Saturday, July 23, 2022

Local #10 and 11 A Water Snake and a Black Swallowtail


   Not only are gas prices keeping me local but so is the heat and my back. The heat is self evident. It is hot. My lower back has been messed up for almost a month now. I've had very little desire to take long drives to see birds. Last week I did go to Francis Carter but other than that my rides have ben short.

   A few days ago I went to Stony Brook Wildlife Refuge in Norfork, MA. It was a quiet day there. I saw a hummingbird, Purple Martins, and a big Snapping Turtle but not much else. I didn't write about it because, frankly, there wasn't much to write about.

   After a late morning I went back to Attleboro Springs Wildlife Sanctuary today. For the second time this year I saw a Northern Water Snake eat a meal. Today's unlucky contestant was a small frog. The light was bad and I was too close for good photos but it was fun to watch. After it's meal, the snake moved into a little opening where I could at least get a photo of it.

   Before I left, I ran into two Black Swallowtail Butterflies. Since I'm "collecting" photos of butterflies I've seen this year I was happy to get some photos of them. 


Black Swallowtail

The snake trying to turn the frog for consumption

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Local #9 Red Admiral at Attleboro Springs

Red Admiral Butterfly

   On my way home from work I stopped at Attleboro Springs Audubon Sanctuary. This place sits behind La Salette Shrine. This local spot didn't cost me anything for gas because it sits on my route home from our Rehoboth store. I'd been to this place once or twice in the winter but never really explored it. 

   The best part of the refuge is Brothers Pond. There I saw multiple Bull Frogs, Green Frogs, tadpoles and a Water Snake. So far in my herping experience, I have seen more Northern Water Snakes than all other species combined.

   The highlight of the day was probably a Red Admiral Butterfly that was on the ground right near the water. I couldn't get the right angle for photos due to the brush, but it was still pretty to see. 

I walked all the trails of the property for a couple hours. I checked out the pond's shoreline multiple times. It was a pleasant afternoon

Friday, July 15, 2022

Butterflies and Local #8

Aphrodite Flitillary

    I've been asked if I gave up birding since I've spent so much time looking for snakes, frogs, and turtles. The answer is no. I still look for birds. This is a slow time of year for birding, so bad that I purposely take my vacation in June. The shorebirds will be back soon and there will be birds to look at again.

  When I go to Francis Carter, I'm looking for everything. I look for the grassland birds, snakes, and butterflies. Anything worth a photo makes me happy. Today, I went to Carter and all I saw were butterflies and a few birds. No reptiles at all. The highlight birds were an Indigo Bunting posing on a dead tree and three Orchard Orioles. 

  Butterflies were awesome. The highlight was an Aphrodite Fritillary. It was only the second I've seen. I also saw Monarchs, Eastern Wood Nymphs (everywhere), Juvenal's Duskywing.

  I also went to the Breachway mudflats today. The only good sighting was seeing my friend Carlos Pedro. There were a couple Piping Plovers but for the most part, it was dead. 

   

Huge Fowler's Toad

So I decided to head towards home and go local. Uxbridge may not be next door for me, but it is an easy ride, and I've been spending a lot of time there. Today I found a huge Fowler's Toad and I caught a Pickerel Frog in my net. This ha taken me repeated tries. I did manage to see two snakes today. I saw the back end of a Garter slithering away and part of a Northern Water Snake thar was obstructed by vegetation.  All in all, not a bad July day.





My defeated quarry not realizing he would be free
with one hop. Pickerel Frog


Saturday, July 9, 2022

Pretty Good Day Herping

 

Northern Water Snake 

After blowing sixty dollars worth of gas yesterday, the thought of birding South County did not appeal to me. I thought about kayking the upper bay looking for Diamondback Terrapins, but my back has been hurting and didn't want to deal with loading and unloading my kayak. However, today was a gorgeous day in southern New England and I didn't want to waste it. After some lollygagging I decided to go herping. 

   I had a pretty good day. I saw about nine Pickerel Frogs which is probably four more than I'd ever seen total. I ran across some very tiny baby Fowler's Toads at the same place. It took my about four hours before I found my first and only snake. It was a two foot long Northern Water Snake.

 Later in the day I went out again. I found bullfrogs, Painted Turtles, and Snapping Turtles. I didn't see any snakes or anything rare. I did get a good photo of a blue dragonfly and I did see a bunch of invasive Green Sunfish.

Baby Fowler's Toad

Green Sunfish

Slaty Skimmer (Mike Tucker gave me the ID)

Snapping Turtle thrilled to see me

Painted Turtle 

Pickerel Frog




Friday, July 8, 2022

Northern Red Bellied Cooter

 


Today I "chased" a turtle species. When a rare bird is reported, listers and birders go to see that species. Today I did the same for a turtle, though it wasn't "reported" I researched them.

   When I went to North Carolina, Laurie and I stopped at the Yorktown Battlefield. As we drove around the battlefield we came upon this swampy weedy pond. We pulled over and explored it. There were some turtles on a log on the other side of the pond. I wasn't really sure what they were but got some photos. Even after I got home and put the photos on my computer I wasn't positive of the ID. 

   So I joined a Reptile ID page on Facebook. After posting the photos, within minutes someone said they were Northern Red Bellied Cooters. This excited me because they were the first I had seen. Reading up on them a few weeks later I found out there is a small population in Massachusetts. It turns out that Plymouth County has Red Bellied Cooters. Interestingly, there isn't another population for two hundred miles. The next closest ones are in New Jersey. The ones that live in MA are not invasive. In fact, they are an endangered species and protected by law. 

   There is a national wildlife refuge in Plymouth specifically to protect Red Bellied Cooters. Unfortunately, it is off limits to the public. I looked at a map and noticed multiple ponds just outside of the refuge. Today, Laurie and I went "a turtle huntin'" (hopefully you read that in an Elmer Fudd voice).

  We did not have any luck at the ponds by the refuge because there wasn't any public access at any of them. However, we did find some turtles at a publicly accessible pond on state land. We ended up seeing five Northern Red Bellied Sliders. One was basking on a log while the other four were swimming. 

   


None of my photos came out very well. The one on a log was surrounded by sticks and branches. The ones in the water reflected back with a glare. Still, mission accomplished. I got to see an endangered turtle that most Massachusetts residents have never heard of and even fewer ever see.  

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Bombay Hook

 


   We went to Bombay Hook on the last day of our trip. Once we left there we had a long painful drive home. Like almost everything else we did on this trip, going to Bombay Hook had been on my bucket list for years. Bombay Hook is a National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. From Assateague Island it is a two hour drive. Once off of the main highway, it is pretty drive through farms and rural areas to get there. There is an admission fee. I think it was five dollars. Like most wildlife refuges, there is a wildlife drive. It is a loop road with one or two stems that branch off. The road has many pull offs along the route to get out and enjoy the wildlife. 

    There are a couple of hiking trails. We had planned on going down them, but the flies were so bad that it was impossible to walk. There were multiple species of horseflies, deerflies, and others that made it impossible to enjoy most of the refuge. Some of the flies would fly around your head, while others would bite you. So as you can imagine, we did most of the birding from the car. The flies were really bad at some parts of the refuge, while at others there were only a few. Unfortunately, most of the places we stopped the flies were unbearable. But fortunately, the place that we saw Black Necked Stilts was one of the few spots where we were left alone. 

   The main goal of going to Bombay Hook was to see Black Necked Stilts that nest there. I knew there were many other fun birds to see such as Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Carolina Chickadees which live there. I would have been happy to see them, but if I didn't see any Stilts, I would have considered the trip to Bombay Hook a disappointment. Luckily, we saw many Black Necked Stilts and as I mentioned above, they were in places we could get out of the car. 

   We did the wildlife drive four times taking about an hour each time. It was only 12:30 pm when we decided to head home which put us in Connecticut suburbs of NYC at 5 pm, not our smartest decision. While at Bombay Hook, we did get to enjoy  some other good birds. As I said, we saw Skimmers and Royal Terns. We saw many Eastern Kingbirds and an Orchard Oriole. The best way to describe our experience was- I got great looks at Black Necked Stilts and we made the best of the day while being limited by flies. 







Tuesday, June 28, 2022

North Carolina Herps

 

It is pretty obvious that I have been looking for reptiles a lot lately. When I was in North Carolina that was no different. Anytime I stumbled on a reptile or amphibian I took photos of it. If I didn't know what it was, at least I could get a photo and identify it later.  I knew there was a chance to see gators at Alligator River NWR and I'd see many species of turtles there. Other than that, I really didn't know what to expect. 
   
   I was vey happy to find a couple species of lizards and two species of snakes. I saw the Cottonmouths within a couple miles of my campsite in the Hattaras area. I was probably more surprised to see the Rat Snakes at Alligator River. I've been there five days now, and have only seen snakes on one of them.

   All in all, I had a great time chasing herps. I could go on and on about the Cottonmouths I saw, but I already did that. Looking for reptiles and amphibians is just another thing for me to appreciate in nature. 

Missing are photos of Five Lined Skink. I saw two, but they wee too quick for me to get a photo.

 


Yellow Bellied Slider

Melanistic Yellow Bellied Slider 

Four of the eleven Cottonmouths I saw

Cottonmouth at Alligator River


Baby Red Eared Slider

American Toad

Spotted Turtle

Eastern Glass Lizard, a legless lizard
in our campsite one morning

Broad Headed Skink, 
above and a different one below


The first Eastern Rat Snake we saw

...and a second one


Eastern Box Turtle

American Alligator,
Alligator NWR




Full photo of the Box Turtle


A shy Mud Turtle, I waited but it didn't
come out if its shell, so I moved it across the road

These frogs are Squirrel Tree Frogs.
I do not know why one has smooth skin
and others have rougher skin but
they are the same species



This pic and the one below are of Northen
Red-Bellied Cooters. Seen at the 
Yorktown Battlefield