Friday, May 5, 2017

"What I lake about you..." or "I didn't know bullfrogs made that sound!"

Greetings and salutations, oh dedicated readers! I haven't posted in what feels like an age, nor have I gotten out to even write about it lately, but here we are. First post of 2016...and 2017...! So what it's almost 5 months into the year, and then a whole 'nother year on top of that? I began writing this post back in April '16 hoping to finish it and then get out a few more times, but as you can see, neither of those things happened. For shame! I actually really wanted to get out on a few early spring rainy nights (both this year and last), but with my schedule, you can just forget it. FORGET IT. One year I'll venture out as soon as a good herper should: early spring. I really want to catch a glimpse of some early season salamanders and whatnot. I never manage to catch mating, but always the egg clumps and strands after all the amphibious boo-lovin' has commenced. Usually I get out around spring gobbler season and get some quality time in the woods then, but I didn't make opening day last season (2016). I did, however, manage to get some impromptu herping done in the city beforehand anyway...

 FDR Park, South Philly, 4/20/2016

So my lovely lady love, whom we'll refer to as Princess, and I decided to take a walk instead of going to the gym. We're one of those #fitcouples (or at least her half of the relationship is. Daddy needs to lay off the carbs) who work out together. On this day, we decided to take it lightly and get out in the beautiful Spring air because THE WEATHER HAS BEEN SHIT. It's shit. Finally starting to warm up, that fickle bitch Mother Nature prompted us to get out and enjoy her as much as living in the city can afford. Princess wanted to walk around "the Lakes", much to my surprise. Normally, when we took walks last spring, we did so around the Philadelphia Eagles' training center, the Novacare Complex, but today, she thought a more scenic route was in order. Walking around and talking for a while was how this relationship got started, so I love doing so with the Princess. But it only took me a few minutes to get the idea to look for critters whilst we walked...

And it only took me a few more minutes before our first hit of the walk.

We began on the sidewalk path around the main lake. Princess walked with her hand tucked in her sleeve, covering her mouth the entire time. Why, you ask? She didn't want to accidentally eat any of the millions of gnats swarming around in little bug tornadoes on the path. Of course. I laughed EVERY time I looked at her. It amused me.

My keen herper huntin' eyes managed to see our first specimen: the good ol' bullfrog. A constant and common sight on my herping expeditions, especially down the Lakes. Like Old Reliable. Tried and True. You get the idea...

Look how handsome!

I pointed him out, and told Princess to take a picture with her (much better camera) phone. As she did, I spotted another one to the left! I forewarned her not to get too close, lest she scare him away...Did she listen? Noooooooooooooope. As she inched her way closer to the edge of the lake to get the above picture, the bullfrog plunked in, bellowing as he jumped into the water. Except it wasn't the second bullfrog I saw. It was a third! I didn't see the third yet as I tried to get a picture of the second one. So he surprised me, but it scared the daylights out of her. As I composed myself from laughing and being disappointed we missed one, I was being interrogated: "What was that?" "You think it's funny!" "I didn't know bullfrogs made that sound!" I assured her, indeed, they did, and we continued to look around.

If my memory serves me correctly, I managed a shot of our second target regardless:

"We are everywhere."

We walked around the lakes and got some good pictures, although we only saw one more herp that we didn't manage to photograph. 


The best wildlife photographer this side of the Mississippi.

In all of my natural splendor.
On our way over one of the little stone bridges, Princess walked ahead of me a few paces. Much to her dismay, this didn't work out for her, as she kicked up a big brown garter snake from the foliage collected on the path. She jumped and let out one of those uneasy "ohgodohgodohgod" soft screams when she realized it was a snake. This made me laugh too, and I think that's about when she wanted to call it quits for the day. She was an amazing sport. And now a bonafide herper! I was so proud...


So just because I didn't actually go out herping last year doesn't mean I didn't see some stuff. Princess and I made it down the Lakes a few more times, and there were even some seashore herps to be found!

Upon one of our random outings back to the lakes, we encountered some turtles. Painted turtles, to be exact.

"Sittin' on the log in the lake...watchin' the tiiiiiide roll awaaaay..."

BOOP! Turtle nose!

"Heaven isn't too far awaaaaaaaayyyyy..."

Then on our way to the Jersey shore, I took a back road totally on purpose and not at all by accident and was treated to a surprise and almost a shock. We drove up and in the middle of the road crossing, I saw another painted turtle! Princess shrieked as I slowed down to stop and demanded I go out and save him. So I did.

I picked him up as another car zoomed by on the other side of the road. Thankfully there was no other traffic on my side. But this little fella was almost a pancake, as he wouldn't have made it across before that other car got there. I felt like I completely on purpose took that back road for a reason: to save this guy. Thankfully I did. He did make me pay for it, though. His claws were almost as long as Wolverine's on my t-shirt.

And he dug them into me as I held him. Princess insisted we keep him, but it was early, and we were going TO the shore, not home FROM, and for a multitude of other reasons I listed, we decided not to, but I wasn't sure what to do with him. He was walking across the road into the woods and houses beyond the treeline...AWAY from a big lake. The lake was huge and across a big meadow, which was more like someone's front lawn as there was a house on it. It was also probably a few minutes walk. I really didn't want to trespass so early in the morning, so I held on to him and we continued to drive off. 

I had a plan. I knew there were more lakes and marshes before we got to our little island in the sun, so I'd just hold on to him while I drove and would eventually pull over and set him free. After lots of scratches, I finally found a good spot to let him go.

Nothing about this was pleasant or fun.

I pulled over and made my way down the bank, where there was plenty of brush to further scratch me and plenty more bugs than that to get me itchy! Princess was laughing the whole time as I traversed the marsh in Nike flipflops and decided to take a few pictures. I went in as far as I could and set him on a path to his new, hopefully safer, life. I looked up and saw Princess, phone in hand, big grin on her face, snappin' away.

As bad as this could have turned out, I felt like I had done a good deed for the day.

Almost immediately afterward, I started to worry if the marsh was too saline and if painted turtles can live and survive in salt water marshes. After some quick Google research, turns out they can. 

I also encountered a diamondback terrapin in a lagoon whilst in Wildwood, but I can't find the cap picture I took of it. 

Not really a very good year for a self-proclaimed herper, but hopefully my next post will make up for it: opening day spring gobbler 2017! It feels good to get out there and write about it too, though.

Stay tuned, and happy herping! 


  1. Superb! It's good to see you back blogging!

    1. thank you sir! Your posts never disappoint. Keep up the good work and I'll have no choice but to try to keep pace with you guys!