It is a wonderful time of the year to be a herper. The winter frost seems to be staying at bay, the days continue to grow longer and there is a flurry of wildlife activity as certain species attract mates and breed, and others just come up for the first rays of this seasons sunshine.
Late in March, the thaw was slowly progressing. I got out with Cid and had plans to meet a couple of other gentlemen in the field an hour or so away. Cid and I spent most of the morning checking out a powerline cut and a new wetland. The wetland wasn't anything special but we managed to find a pile of boards that I took the time to spread out. I have high hopes for some of the smaller snakes under the boards in a month or two.
We heard plenty of western chorus frogs calling, but my curse continues and we were unable to locate any. The field partners eventually showed up and we spent the rest of the morning breaking the ice hunting for turtles. We were not successful but the first reptile of the year showed up in the form of a yearling eastern gartersnake.
We moved a bit away to another area and layed a few more boards. Another gartersnake was spotted, but I spied a better catch off in the woods. A large car hood was propped up against a couple trees. I moved this a bit out of the woods into a nice clearing and we held a discussion on the finer points of laying car hoods. David suggested I hide it a bit from the nearby trail. I located a likely looking spot that looked great for a snake or two to hang out, and as I moved in to lay the car hood I noticed a coiled up racer basking in the weak sun.
Blue Racer Coluber constrictor foxi
Eastern Gartersnake Thampnophis sirtalis
A nice end to the day.
The next week, I had managed to string together a few days off in a row, and as luck would have it, my days coincided with a string of unseasonably warm weather. I worked all Mon night, picked Cid up at my wife's work downtown that morning and then headed off for the day. The forecast was sunny and high 60s, but my car thermometer was reading 32. Oh joy. We spent the morning breaking the ice off ponds and avoiding the patches of thick frost. Needless to say we had an uneventful, cold and wet morning. We did find a couple nice new sandy fields to check out on a later day, Cid finally started to get a bit more comfortable in the water.
If you are familiar with Cid at all, you will know that he has always been deathly afraid of any water. Flash back to last summer...
Cid is always angry, usually after we toss him in.
Today he continued to get more brave, despite the freezing conditions of the water.
We noticed a nest from last year. Any thoughts on the species?
We moved on to yet another spot that I had scouted on google earth. After walking around a bit I spotted a small pool with a partly submerged log or two. I was sporting my new binocs, and scoped it from afar hoping for a blandings. No dice, but we went down to explore anyway. Soon after, I noticed the small pool was connected to a much larger pond. There were large vegetation mats floating way out in the center, and even with my binocs I could barely make out a turtle shell shine. Getting excited, I tried to convince Cid to stay at my back (which he did) and I moved in along the edge of the pond. Sure enough, we hit paydirt. I ended up loosing track of the number of blandings we saw, but I have pictures of 12 of them, and we saw a good number more.
Blandings Turtles Emydoidea blandingii
By this time, the temps were actually in the mid60s. I realized now was a pretty good window to get back to the pond from earlier. Cid and I high tailed it back, and I made a call to a buddy who met up with us for the search. Unfortunately, no further turtles were IDd. It was still a great end to the day and left me hopeful for the rest of the week.
Until next time...