Saturday, June 8, 2013

Georgian Bay: Part 2

To continue from Part 1!


Hognose Snake "Cobra style"
The first spotting of this day was an absolutely beautiful Hognose snake.  He was just all coiled up in between rocks, I was surprised that we actually ended up finding it!  This Hognose was my favourite of the weekend because unlike the other ones we've seen, this one played cobra!

Played cobra:  Hognose snakes, when they feel threatened they flatten their head area to look like a cobra as a defence mechanism.  Many people kill these snakes as the "cobra" looks make them look like a venomous snake, even tho they (and most venomous snakes unless you harass the heck out of them) are completely harmless.  After they play "cobra" hognoses also have another defence tactic which is to play dead.   BUT.  Whenever you find a hognose (or any snake for that matter)  please do not harass it and especially do not kill it.  Just let it be.

Ringneck snake
Right around the corner from this guy, was a ringneck snake.  I've been wanting to see this one the entire weekend so far.  The previous day we had tried to spot one, but just before we managed to get hold of it, it slid between the rocks and out of sight, so I was needless to say incredibly excited to have another chance.  What a beautiful creature.  Now, although most people think I'm insane, I find snakes absolutely fascinating and beautiful beings.  This one, is at the top of my list for beauty.  The dark upper scales and the bright orange underpart, the cream ring around it's neck.  How can anyone say that this isn't gorgeous.  
Eastern Milksnake
This day we decided to walk back out to Turtle Bay.  On the way there we spotted another Massassauga Rattlesnake.  I have no idea how Jeff managed to spot this one, to me it looked like just any old pile of leaves around a low laying pine.  It is kind of scary to think that a venomous snake could be literally right under your nose as you are hiking, but the truth will probably stay there and  just hide or quietly slither away.  At most it will shake it's rattle almost as if to say "Hey! I'm over here, so please don't come near me."  Mike unfortunately had to leave the island early to he turned back from out hike here, but of course soon after we came across another one of my favourites, a Red Milksnake!  The first time I saw one of these it was in Illinois on Snake Road, although I believe it's not the "same" as the one that is found here.  I'd have to get the DNA talk again to explain that one though.  This little one was under a rock, which made me very, very conscious of where I was stepping from there on in!

Back out on Turtle Bay the first thing I noticed was a lone Trumpeter Swan sitting out on the Bay!  It was a lifer for me and also the 3rd swan species I've seen this year (well..there are only 3 in Canada). So I was really excited. I snapped a few photos and now and trying to figure out the tag number in order to report it...we will see how that goes with my horribly pixel zoom!  I continued to walk around the rocks and watch the Osprey circle making alarm calls that we were below.  On our walk back to camp we found another little exciting guy.  A Four-toed Salamander! 

4-toed Salamander
Trumpeter Swan out on the rocks
Juvenile Fox Snake 

We continued out around the rocks by our campsite and managed to find a few more little wonders!  The first came as a baby Fox Snake!!  Now, I'm used to fox snakes being a) large and b) bred in captivity for educational use.  So this was the very first one I've ever seen in the wild.  It was SO CUTE.  This just happened to be found in the same spot we've seen the Hognose, Massassauga, a ringnecked.  This must really have been a hangout for every snake species!  

Shy Stinkpot

 We kept wandering and found a few more frogs (same as we had been all day at this point, unfortunately, I kinda just ignored them).  The group decided that we wanted to find ourselves a stinkpot.  So mucking into an area we deemed perfect for these turtles, a few people in the group stuck hands into the lake floor and searched.  Eventually, we came up with this little guy on the left!  Although their heads are really hilarious to see, I couldn't help but use this photo.  I think it got tired of the paparazzi!   The sun soon began to set, and we gathered around the campfire for food and some good laughs.   My highlights on this day were, of course, the trumpeter swan, as well as finally seeing the Eastern Pheobe that I've been hearing the past few days along with a Merlin!!  All three being lifers.

Later this night Heather, Pauline and I (along with another who I embarrassingly have to admit I completely forget his name...I really need to get better at names..)  decided that we wanted to go and do some night herping as well as owl calling.  Unfortunately the barred owl didn't call back to us, but we found some amazing little night talkers!  We saw 2 wood frogs, leopard frogs, red-backed salamander, 4-toed salamander, led-backed salamander (a darker morph of the red-backed), water snake, and after about an hour of searching, a spring peeper.  Originally when we started looking for peepers I didn't realize how truly tiny they are!  We searched high and low, many points it sounded as if they could be right on the tip of our finger, but we just couldn't spot them.  Eventually, ONE made itself clear to us.  Using my flash, I managed to get one of my favourite photos yet.  Not bad for a point and shoot canon!

Spring Peeper
I actually even took a video of all the sounds!  I have no idea how to yet link youtube videos to this...maybe one day I'll figure it out. Until then..heres a link!


A few of us woke up early today (about 6:15) to head off on an early birding adventure.  Since it's a herping trip we wanted to scout out some early birds without getting chirped on (ha!).  There was a whirlwind of sounds in the morning. I took and uploaded a video of all the sounds!  Again, it's a link because I am 23 and have no idea how to use technology.

Great Crested Flycatcher silhouette
 I was able to see quite a few birds, even ones that were lifers for me!!  The first bird of the morning to see was a palm warbler!  There were of course MANY black-throated blue and black-throated green warblers calling from all around.  Black-throated blues are my favourites of the two, their colouration is just so beautiful and unique.  We saw 2 blackburnian warblers gathering nest material (which is so excited as it's an elevated breeding potential!!).  Four great-blue herons flew over us while we were on a boardwalk, and then we heard one sound that we decided to follow and try to find.  A Great Creasted Flycatcher!  We followed it for a little while and then finally saw it sitting up on the top of a pine.

Our first snake spotting of the day was another Massassauga, we saw quite a few of them today out by the rocks!  We had decided to walk along the shore before going back inside to look, potentially, for some spotted salamanders and turtles (neither of which we found unfortunately). My one favourite sighting of the day was the spotting of the cutest thing ever (I know..I say that about everything..).  But really!  It was snapping turtle only born the previous year.  I've seen a lot of snappers, but all have been fairly large and old.  It was so great to see some of a younger age and smaller, to know that there is indeed another generation of them surviving.

Snapping Turtle!
Walking around we saw a few Spotted Gar spawning in a little inlet of the bay and in the distance we heard the most strange bird call.  Later I found out that it was a Prairie Warbler!  We continued then to walk a little more inland in the hopes of finding two more herps we've all been dying to see.  After quite a bit of searching...we didn't find either of our spotted friends.

Ribbon snake
But we did find a wonderful Eastern Ribbon Snake!  These guys look almost exactly like a Garter snake that everyone sees...well almost EVERYWHERE.  I've probably seen a Ribbon before but had no idea what it was, or just assumed that it was a garter.  Looking closely at its face, you can see a little crescent
 moon shape that is just around the eye.

Walking back to the camp afterwards, we saw a few more herps that we had previously seen on the weekend.  Dekay's Brown snake, Massassauga, wood frog, and red-backed salamanders.   There were so many mosquitos out this weekend, that to be honest all I could think about at this point was jumping into the ice cold water where they couldn't get to me!  Which I did!  And for anyone who knows me, knows that I a) hate swimming, and b) am not a fan of being in water this is less than a hottub.  So!  I was desperate...and possibly even converting.  BUT!  While I was in there, a little water snake decided to go for a swim with me!  I remember as a child being so scared to swim at my cottage because I was frightened of a snake in water, and this time instead yelling out a "HEY LITTLE BUDDY!"  Well, I noticed a change in myself. A change that I hope a lot of other people also are able to make. Realizing that these wont hurt you, well unless you try and hurt it!  Which, hey, I can't say I wouldn't do the same.
Attempt to photograph a Prairie Warbler

As it was just about time to head off the Island, I heard the Prairie Warbler one more time.  And it was close!  So I set off trying to find it somewhere within our campsite and I did!  Unfortunately I did not get a great photo of it.  But I tried at least!  This is one bird, with an amazing sound!  For anyone reading this...I suggest you head over to All About Birds website and listen to it!

And with that!  We packed up and had another amazing weekend behind us.  I absolutely am so happy that I met these wonderful people and have been able to go on now two amazing adventures.  They have all shared their stories, passions, and advice to me. I never knew you can learn so much in such a short period of time.  I cannot wait to hang out with you all again and be on our nest adventure!!

Until then,   Happy Herping (and birding!!)

One of the groups heading off the Island!