On Sunday Jen was itching to get out and walk around. It was another beautiful day (highs in the mid 70s and sunny), but we were planning on dinner with the family so we didn’t go far in the afternoon. We headed to the western edge of West Philly, starting not too far off
We spent a few minutes poking around and flipping logs and trash. I had noted some likely boards a few chilly months ago, but they didn’t produce much besides worms and ants. Jen spotted another dumped pile of boards, and I waded into the grass to flip the biggest one.
It produced this big female garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). At first she flattened out impressively, doing her best to look like a pit viper, but then she calmed down so we could see she was still a really hefty, solid snake.
We found what could have been her sister up in the
was a little smaller, but also a really healthy, thick snake that was fun to handle, even though she musked and pooped all over me. I’ll note she’s the first garter snake I’ve found in that cemetery – something that’s often struck me as a little strange. It’s nice to have the urban herpetefaunal cast back in balance again.
The regulars were there too. We dug through one of our favorite piles of trash there and came up with a few redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) and this cute little brown snake (Storeria dekayi) that must be a baby from last year – proof that the snakes have made their way from the hibernacula into the rest of the cemetery. In a few more weeks I hope to start turning up lots of gravid females.
Our last stop was closer to the
On Monday I managed to get Simon (sucker!) to come looking for milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) with me in the Wissahickon section of
We didn’t find any milk snakes, but we turned up the obligatory redback salamanders (about four), and had our best luck in a wet field off
Simon turned up this cute American toad (Bufo americanus) that chirped to let it down and then peed on him.
I turned up two kinds of very squirmy salamanders under one rock: two-lined (on the left, Eurycea bislineata) and long-tailed (on the right, Eurycea longicaudata). Now at first I thought I was finding two-lines at that spot, and then last fall I found some long-tails and figured I must have been finding them the whole time and had just not been looking closely enough (Two-lines are really common and scatter fast once uncovered, so sometimes I don’t bother to chase them down. They can look a lot like young long-tails, as the photo shows). Now I know I was finding both. The next challenge will be to uncover an adult longtail. These are about twice as long as the one on Simon's finger and really colorful, impressive salamanders. They can't be too far, but they might be hanging out under cover too big for me to lift.
Last we found a ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus) I found about a month ago. I said to Simon, “there was a ringneck snake under this piece of concrete,” and when I picked up the concrete, there it was. Here's a pic from last month.
We wrapped up our trip doing something I should have done a while ago, asking people about milk snakes. If you want to know if a species is present in an area, asking people who live or work there is a good way to start. I’ve always been shy about knocking on doors and asking what snakes people see in their back yards, but I need to get in the habit. This time we asked some
I might look around a little more, maybe around the