Julie and I booked a trip to the Poconos for the weekend of October 9-11th. We realized we never got away with just each other after splitting up some Summer vacations with the kids this year. This was our only chance to get away between now and the end of the year, so we decided on enjoying some fall foliage up North.
I promised I wouldn't spend all weekend herping, but she's well aware that its just part of life. The weather could not have been better. A warm snap had Sunday pushing 70 with bright sun all day! We wanted to go on a hike and enjoy the weather and scenery. She agreed to my strategy of hiking an area I've wanted to scout for Timber Rattlesnakes for a while now. The hike was fruitless herp-wise, but immensely enjoyable otherwise. Mark my words - this spot will produce Timbers for me in the season of 2016. I'll be sure to reference this blog entry. :)
We spent our last day enjoying a meal out and some outlet shopping... well she enjoyed it, anyway - I just try to compromise. With only a few hours left of sunlight, we decided to try flipping some fossorial snakes. The Poconos have no shortage of flipping opportunities. With the constant sun, I wondered if the snakes would be warming themselves underneath them, this late in the season.
On our way, we cruised an unfortunate DOR (dead on road)... a Ruffed Grouse, Pennsylvania's state bird. I've only seen a handful of these ever. This was disappointing, but good data for ebird, I reasoned.
We arrived at our destination and I began flipping frantically. In my head, I set a realistic goal of 3-5 snakes. The first rock I flipped produced a red-bellied and I thought... oh shit, maybe this will be good!
Then I probably flipped a few dozen rocks with absolutely no snakes to show for it. I reassessed my original positive outlook. Plenty of times, I've gotten lucky right off the bat, only to strike out the rest of the day. Would this be one of those instances? Probably - it is October at 1700+ feet in elevation, after all. ...the newts didn't mind though. Plenty of them in the nearby puddles floated lazily about.
The chipmunks were ever-present all weekend. No matter where we went, if there were trees, they were there making noise.
Then after 15 minutes of zero snakes, the dam broke. It seemed every other rock had a snake under it... some had multiples. I was being picky with my flips as I was short on time. I ended up with 24 snakes in all! ...22 of them, red-bellieds. The other two were tiny Smooth Greensnakes! The fascinating thing was I didn't flip a single garter or ringneck. I don't know what that means, if it means anything. It was just interesting. I wonder if I had focused on every rock, just how many snakes I would have found. Regardless, I would have been happy with three. I did not take the afternoon for granted and enjoyed one last hurrah before the snakes go to bed for the season. Here's some other photos:
...step into the outdoors.