Wednesday, January 31, 2007

One of the reasons I like my job is the traveling. I don’t travel more than a couple times a month – any more than that I think I’d get sick of, but I do get to see a lot of the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. My more cynical friends would say I don’t like the traveling; I like the opportunistic herping. I can’t say that I don’t, but I also enjoy driving out in the hills. Take I-80, for example, especially just west of the middle of the state where the mountains to either side give the impression of a green, leafy ocean thrown up all around you in great waves of forest.

A little ways past that point I got off 80 and headed north into Elk County. As the name implies, they used to have elk. They were hunted to local extinction, but in the early 1900s they were reintroduced. There are now elk herds in Elk County, McKean County to the north, and Cameron County to the east, and maybe in other neighboring counties, for all I know.

I didn’t see any elk on my late-May, 2006 trip to Elk, Cameron, and McKean counties, but I did see evidence of them – in the mud impressions of hooves that were definitely bigger than those of the deer I’m used to seeing everywhere.

On May 30th I did see another mammal for the first time – a porcupine. I saw others on the trip, all DOR (I guess they’re about as good at crossing roads as possums), but this one was alive. I was walking on a trail in Allegheny National forest, trying to resist the temptation to go so deep into the woods that nightfall would catch me there – I did have to work, of course, and I was catching my herping/hiking time late in the afternoon (doesn’t it seem amazing how late the sun stayed up in May, now that we’re mired in the middle of winter?). I heard a noise off in the trees to one side, and instead of a squirrel I saw this guy:

Isn't it adorable? It looked like it was having trouble getting up the tree, and I wanted to reach in and either help it up or let it down, but, of course, it was a porcupine.

I saw some herps too. Here’s a garter snake (Thamnophis s. sirtalis) I found under a rock.

A ringneck (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii) snake got away from me before I could take a photo of it, as did a wood frog (Rana sylvatica). The redback salamander (Plethodon cinereus) would have posed for a picture, but sometimes I just don’t feel like getting the camera out for another redback.

The most beautiful part of the hike was around this lake. I didn’t see anything really crazy up there – a bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), a newt (Nopthalmus v. viridescens), and some tadpoles.

The picture of this lake, though, was what got me thinking about the landscapes I get to drive across for work and hike across if I’m lucky enough to have a little time left over.

From around 5pm to 7pm the temperatures were in the low 80s, the sky partly cloudy, and the air was humid.


1 wood frog

1 garter snake

1 ringneck snake

1 redback salamander

1 bullfrog

1 red spotted newt

100+ mystery tadpoles

15+ calling green frogs (Rana clamitans melanota)