Thursday, October 25, 2007

Here’s a quick post to remind everyone to keep heading out there even if it’s starting (finally) to get chilly.

On Saturday (10/20/07) afternoon with sun and temps in the high 60s, Jen and I decided to explore another section of FDR Park in South Philly. It’s an ugly, scruffy strip of woods and railroad tracks, with trash, boards, and stagnant puddles that stank, some like urine, some like something had died and been stewing in them a while. I don’t think this will be a routine stop for me, but it’s probably worth checking out a couple times a season. We found this baby garter snake (Thamnophis s. sirtalis) under some roofing tin.

We spotted a mystery turtle basking at the edge of one of the ponds (note all the algae on the pond) and a bunch of mystery frogs (Rana species) hopping in around us. I’d like to think the turtle was a redbelly (Pseudemys rubriventris), but it was just as likely an exotic, invasive red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans).

Then on Sunday I did some volunteering up in the Wissahickon. I don’t want to come off as self righteous about this, but I’d like to encourage everyone to do something to support the public lands you use for herping. I used to be a more regular park volunteer, but I still try to get out a few times a year to plant trees, pick up trash, maintain trails, and hack at the exotic invasive plants in Cobbs Creek and the Wissahickon Valley. There’s almost surely a volunteer group for the parks where you are, and I bet that they do a lot to keep your parks pleasant places to look for critters, just as here in Philadelphia.

Anyhow, after a few hours of hard labor, I spent a couple hours seeking after the ever-elusive eastern milksnakes (Lampropeltis t. triangulum) of the Wissahickon. I know they’re back there and some day I’ll find them, but Sunday (67 and sunny) was not the day.

I did find salamanders on a little side trip – a few redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) and then a little surprise. I looked under a board near an old springhouse and turned up a couple longtailed salamanders (Eurycea longicaudata). These were youngsters.

They aren’t exactly rare, but they’re not the most common of our salamanders – their cousins the two-lined salamanders (Eurycea bislineata) are what you find a lot more often, so the longtails are always a little special for me.