The night I got back from eastern Ontario, I headed to a lecture at Fleming College by Josh Feltham on the Five-Lined Skink. According to the lecture, the Five-Linked Skinks in the Canadian Shield have different behaviors than their southern counterparts in order to survive to far north. Skinks in the shield congregate in the early spring around rock barrens with a slope facing either east or south. The rocks on these slopes warm up the most in the morning and retain their heat throughout the day. By congregating among these rocks, the skinks are able to warm themselves enough to breed and catch food. Later in the year, in the summer, the skinks disperse as the temperature is warm enough that they no longer need to bask for long periods and to avoid competition for resources. It was a fascinating lecture and I soon found why I have been unable to find any skinks prior. After the lecture I heard the calls of Grey Treefrogs and so thought to myself; "oh why not".
The past few days I was visiting my old friends; Matt and Clinton in the Thousand Islands area. On the first full day we headed to Quebec in search of Dusky Salamanders. Arriving at the undisclosed location we soon noticed snow in the higher elevation but luckily the streams were free of snow or ice. Checking by the road we soon found some Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders and the streams yielded larval Northern Two-Lined Salamanders, easy to differentiate from the Dusky Salamander Larva by the uniformly coloured gills, Dusky Salamanders have contrasting white gills. Further along where ground water was pouring and where the soil was rather muddy we managed to flip three Northern Dusky Salamanders. Along the side of the stream we were fallowing we managed to flip some adult Northern Two-Lined Salamanders. The Northern Two-Lined Salamanders in Quebec have much more vibrant colours than their Ontario counterparts making them quite the find. We could not stay long as bad weather was forcing us out. On the way back to Prescott we had gotten a flat tire in the middle of the highway which caused some complications. On the second day we headed to some more local spots, one of which was in range for Five-Lined Skinks but sadly we did not find any, instead we found a plethora of Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders although in this population they lack the red colouration and are thus referred to as Lead-Backed Salamanders. Next, we headed to a new location filled with American Bullfrogs, Midland Painted Turtles, some sort of Catfish and a melanistic Eastern American Toad. We headed back to the house and Matt had to leave so I spent the rest of the time with Clinton. With Clint, we headed to a spot that usually has Blue-Spotted Salamanders among other species although the mosquitoes were so bad we were unable to stay long but I did manage to photograph some mushrooms. Heading back from the spot, I noticed a turtle on the side of the road, we stopped only to find a Blanding's Turtle that it had already been killed with half of it missing and insides eaten out. It was a sad find but we now know Blanding's Turtles can be found in that area. The following day, I headed back to Peterborough as Clinton was kind enough to drive me. We stopped at a spot in search of the Five-Lined Skinks but before even getting there we road cruised a live Blanding's Turtle and helped him/her across the busy highway. We found no skinks but were swarmed by both Black Flies and mosquitoes, heading back we managed to find a Common Snapping Turtle crossing the road and helped the little bugger across.
I headed to some of my usual spots in and around Trent University Campus to add more species to the Trent Bioblitz project I put together on iNaturalist. Before I even got to my snake boards, a small Northern Leopard Frog crosses my path which I of course had to photograph. The bugs were heavy today and I was soon swarmed by mosquitoes. I managed to identify two species of mosquito on me; the Southern House Mosquito and the Inland Floodwater Mosquito. As I got to my first board I was devastated to find it already flipped. Someone had come and flipped the board without putting it back, this can deter snakes from coming back and encourage ants. Luckily, however, I managed to find an Eastern Milk Snake under the board. My rock area yielded a few Eastern Garter Snakes although they got away before I could photograph them. My attention was elsewhere however as I managed to find three more Eastern Milk Snakes under the rocks, one of which was a neonate. I headed to my second snake spot where I only managed to find two Eastern Garter Snakes. As night approached I was drawn to a nearby stormwater pond by the symphony of Grey Treefrogs. Sitting by the water's edge, I managed to see one in the reeds, this individual was not calling although had the black throat characteristic of a male. I took my shoes and socks off and headed off after him.
After finally getting a working camera I couldn’t resist taking it to the park to try it out. I soon found a massive Common Snapping Turtle crawling out of the water which I helped before getting some photos. I also found a Red-Eared Slider and a Northern Map Turtle Basking together. I feel as though the Northern Map Turtle is the same individual I had seen prior although I have not seen a Red-Eared Slider in the park before prompting me to believe it was recently released. The park was also filled with migratory birds that were passing through on their annual migration.
Waking up early in the morning, I headed to Trent University Campus for a morning hike. I started by heading to my boards and regular snake spot where I managed to flip some Eastern Garter Snakes which was a nice surprise. The first Eastern Garter Snake bit me but all put on quite a display involving flattening their bodies to look bigger and striking. This is a defensive behaviour done when they don’t have enough energy to escape, it’s likely they only recently came out to bask. Soon under the smallest rock that I almost stepped on I found my first neonate Eastern Milk Snake of the year. After finding snakes I headed along the blue trail of the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary, walking past Large White Trilliums, Trout Lilies and the Silver Maple swamp. The Wildlife Sanctuary was once a series of large fields before trees were planted to re-wild the area. Still there are remnants of the sanctuary’s origins with the remains of rock walls found throughout. In one of these rock walls, under a smallish rock was yet another neonate Eastern Milk Snake which was a bit more defensive then the last. I got some photos before safely returning him to his rock pile. I soon headed to my other snake spot which faced the east in the hopes of finding more snakes. The spot only procured one Eastern Garter Snake but made for a nice hike where I managed to walk 10km all before when I would otherwise get out of bed.
For the Victoria Day long weekend I headed to my grandmothers house on Sturgeon Lake. Unfortunately with the demise of my camera all my photos were taken with my iPhone which became painful as the area was filled with bird species migrating through the area, many of which I had never seen before. On the first full day I went on a day long hike to Ken Reid Conservation Area. On the way there I managed to see many different bird species such as Chestnut-Sided Warblers and Bobolink birds. Getting closer to Ken Reid I noticed a clump of dirt further along the path, upon closer inspection I noticed the tail and shell of a large Common Snapping Turtle. After taking photos I continued on to Ken Reid, there, I managed to flip a Blue-Spotted Salamander in a spot I hadn’t seen them before and went looking for Droseria Sundew but sadly could not find any. I did however, managed to see and photograph some Heading back I found some Blue-Throated Blue Warblers. Heading back I managed to spot a female Scarlet Tanager and some Baltimore Orioles. Road cruising at night I found a Northern Green Frog. The second day I stayed close to the house and went walking around some of the local wetlands. In the nearby lagoon I walked out on one of the small docks and noticed a large Common Snapping Turtle in the water. To my surprise I was able to pull the behemoth out of the water for some photos before safely releasing the giant back into his watery kingdom. The lagoon also had Midland Painted Turtles and shells showing how it is commonly used by turtles for nesting. The lagoon also had a large American Bullfrog although I slipped trying to catch it and managed with a rather wet foot. Back at the house I noticed grey treefrogs had just begun calling so I managed to track one down in the neighbour’s old pontoon boat. Road cruising around midnight procured some Northern Green Frogs along with a DOR Eastern American Toad and finally a live toad crossing the road. The third day was rather chilly with fewer birds and frog calls. While out walking the dog with my cousin we managed to find a Scarlet Tanager along with some more Chestnut-Sided Warblers.
After now having a spot filled with breeding frogs, I headed out in the hopes of filming the toads calling. Before I even started, however, my tripod broke where my camera was suppose to screw into leaving me to have to film with my rather unsteady hand. I had gotten there before night fall so there were no toads calling. While there were no toads I was still delighted over the large amount of wildlife the wetland held. There was a young White-Tailed Deer, which I think was the creature in the dark the previous night. There were also Great Blue Herons and Kingfishers hunting for food. As night fell, I managed to get some shots and video of toads calling. Staying there so late I missed the bus yet again and had to walk home. It was only drizzling a little and I kept dry in my chest waiters and my raincoat. My camera was around my neck in a plastic bag and then tucked into my chest waiters to keep dry. This did not work however as when I got home my camera would no longer start due to water damage.
Today I had a rather productive herping trip to Trent University Campus. Before even getting to campus I managed to find some Midland Painted Turtles along with my first Northern Map Turtle of the year. Once on campus, I headed to my usual flip site where I managed to flip yet another Eastern Milk Snake. Many of my regular frog ponds were filled with tiny tadpoles which I can only presume to be Wood Frogs as those were the masses found earlier in that spot. Heading to my second flip spot, I had found the smallest Northern Red-Bellied Snake neonate and two small Eastern Garter Snakes. These species are rather common however all I have managed to find the past week or two had been Eastern Milk Snakes making this a pleasant surprise. Heading from my flip site, it was beginning to get dark and the frogs had begun to call. On the way back, I passed by some stormwater ponds where Spring Peepers were calling in full force. So much so, that they were easy to find as I found two calling among the reeds. One disappeared although the other was more inclined to be photographed. I had unfortunately missed the last bus so after a short stop at Tim's I found another stormwater filled with calling toads. Here, I tried to film as best as I could some Eastern American Toads calling for a film my friend and I are planning on making; The Ruby of the North, about the closely related Hudson Bay Toad.
I headed to Trent Campus in the hopes of filming some calling Eastern American Toads for a documentary I’m making; Ruby of the North. As I got into the water there were only a few Northern Leopard Frogs calling but two or three Eastern American Toads started calling as well. The toads were short lived as they called in full force for only a few seconds with long intervals of nothing. All the toads were deep in the vegetation where I dared not go so to avoid crushing any animals. I did manage to get some habitat shots and underwater videos of the wetland however. Because Ranavirus has been found in the wetland I disinfected my gear with a betadine solution and while everything was drying I walked over to my snake spot where I managed to find two Eastern Milk Snakes and, heading back; two White-Tailed Deer.
After eating lunch at a local park I headed to Trent Campus where I checked my usual snake spots. There, I soon found two Eastern Milk Snakes under the same rock. I checked the rest of the rocks with little yield, until that is, I flipped another Eastern Milk Snake. None of the snakes would sit still which made photographing them to be a challenge although all were safely returned to their rocks. Afterwards I headed around the Trent University Wildlife Sanctuary and followed some trails I had not yet traveled this year. Using my Ansco VP JR camera I got some shots although being on film I won’t be able to see them until I get the film developed. Heading down the trail I came across a stump where the bark had fallen off and lay at the base of the stump in strips. I flipped these pieces of bark in the hopes of finding a Northern Red-Bellied Snake but instead, to my surprise, found a little Blue-Spotted Salamander. This was unusual as we were nowhere near a wetland and the poor thing was rather dry. I got some photos of him, poured some of my water on him and sent him on his way.
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.