My summer herp blitz continues. This weekend's installment: Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus)!
Finding this ultra-rare (in NY at least) snake involved slogging through mosquito-infested, brush-choked swamp and bog. First, before we even walked out of the parking lot, a nice big Pickeral Frog jumped by. It had nice electric lime green highlights around the dark spots on its back, and ridges down the middle of the back, which I haven't seen before. It posed nicely:
But, on with the rattlesnake!
The sweetest flip:
A large, gravid female Massasauga, very calm, only rattling a little bit and never even thinking about striking:
Kudos to Amanda T., the venomous expert among our group. Without her experience in handling rattlers, it would have been a very different trip (it probably wouldn't have happened at all).
She found the girl, and gently hooked her while our scattered group converged at her point in the swamp (gathering the troops when you can't see in any direction is a more difficult task than you might think!).
The eastern massauga has a black belly (western has white w/ dark markings):
We let her go after everyone had soaked in a good look. She didn't move far, and hid. She's still probably under the same coverboard.
We were ecstatic. Amanda was downright giddy (and still is today). I was absolutely stoked:
The others decided that this was the Holy Grail of NY herps. I disagreed, holding out for the Long-tailed Salamander from a few weeks ago, or at least a Hellbender. We settled on Champie.
On the way out of the swamp, we passed the edge of the field that was swarming with hundreds, if not thousands of skippers. They scattered before us in clouds. I failed to capture a decent shot to show you the numbers, but here's a few perched (Amy, what kind of milkweed?):
Group shot, and bog feet (my own socks were solid muck - i fell in up to my thighs twice):
Things unraveled from there. Jim didn't look while backing out of the parking lot. The result:
Notice, the rear wheel is in the air, the back bumper is supported on the far side of the ditch.
This incident, and lunch, and rattler euphoria (Amanda, during lunch: "Smell my hands... rattlesnake musk. I'm not washing that off!") killed our motivation. We did check one more spot, hoping maybe for Ribbon Snakes or Spotted Turtles (no luck on either). We did see a few more cool observations:
Cliff Swallows gathering mud:
A large Snapping Turtle, basking four feet up in a tree:
I missed the picture of him plunging off the branch, with a complete lack of grace.
My tally of herp species for the year in NY is at 35 (out of 68, not counting sea turtles). What will I go for next? I don't know, but it's going to be good.