While passing through I managed a hike in some of the green areas of the Greater Toronto Area. On this hike I managed to walk about 20km and the equivalent of over a hundred floors. Along the trail I was hiking I came across a bridge over a river with a bunch of turtles underneath. Of these turtles there were; Midland Painted Turtles, Red-Eared Sliders and to my surprise, a Yellow-Bellied Slider. Yellow-Bellied Sliders are rarely encountered compared to their red eared counterparts and this was my first one since finding my turtle; Hammond. Further down the trail I found a pair of White-Tailed Deer which were clearly used to people as they didn’t seem too bothered by my presence. I also managed to find two Eastern American Toads breeding in a puddle in the middle of a parking lot, an unusual space to breed with a very uncertain future for their young. Continuing down the trail I came to anlarge wetland with even more turtles such as more Midland Painted Turtles and a Common Snapping Turtle, lots of species for the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. And finally on the way back I found some Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders and followed a Raccoon to see where it would take me.
I decided to walk over to Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park just outside of Peterborough not far outside of Peterborough. In the first few flips I found a large Blue-Spotted Salamander likely returning from their breeding pool to the forest. Flipping cover along the sides of the trail I uncovered nothing but soon found a deceased Eastern Garter Snake which looked to have been crushed. Many of the logs has the beginning of mushrooms growing such as large amounts of Witch’s Butter. Eventually, close to some large puddles I managed to find an Eastern Red-Backed Salamander, my target species of the trip. Usually Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders are the most common species although in Peterborough they are outnumbered by the Blue-Spotted Salamanders and in some places such as Trent Campus there are little to no Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders at all making them a rarer find in Peterborough. Along the path I also noticed a large bird fly over. Without a good view I was unable to identify it although I noticed it landed in a tree deeper in the forest. I tried to zoom in with my camera although with the branches in the way I could hardly focus. Turning to manual focus I managed to get enough photos to later identify the bird as a Broad-Winged Hawk, a species that is passing through the area as they migrate back up north. Walking home I managed to find some birds along the water such as Mallards, Common Loons and a Great Blue Heron.
Baz, Debbie and I went out at night to the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary to record frog calls. We found a chorus of Spring Peepers towards the larger silver maple swamp and a few calling individuals in subsequent wetlands. Ther were also two or three Wood Frogs calling in the silver maple swamp. Heading back to the main campus we heard Eastern Coyotes calling in the distance followed by dogs, no doubt the call of the Coyotes set off the dogs. On campus at one of my favourite ponds we found Spring Peepers calling, one or two Western Chorus Frogs and an individual Northern Leopard Frog was calling. The wetland also had egg masses of Wood Frogs (pictures).
Starting my hike through the sanctuary I headed to the hibernaculum and managed to flip nothing until I got to my lucky rock. Underneath was my first Eastern Milk Snake it the year, a gorgeous adult with faint colouration. This individual seemed rather bity, even when handled. I soon found out why as upon removing it from under the rock I found my hand covered in blood. My first reaction was that it was my blood but I soon found that there was a large cut on the snake’s underbelly. I quickly got my photos before returning it safely to the rock. The cuts looked rather superficial and should heal up after a few sheds. Later down a path I found a North American Porcupine up a tree. Upon seeing me it froze but as thebtrees had not yet grown leaves I was able to get my photos before leaving the Porcupine in peace. I eventually came to the Silver Maple Swamp where I sat on a bridge and had dinner. Watching the swamp and the birds in it was a peaceful experience and one I will have to do again.
At the sanctuary I first headed to my lucky rock by an outcrop. Even if all other rocks yeild nothing, my lucky rock will have something. Underneath I found a little Eastern Garter Snake which I released without getting a photo as I didn’t want to stress it out too much (it was musking all over me) and because I already have many photos of Garter Snakes already. Afterwards I headed over to my cover boards. To my surprise under my most recently placed cover board I managed to find my two first Northern Red-Bellied Snakes of the year. As I was photographing the first one I had to put the second in my pocket so not to lose it and to my surprised seemed to make itself at home in and among the wrappers, and headphones I had in there. As I was photographing the first individual I heard a loud call from overhead and noticed a large hawk. I kept an eye on it until it left out of fear it would try and take the subject of my photography.
I decided to go on the Rotary trail that extends from Peterborough up to Lakefield. It’s a good hike that I try to do at least once a year. Before I even started I managed to find my first Common Snapping Turtle of the year. The weather was unusually warm compared to previous days and it brought out a large amount of Eastern Garter Snakes which could be found along the trail. I soon came across my first Midland Painted Turtles of the year though I’m positive there will be more. Once at lakefield I headed to some of the sewage ponds as they often attract migrating birds. Among the Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers, I also managed to find a pair of Common Looms which seemed curious about my presence and cane right up to me. I could not stay long as I still had a few hours of walking ahead of me and did not wish to walk after nightfall. Heading back I managed to capture of photo of the Belted Kingfisher along with a North American Porcupine sleeping in a tree.
Tonight; Jordan, Baz and I went to the Peterborough Field Naturalist’s Annual Night of Salamanders and Frogs. This event happens every year where a bunch of members come out (over 30 today!) and learn about some of Ontario’s underappreciated amphibians. I managed to find the first Eastern Red-Backed Salamander and soon many more were found along with some Blie-Spotted Salamanders. We were hoping to see a Four-Toed Salamander but sadly none were out tonight. We did, however, get to see the egg masses of Yellow-Sptted Salamanders which bred prior to our arrival. The pond the eggs were found in also had spermetaphores, a sign that salamanders were breeding. Many Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders later some of the group heard a Barred Owl Call in the distance. Overall I’d say it was a fun experience to educate people on the different species of salamander in the area although for the more vetrened herper, small groups are the way to go so not to feel rushed and to avoid trampled cover. On the way back, Jordan and I managed to do some road cruising where we found two Blue-Spotted Salamanders, a Spring Peeper, a DOR Northern Leopard Frog and a DOR Banana.
Getting to campus I headed over to the snake hibernaculums to see if anything was out. The sun was setting and it was last peak snake hours, regardless I managed to flip an Eastern Garter Snake under my lucky rock. Under this rock I have always found a snake when snakes are out and so I have dubbed it my lucky rock. Heading back I ran into Ruchi and headed out for frogs. The frog pond was filled with the calls of Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs and although they are tempting to catch I had my heart set on the Western Chorus Frog, the only calling frog out that I had not yet photographed this year. Sure enough in only a few minutes I found a lone male calling in the open. I quickly scooped him in my net and got some photos before safely returning him to the exact spot I found him. It looked as though he had a cut on his throat although I am now lead to believe that this is in fact Rana Virus. We went to another pond and soon saw some Northern Greeb Frog Tadpoles and two Blue-Spotted Salamanders, the first one was close to shore so I scooped him up in my net for photos. He was a male which is rare as it means he is a pure form rather than a Unisexual Mole Salamander which make up 90% of the population in the area. The second was also in the water although far enough out that I couldn’t reach. After the ponds we managed to find another Northern Leopard Frog and a Blue-Spotted Salamander on a trail, this individual salamander was female making it hard to tell without DNA tests whether it is a pure form or not.
A pretty successful night of herping. Tonight I met up with Baz and Brenda and headed to the first pond of the night. The pond was alive with the calls of frogs and Insoon came across a large Northern Leopard Frog calling away. Not a metre away was a Wood Frog, larger then the previous night, also calling. My heart was set on finding, catching and photographing a Western Chorus Frog so I waited for the calls. Sadly it knew I was there and was reluctant to call. I focused my attention on a nearby Northern Spring Peeper which was singing away not far from me. I got some in hand shots and Brenda was happy to see both her first Wood Frog and Spring Peeper. The Western Chorus Frog started up again so I headed over and waited. I managed to see it but in my excitement I went to grab it before getting a photo and the little bugger got away. I’ll have to try a different night. Coming out of the pond and towards the road I managed to find my first Eastern American Toad of the year before we headed to the next pond. The next pond was also filled with calls but mainly of Northern Spring Peepers as Wood Frogs and Northern Leopards don’t tend to breed here. We managed to find some more Northern Spring Peepers in the pond and got some insitu photos of them. As we walked around the perimeter of the ponds, Baz saw a Blue-Spotted Salamander swimming, I caught it in my dip bet and we photographed it before release. We managed to find two more Blue-Spotted Salamanders, one of which was a male which is exciting seeing as they only make up 10% of the population in this area. Heading back to the buildings we found some Northern Leopard Frogs on the road and a Blue-Spotted Salamander right by the doors of Otonabee college. We watched as it scampered into a hole in the wall never to be seen again. Baz and I predict there is a population living under the Buildings of Trent University.
After my last exam I met up with Baz and Jordan to see if any snakes were out by the hibernaculums. While there was nothing under the rocks we did manage to see one Eastern Garter Snake slithering in the underbrush. This was the first Ontario reptile of the year! We then went for a walk around the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary and managed to find many different bird species such as a Northern Harrier which flew over, a Pine Warbler, a couple Eastern Blue Birds preparing their nests and by the silver maple swamp some woodpecker species and under some dead bark was a bunch of Springtails, also called Snow Fleas. As night approached we headed over to the ponds on Trent Campus for frogs. While we heard Western Chorus Frogs calling we were unable to find any but did find a little Northern Spring Peeper and a Woodfrog.
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.