Friday, June 29, 2007

I haven’t posted in too long, entirely out of frustration.

On Thursday at work I was hit by the overwhelming sensation that the best of the herping season was behind me, and I had nothing to look forward to until next spring. I called Scott, didn’t get a hold of him, but when he called me back (as he was driving out for yet another night of road cruising), he assured me that the year still had enough to offer – early morning trips through the summer, evening road cruising (although I don’t quite buy that), and fall herping once the weather cools again and the critters start heading back to hibernate for the winter.

Concerned, Scott asked if it was the trip last weekend to the Pine Barrens that had sucked the wind out of me. He felt the same way.

That should tell you something – that Scott’s faith in the Pine Barrens had been shaken by that trip.

Scott, Chris, and I had dragged ourselves out of bed at an ungodly hour and met up in South Jersey for a great trip. We had spent hours of prime, sunny herping time, as temperatures rose from the high fifties into the high 70s, walking in spread-out herping formation and looking under basically every piece of cover we passed. We covered about four miles in beautiful habitat that way (my back was sore the next day from all the bending over and lifting), and all we found was fence lizards (Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthatus) and Fowler’s toads (Bufo fowleri).

Scott had to head home early, but Chris and I kept on going. We drove around looking through good diamond back terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) nesting habitat and saw just one – flat and dead on the road. We stopped to check out some woods and we were chased back to the car by the deer flies and mosquitoes. When we finally slammed shut the doors and thanked God that the biting hordes were on the other side of the windshield, we discovered the battalions of ticks that were mounting a helter skelter assault up our legs.

The high point of the trip was a walk through some sphagnum moss/grassy marsh. This was the high point for nothing having to do with herps (saw one carpenter frog - Rana virgatipes, a leopard frog - Rana utricularia, and several mystery frogs - Rana ?); it was the blueberries. The high bush blueberries were ripe, and we made like black bears, stripping every bush we passed. I estimated my consumption by the end at fifteen to twenty very large handfuls of blueberries, all of them delicious.

Fruit aside, I got home and felt weighed down by the futility of it all.

Jen and I did try a quick after-work trip out to FDR Park in South Philly. It’s got a series of ponds full of turtles and at least garter snakes and brown snakes (Thamnophis s. sirtalis and Storeria d. dekayi). It’s a nice, well-used if dirty park. I do like to see a park full of families and people playing sports, but the herping areas were a little sketchy.

There was none of the trash we wanted (boards, discarded appliances, roofing tin) and a lot of trash we wanted nothing to do with. I guess most people in the park only head into the weeds to go to the bathroom.

We did see some turtle heads – redbelly turtles (Pseudemys rubriventris) I think – and Jen got a kick out of the ducks and rabbits.