Sunday, September 02, 2007

The places most people usually think of when they think about herping are wild, quiet landscapes. There are no crowds of people, and there are no blasting stereos. Even the urban spots I visit are the small patches of secluded wild in the city – the vacant lots off quiet side streets, the cemeteries, and the creeks everyone drives over without looking down. Every now and then, however, the herping isn’t so quiet and secluded.

Last Sunday (8/26/07) Jen and I headed out for a quick local herping trip. I wanted to eat first. Jen pointed out how late it was, but I was hungry and overoptimistic about how quickly I could eat dinner. So, we were a little pressed for sunlight by the time we got to my favorite post-industrial fields in the Parkside area of West Philly.

As usual we headed out Parkside from Belmont, but the usually quiet stretch of street was crowded with people, cars, and motorcycles and loud with the roars and rumbles of the souped-up mufflers of pimped-out rides. At first we were intimidated, but we noticed the police were there too and figured if anyone was going to pull a gun, they weren’t going to do it a few yards from any of the two cruisers and one paddy wagon spaced out along the strip.

We turned off of Parkside and made our way into my local brown snake (Storeria d. dekayi) fields. I had hoped to see some of the year’s new babies, but not much was going on under the boards and other trash.

I found one snake, this yearling, before we called it quits.

I was thinking we’d weave through the car show out on Parkside and head home, but Jen pointed to one of the ponds inside the park on the other side of Parkside and asked why we’d never been over there. I once saw a bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) in a neighboring pond, but I’ve always written them off as not very interesting.

We had nowhere else to go, however, and although the sun was setting, we could still see. We parked, this time a block away from and with a good view of all the bikes and cars. We followed the edge of the pond, and sure enough we heard a few splashes with accompanying “meep” calls from bullfrogs.

To the other side we spotted feet sticking out of the open door of a car parked in the grass just off the street. Huh? We kept glancing as we walked by. The sneaker soles were pointing down, and then they moved. Both of us figured out that there was someone else underneath the sneakers’ owner, and we did our best not to look anymore.

The light was getting lower, so there wasn’t a lot we could see to the other side in the pond. We called it a night and quietly, cautiously made our way back to our car and home.

Totals (high humidity and temperatures in the mid 70s):

1 brown snake

5+ bullfrogs

One last thing – Eitan emailed me a beautiful photo of the wood frog he and Scott found on our outing on August 11th. These can be pretty frogs, and there’s something cute about the masks on their little faces.