Today I went on a hike with my friend Christian to one of my snake spots where I saw the Milksnakes. While I did not find any milksnakes under my boards I did find a garter snake under them. We found a few Red-Backed Salamanders under cover in the wooded area and unfortunately found five deceased snakes all by one another with their heads cut off, likely a sign of human interference. Heading back we saw a pair of deer and managed to flip a rather large Dekay’s Brown Snake.
While in Peterborough for the weekend to move some of my animals i decided to check out a few of my herping spots to see what I can find as there are species there that I have not found in Toronto. The first was my snake spot where I managed to flip an Eastern Garter Snake but noticed some blood on my hands that wasn’t mine so I let him go immediately as I didn’t want to cause any unneeded stress to an injured animal. I then flipped two Eastern Milksnakes, a good sign that the species is breeding in the area, a neonate Garter Snake and as I was about to flip my favourite rock (yes I have a favourite rock) I heard something behind me. I looked to see a White-Tailed Deer had come up to see what I was doing. Such a beautiful and curious animal. It slowly disappeared back into the woods but not before I got some photos. The last snake I flipped was another garter under a rock shaped like the continent of Africa. The rock was rather heavy as I quickly scanned underneath before dropping it. There is rarely snakes under that rock but as the rock was falling I noticed a tiny neonate Garter Snake I had missed. I was so worried I had squished the little bugger but checked and sure enough he was alright. I apologised, got my photos and sent him on his way. I headed next to my Treefrog spot but as I was heading there I heard something in the tree, I looked to see a large porcupine just minding her own business eating leaves. The frog spot was filled with a chorus of calling Grey Treefrogs, I heard some in the trees by the side of the pond so I used a frog call on my phone to see if I can get them to call back. I managed to find one calling only two feet from where I was standing (it’s hard to see through a big net) and got my shots. I checked out the moth spot, an archaeology pot before walking home.
Last Friday I headed to the Toronto Island to see what herptiles I could find. Last year I had found a potential new herping spot filled with large pieces of wood and boards so I wanted to see what was under there. We checked the area first and sadly found the cover had been burned to ashes, I only hope no snakes were hiding underneath. We also
Managed to flip a (sadly) dead Garter Snake under a rock on another part of the island and found a live one crossing a path. Many of the wetlands were filled with Green Frogs which were just beginning to call and American Toads. This was not one of the most prolific herping spots but I put some boards down so hopefully if those don’t become firewood as well I may be able to find some snakes later in the year. The reptiles on the Toronto Islands are isolated both physically and genetically from other populations causing a low genetic diversity, this along with the large amount of free roaming cats and habitat loss are likely causes for the low population of snakes among wither reptile species.
After training for work I went to a spot that I’ve heard is home to Eastern Musk Turtles, a species I have yet to photograph in the wild. The trail there was less then pleasant with aching blisters on my feet and the awe altering heat. I also found I was on the wrong side of the river so I had to cross the only way I could find; a fallen log. On said log I did manage to see some deer and hawks but had to continue on as I wanted to get to the turtle spot before sundown. Along the river bank I also managed to find some Morel Mushrooms which I cooked later that night. Once I finally got to the pond there were no Musk Turtles although there were a few Midland Painted Turtles, some Lithobates tadpoles along with hundreds of toad tadpoles. On the way back I climbed a cliff in order to get out although found I had climbed the wrong cliff. It was not until my third cliff that I found the way out. While I did not find my target species I did manage to find the quickest route to the spot so now I’ll be able to go there after work during the summer.
last Wednesday I headed to an area where I have heard of observations of snakes. I was in High Park already birding (and for some reason found a coconut) but soon headed to the snake spot. As I walked through the forested area I noticed large amounts of rocks which o flipped hoping to see salamanders. I found more salamanders there than I have anywhere else in the city with 18 individuals found in total consisting of both Red-Backed Salamanders and the colour morph; Lead-Backed Salamander. As I headed back to the train station to meet up with fellow herper Eric, I saw a massive Eastern a Milksnake crossing the path. I took some photos of it but the snake escaped into the tall grass before I could catch it. I met up with eric and we headed towards where I saw the Milksnake. We did not find the Milksnake but we did see an Eastern Garter Snake crossing the path and more Eed-Backed Salamanders under cover. Walking to the other side of the green space we find two large wooden boards. One was being used as a rudimentary bridge while the other was leaning up against a tree. We decided to move the boards to a grassy area close to where I saw the Milksnake in the hopes of attracting more. As we got the field Eric found a board already placed there part of a study by he university of Waterloo. We checked under and found two of the largest Milksnakes I had seen that year. One was a lot darker than the other and after looking at the photo I took of the one crossing my path I realized that the lighter one was the same individual. We got our photos, drew the attention of some curious hikers and dog walkers before returning the snakes to their board. As we were hearing back to the train station we found a half dozen Garter Snakes on the edge of the path. All in all a damn good herping day especially for being in the middle of Toronto.
the other day I went to a number of different herping spots throughout Peterborough and managed to find and photograph 11 different species of reptile and amphibian. I started out with a spot not far from my apartment where I had been previously to see the Map Turtles. Low and behold on the same log was one lonely female basking in the afternoon sun. The spot also had a Painted Turtle and I saw the top part of a Snapping Turtle’s shell sticking out of the water. The next spot I went to is my favourite snake spot where I am almost guaranteed to see a snake. The first rock I flipped, I found a Garter which quickly disappeared into the rocks while another Garter from another rock disappeared into a hole in the ground. The next snake I found was under a very small rock I didn’t think was large enough to have a snake but underneath was a tiny neonate Eastern Milksnake. This was a great find as it shows that these snakes are breeding in the area. I then flipped a slightly larger Milksnake followed by a rather large one which was under my favourite rock with two Garter Snakes. Afterwards I headed to my next spot where I often see frogs and sometimes turtles. As soon as I got there I flipped the first piece of wood I can find on the off chance there was something under it. Camouflaged in the browned grass underneath was a massive Red-Bellied Snake which was clearly gravid with young. The tail also had been broken off and a piece of spine was sticking out. It was clear that this old girl had been through a lot. After only seeing a couple of frogs I headed to my last day time spot in the area. Often in the fall the spot has large amounts of Blue-Spotted Salamanders and snakes although the migration is over and the area was all in the shade at that point which discouraged most snakes from using the cover there l, that being said I still managed to find two Garter Snakes in shed. I did however manage to hear some Chorus Frogs call but they were too deep in a wetland for me to find. As it got dark I walked over to my final herping spot, a large wetland known to have a large population of breeding frogs. As I got there I could hear a plethora of Spring Peepers and Grey Treefrogs calling along with one Loepard Frog and one or two American Toads calling. There were Spring Peepers all around me but I couldn’t see any until I moved some blades of grass and one small Peeper was sitting there unaware I could see them. I tried to catch it but it disappeared into the grass. Walking along the edge of the pond I found another, this time a calling male and behind him wa a large Grey a Treefrog, my first of the year. I’ve heard the species calling all over the place but only now have I seen one this year. I got my photos and left, disturbing as little wildlife as possible. Before I headed home I checked out some close by buildings to see if any frogs were attracted to the lights. While I didn’t see any frogs I did see a large quantity of moth species.
After seeing Baz’s post today about finding some basking Northern Map Turtles I headed over to the spot in the hopes of finding them. As I got there I soon found a Painted Turtle and two large Snapping Turtles in a Pond. In Another pond I found some Green Frogs and within minutes I found the basking Map Turtles. I sat there photographing them with my feet in the water and a symphony of birds calling all around me. The river was calm and everything was tranquil as I watched the light bounce off the water and dance among the trees. Seeing I was on a fire ant colony I soon got up and headed home. Not five feet from where I was sitting however were two large snapping turtles fornicating. The male darted off leaving the female confused as to where he scampered off to.
Yeaterday I went on a hike through the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary with my friend Brenda. While it was a charming hike we did not find much. I decided to head out afterwards to a spot of forest I had not been to yet but on the way there I managed to find a bunch of snakes and then sat by the river. I stayed and watched as a muskrat quietly cleaned itself off and swam to the other side, I also saw what looked like a branch sticking out of the water. It was the eyes and nostrils of a large snapping turtle that swam away once it saw me. In the forest I had planned to hike I did not find much in the way of animals but did find a beautiful new deciduous forest to hike through in the future and one I can make new observations in for iNaturalist and the Trent Bioblitz Project.
While back in Peterborough my friend Matt and I went foraging in the woods in the hopes of finding some Morels. We sadly didn’t find any Morels (yet) but did manage to see many seasonal flowers such as the Trout Lily and Trilliums. I also heard my first Grey Treefrog of the year calling and as we progressed through the woods also found my first Milksnake of the year. Afterwards on the way to Tims I found a DOR Midland Painted Turtle that had been clearly hit by a car, both the carapace and plastron were cracked down the middle and the innards were dried up. It was clear the poor thing suffered. As spring progresses more and more turtles come out of the water to lay their eggs, this brings them onto roads where many end up getting hit by cars and contributes to their growing decline. If you find a turtle either alive or dead on the road it is a good idea to bring it to either Scales Nature Park or the Ontario Turtle Conervation Centre (formally the Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre) as even dead turtles may still have viable eggs inside.
After finding the Blanding’s Turtle I headed home to my Dad’s house. His backyard backs off to the Don Valley so there is often wildlife to be heard and seen. During this time the American Toads were calling down by the river and as usual I found a toad stuck in the pool. I cleaned her off with water from the river so there was no chlorine and released it far from the pool. Pools often attract wildlife such as breeding amphibians but many end up getting stuck as they cannot scale the walls to escape. The water in pools is filled with chlorine which is toxic to amphibian’s permeable skin and acts like acid. Other animals such as turtles get stuck in pools as well and often die due to either the chlorine or lack of food. My Yellow-Bellied Slider; Hammond was found in my Dad’s pool although I managed to rescue him.
I'm Mac Marzolini and I created this blog for a variety of reasons, the first of course is to open a window into what is happening in my life (cause my grandmother reads this), but also to help myself catalogue some of my favorite photos from my many adventures.