Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Quick Spring Summary

Hello, everyone! It's been quite an absence since my last blog entry. It's been another odd spring here in Michigan, while it came a month early in 2012, the spring has arrived about a month late in 2013. Things have been out, but not in big numbers like I've seen in years past. Near the end of April, I jaunted down to the southwest corner of the state to explore some new areas. I pit stopped at an area along the way to take a quick look for a few species. It didn't take long, as I found this pretty girl out and about.

Spotted Turtle - Clemmys guttata

Female spotted turtles feature a bright orange chin which makes them easily distinguishable from males. This turtle was cooperative enough to let me shoot a few quick photos. A few more turtles were seen moving about the wetland during my short visit, but I also managed to stumble across a few snakes.

Blue Racer - Coluber constrictor foxii

Blue racers are always a treat. This large individual was found basking in the open, and after a quick chase I was able to apprehend it for a few quick photos. Temperatures continued to climb into the low 70s, perfect weather for massasaugas to be out. For whatever reason none made an appearance on this day, much to my chagrin. A good friend of mine was out on the east side of the state on this day and had temperatures that were considerably cooler, and he saw three massasaugas out basking. Needless to say, I was a little bit frustrated. My field time was limited in the following weeks, but I did manage to get out on a cool weekend afternoon. While walking along a river corridor towards a tin site, I stumbled onto this large male wood turtle.

Wood Turtle - Glyptemys insculpta

After snapping photos, I continued upriver to a small clearing I've been to many times to flip some tin. The habitat in this area looks promising for hogs and green snakes, though neither have shown up as of yet. But I did manage to flip this large milk snake under a sheet of tin, a large female I've seen before.

 Eastern Milk Snake - Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum

A week or so later I went out with a CMU graduate student who's doing research on blue racers to a spot not too far from campus to hopefully take some blood samples for genetic analysis. Temperatures were scorching for this time of the year and we arrived at high noon. Luckily, I was able to spot this adult taking shelter in the shade of a briar patch.

Blue Racer - Coluber constrictor foxii

Racers from this population seem to be more blue than any others I've seen in the state and feature a jet black head, truly gorgeous. We ended up seeing a grand total of three, not too bad considering the temperatures were in the mid 80s. A few weeks later, Tim Warfel and Mike Pingleton came up for a short weekend trip to see a few different species. Michigan weather can be described as temperamental at this time of the year, and despite warm temperatures earlier in the week, the Saturday forecast was for partly cloudy skies and temps only reaching the high 50s. When we met early in the morning, it was overcast and in the high 40s. We made a jaunt to an open meadow and managed to score a blue racer basking in the cool weather. After getting on the board, we headed over to another location and quickly scored a Butler's Garter Snake (Thamnophis butleri). As we were photographing the snake, the clouds parted and the temps quickly rose into the low 60s. We quickly moved to this fantastic prairie fen.

We spread out and walked carefully through the fen, checking around the edges of small shrubs, sedge tussocks, and tamarack trees. After a few minutes, Chris called out that he had found the snake we were looking for, a snake that Tim had traveled 2,600 miles to see.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake - Sistrurus catenatus catenatus 

A healthy adult male, this snake was warmed up and jumpy. We were able to get him to coil for a minute or two to snap some photos and then let him on his way. It was exciting for Tim and Mike to be able to see one of these guys after a long trip, and also for me as this was my first massasauga of the 2013 field season. 

We packed up our gear and moved on. It was the middle of the afternoon and because we had crossed off a massasauga on the list, I asked Tim and Mike what else they would like to look for since we had the afternoon to kill. They asked how likely it would be to find an Eastern Fox Snake (Pantherophis gloydi) at this time of the year. I told them that it was hit and miss, but we would have a chance if we decided to go for it. We jumped in the car and booked it down to extreme southeast Michigan. After walking some coastal marsh for some time, Chris flipped a large rock which revealed this beauty.

Eastern Fox Snake - Pantherophis gloydi

Mike Pingleton examines his first adult gloydi

Tim enthralled with his first Eastern Fox

We finished a day of cool weather with a rattlesnake, fox snake, butler's garter, and a blue racer. Given the weather conditions, we were all quite satisfied. We closed the evening with a few beers, great food, and a lot of laughs at the Brown Jug in Ann Arbor. I want to thank Tim and Mike for a great time in the field, I hope to see them again this year down in Croatan.

No comments:

Post a Comment