Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

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Nick Scobel
Posts: 232
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 8:35 pm
Location: Southeast Michigan
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Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Nick Scobel »

Another year in the field has come and gone. The impending doom of winter is right on the doorstep here in Michigan, so I'd like to take a look back at the year that was. As usual, I was able to travel a fair bit in the eastern U.S. and hope I can make some trips westward next year. My 2013 field season started a little earlier than expected this year. In the heart of winter, we had an usual stretch of warm weather and rain. On January 12, a friend and I headed out to a spot to see if we could score a herp of any kind, we weren't disappointed.

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Redback Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Garter Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

Later on, I took a trip in March with a trip to Florida with a good friend of mine. The weather was cooler than average, but we still managed to find some decent stuff during our time down.

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American Alligators by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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American Alligator by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Florida Redbelly Turtle & Peninsula Cooter by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Hentz Striped Scorpion by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Southeastern Five-lined Skink by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Garter Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Yellow Rat Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Florida Cottonmouth by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Florida Kingsnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Me with King 005 by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Crocodylus acutus 002 by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

After returning home to Michigan, it wasn't until a few weeks later than the first warm spring rains arrived. Spring is probably the best time to herp in the midwest, as many of our salamanders and other amphibians emerge. Driving roads in the rain and shining vernal pools can be extremely productive.

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Eastern Tiger Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Tiger Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Tiger Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Joe with Spotted Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Smallmouth Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Blue-spotted Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Unisexual Ambystoma by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

Although our amphibians came out in early April, the warm temperatures didn't start to arrive until the end of April. Jason Folt and I ended up getting out on a cool, sunny day towards the end of the month and took a trip down to some private property I've herped before. The property owners had mentioned to me that they had been seeing some turtles in a small ephemeral creek and described them as black with yellow spots. Needless to say, Jason and I were intrigued to check things out. We arrived to this area in the late morning, and within a few minutes we hit paydirt.

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Ephemeral Wetland 001 by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Jason & I with Clemmys by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

In the following week or two, the weather continued to warm up and all kinds of critters began to show up. Though massasaugas were surprsiing elusive, which was a little confusing.

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Northern Ribbon Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Blue Racer by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Blue Racer by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Milk Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Wood Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

At the beginning of May, I made a short jaunt to South Carolina for a family trip. Though I wasn't able to get out too much, I did manage to find a few things, including my lifer Masticophis.

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American Alligator by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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American Alligator by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Double-crested Cormorant by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Anhinga by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Great Egret by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Yellow-bellied Slider by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Coastal Dune & Swale by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Coachwhip by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Coachwhip by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

Soon after returning to the big mitten, Mike Pingleton and Tim Warfel swung into town in hopes of seeing a swamp rattler. I had come up empty handed so far in the spring, but our hopes were high. We set out into a high quality fen under sunny skies and managed to turn up a healthy gravid female.

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Prairie Fen by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

The guys asked what the chances of seeing a fox snake were, I told them it was hit and miss. An incoming weather system didn't look good, but we decided to give it a shot as temperatures began to dip into the low 50s. We flipped a bunch of rocks and ended up scoring this gorgeous fox snake, my only one seen the entire field season.

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Eastern Fox Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Fox Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Mike with Fox by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Tim with Fox by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

We ended up rounding out the day with a blue racer and a butler's garter snake, the guys were thrilled. We celebrated the day with some good beer, food, and a lot of laughs. We finally started to get some warmer weather in mid May and one a particularly hot day, I returned to some private property in hopes of turning up some Heterodon, I wasn't disappointed. A couple of Clemmys were found on site as well.

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Handful of Heterodon by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Hognose Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Hognose Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Ephmeral Wetland by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Turtles by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

Here's a few other random finds from the latter half of May.

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Red-winged Blackbird by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Warbling Vireo by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Wild Turkeys by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Success! by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Blue Racer by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

And that set the stage for the single greatest span of herping I've ever had in Michigan. I was able to take a trip to northern Michigan over Memorial Day weekend with my good friends, Chris and Matt Boguslawski. The guys have a cabin up in the Manistee National Forest, probably the most beautiful natural area in Michigan's lower peninsula. This huge expanse of forest is also home to some of the state's more elusive herpetofauna. We managed to hit every target species we had over the course of three days and managed to see a few species that none of us had seen for several years.

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Manistee National Forest by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Milk Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Hognose Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Queen Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Water Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Box Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Box Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Michigan Bog by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Smooth Green Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Smooth Green Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Five-lined Skink by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Conifer Swamp by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Ribbon Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Scottville Clown Band by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

I flew out east to catch up with some colleagues I had worked with the previous two summers on some turtle conservation projects. On Friday and Monday, heavy rain made it nearly impossible to catch up with the turtles, so my field time was limited to the weekend.

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Abandoned Cranberry Bog by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Redbelly Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Black Racer by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Coastal Plains Milk Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Hognose Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Corn Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Timber Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Timber Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Pine Barrens Treefrog by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Pine Barrens Treefrog by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

Upon returning home to Michigan, I had a little bit of field time before taking another trip with my family. On a warm day in mid June, a friend and I headed up to pretty unique place which is home to three disjunct populations of herps which are found nowhere else in Michigan. And for the first time, I was able to observe all three species in a visit.

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Hemlock Forest Stream by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Southern Two-lined Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Dusky Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Prairie Racerunner by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Prairie Racerunner. by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Prairie Racerunner by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

In the first week of July, I took a trip with my family to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The UP is much different than the lower peninsula and is much more scenic. During the course of the week, we spent our time at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and in the Hiawatha National Forest. Some of the hikes and views within the national lakeshore are absolutely spectacular.

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Miner's Castle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Indian Head by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Sandstone Cliffs by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Miners Falls by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Sable Falls 001 by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

Wildlife was in no short supply, though the herps were a little scarce despite seeing some great habitat. The highlight of the trip in the wildlife column was seeing a wolf run across a state highway just around dusk. Seeing a wolf in the wild was a dream I've had since I was a young lad.

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Snapping Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Western Painted Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Western Painted Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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American Black Bear by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Polyphemus Moth by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Common Loon by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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American Bittern by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

One of the goals I had for our trip was to get my first wood turtle from the U.P. Though I've seen woodies on quite a few of the rivers in the northern lower peninsula, getting one from the U.P. would be unique. My sister joined me for a day on a river system in the western end of the U.P. in hopes of seeing one, the weather was perfect and the habitat was beautiful.

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Kayaking for Wood Turtles by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Kayaking for Wood Turtles by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

The only real river dwelling species in this part of the U.P. are woodies, so if you see a turtle its most likely that its going to be one. We paddled for a good hour or so with little success, but we did manage to get up close to this group of Common Mergansers.

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Common Mergansers by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Common Mergansers by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

We continued on and fought off continues hoards of biting flies. Finally as we came around in a bend in the river, I noticed a turtle basking on an exposed bank. We had our wood turtle!

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Wood Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Wood Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

We ended up closing our trip to the Yoop with a day long hike in the Porcupine Mountains and then a day at Tahquamenon. Both are beautiful places and I highly suggest you stop at them if you ever make it to Michigan's U.P.

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Tahquamenon Falls by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Lake of the Clouds by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

The month of July brought the usual sweltering heat and humidity. This is one of the best times of the year to observe gravid female snakes basking, and this year was no different.

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

Unfortunately the hot humid weather of mid summer also brings out the biting insects, especially deer flies and horseflies.

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Horsefly by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Horsefly by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

Here's a few other random finds from the month of July.

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Eastern Hognose Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Brown Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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American Toad by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Cicada by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

On the last day of the month, Jason Folt and I got out for a paddle on a beautiful river in northern Michigan. As the herping slows down due to the increasingly hot temperatures, spending a day on the river is a relaxing way to find some critters and exchange some laughs. We ended up having a nice say, scoring a few Nerodia and three woodies.

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IMG_1061 by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Water Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Wood Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Wood Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

After our paddle, we searched some of the surrounding state land and came up with the ever uncommon Michigan ringneck snake.

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Northern Ringneck Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

In early August, some friends and I had one of the fascinating encounters that I've ever seen in a field. We were walking some trails at a well known location for massasaugas and noticed a meadow vole on the side of the trail which appeared to be in the last fleeting moments of its life. It was barely moving, we were baffled as to why a vole would be out in the open on a mowed trail. We got to thinking and wondered if a rattlesnake had tagged it. We decided to leave the area and come back a bit later. After about a half hour, we came back to the same spot and saw this taking place.

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

This was a pretty astounding thing to observe in the field. We didn't bother the snake much as it quickly carried the vole off into thicker cover. A few days later I got out again with my Dad, who was itching to see a rattlesnake for the first time in a few years. We decided to head out on a warm evening and found this girl basking from the cover of a large brush pile.

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Dad with Eastern Massasauga by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

The end of July brought extremely hot temps and really slowed down the herps for the dog days of summer. Things didn't pick up again until September when a lot of the snakes got moving again in preparation for the onset of fall. Here's a smattering of herps seen from September through October.

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Wood Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Wood Turtle by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Northern Water Snake by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Blue Racer by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

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Spotted Salamander by Nick Scobel, on Flickr

2013 was a fantastic year and I look forward to what 2014 holds in store. I'd like to thank everyone I shared time in the field with this year for some great laughs, finds, and memories. See you after winter hibernation!

User avatar
Nshepard
Posts: 377
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 11:08 am

Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Nshepard »

Dang, Nick! Those are some great shots. Definitely looks like it was a fulfilling year for ya.

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PrimitiveTim
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by PrimitiveTim »

Wow, a lot of cool stuff and some great pictures! I hate how you northern herpers come down to Florida and find stuff that I've never seen before. That yellow rat is crazy looking! It seems like you didn't do anything but herp all year.

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Josh Holbrook
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Josh Holbrook »

How do you know a northern post is top notch? It makes the people in Florida drool. . . :beer:

Great post and finds Nick.

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azatrox
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by azatrox »

Awesome post Nick!

Loved it all, but the Sistrurus feeding pics were particularly fascinating...

-Kris

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Cole Grover
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Cole Grover »

Ho-lee shit. Phenomenal post, Nick. Seriously top-notch stuff. I would now like to come to MI, thank you very much.

-Cole

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SnakeStick
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by SnakeStick »

Wow. What a great post, Nick! Excellent photos!

Barry R
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Barry R »

awesome post!

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Berkeley Boone
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Berkeley Boone »

I had to go back a couple of times to look at this post again and again before I could comment. That. Was. Incredible. Those spotted turtles were insane looking! And the loon and the mergansers were really neat. What was the deal with the pinkish toad?
--Berkeley

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MarcLinsalata
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by MarcLinsalata »

Good stuff, Nick. I loved that Florida king - it looked massive and that funky looking American toad. And I of course loved your NJ finds - you make it look easy out there.

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Nick Scobel
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Nick Scobel »

Berkeley Boone wrote:I had to go back a couple of times to look at this post again and again before I could comment. That. Was. Incredible. Those spotted turtles were insane looking! And the loon and the mergansers were really neat. What was the deal with the pinkish toad?
--Berkeley
Thanks Berkeley. The toad was a little oddball. Most of it was that pale, pinkish color, but it did have small patches of normal coloration for a B. americanus on its right forelimb and on the right side of its head. I have no idea what kind of abnormality that would qualify as.

Thanks to everyone else for the kind words, it was a great year.

Zach_Lim
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Zach_Lim »

Beautiful finds, all of them.

What suprised me the most was the shot of the black racer under the board- I had NO IDEA that they got that big!
Our Western Yellow Bellied Racers here (Coluber c. mormon) are mere ringnecks compared to that brute!

jspreitzer
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Joined: July 31st, 2013, 7:39 am
Location: North Jersey

Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by jspreitzer »

WOW. So much great stuff. Wonderful subjects all around and top-notch photography!

Sooooo envious of all those wood turtles!!

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Nick Scobel
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Nick Scobel »

Zach_Lim wrote:Beautiful finds, all of them.

What suprised me the most was the shot of the black racer under the board- I had NO IDEA that they got that big!
Our Western Yellow Bellied Racers here (Coluber c. mormon) are mere ringnecks compared to that brute!
Our blue racers get pretty large, that individual was probably about about four feet in length. I've seen some adults around six feet in length. They seem to get fairly heavy bodied as well.

dthor68
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by dthor68 »

Hey Nick,

Back in late June my family and I took a trip up to Michigan/Minnesota. My sister and her family live in Gaylord, her husband works on the Army base. I had hoped to find some Massasauga's on the base. While doing research it seemed like whenever I typed in Massasauga/Michigan I got something with your name on it. I must say that you have done a great job with the Massasauga's in Michigan. I really enjoyed reading your blog and seeing the great photography. The only herp I found that week was a grey treefrog on a piece of driftwood at Whitefish Point. I was really impressed with Michigan and even more with Minnesota. There were so many photo ops that I never found a spare minute to look for herps. The waterfalls, Great lakes, Hiawatha NF, Pictured Rocks, Lighthouses, Minnesota's Lakeshore Route, 10 days was not enough time. I am really looking forward to going back, I have a feeling that I wont find any time to field herp the next time either. Next time I will be more prepared for Lake Superior Mosquitos!

Derek

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Berkeley Boone
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Berkeley Boone »

Nick Scobel wrote:The toad was a little oddball. Most of it was that pale, pinkish color, but it did have small patches of normal coloration for a B. americanus on its right forelimb and on the right side of its head. I have no idea what kind of abnormality that would qualify as.
Interesting....thanks for the info! That's pretty wild. I have no idea either on what it would be classified.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!
--Berkeley

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Nigel Smith
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Nigel Smith »

Absolutely stunning post Nick. :shock: I love the lighting in your photos. It makes it seem like I could reach out and touch the animals. I appreciated the habitat shots as well.

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Zach Cava
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Re: Spring Emergence to Fall Ingress 2013

Post by Zach Cava »

Great photos, thank you for sharing!

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