Day Redbacks
Not even counting the many non-red phases, it's amazing just how variable the colors can be with these guys!

Heading back through the Valley on the way to the car, this tenacious Garter was lounging on a hill, not really in the sun. We couldn't determine if he was coming out from under the rock or not. At any rate, he was a beautiful sight.

Of course, with a new calendar year, I get a clean slate for my bird count. We grabbed a slice of pizza and headed over to a local pond to get started. There wasn't as many species as the previous year but starting with a Ring-necked Duck for #1 was fun.
#1 Ring-necked Duck

The 4th (and last) bird of the walk was a young American Robin. Super common, yes, but I doubt I'll get a better bird photo this year.
#4 American Robin

The next morning, I took Andrea to the train station (she had work while I was still on vacation) and then headed to a nearby bird-haven to bolster my count. I added quite a few, getting my number up to 15. I was photographing at a feeder (cheating? who cares?) when all of a sudden there were no more birds. I looked below and saw why.
#11 Lifer #180 Sharp-shinned Hawk
This Sharp-shinned Hawk is my Lifer #180 (#11 on the year).

A few other pretty birds... a House Finch...
#14 House Finch
and a Goldfinch.
#12 American Goldfinch

So while I detest Winter, this year started off OK. After a disappointing 2018, I'm hoping for a little more peace and nature and love for all of us.


  1. Congrats on your FOY garter! It doesn't get much better than that!

    Wishing you guys all the best for 2019.

    Box Turtle Tim