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Summer recap part one (little late)

Posted: November 26th, 2016, 7:13 pm
by NACairns
Last winter was a long one for my family so we decided to move back to Saskatchewan. My wife and kid left first but I had a few commitments relating to lab work and teaching so I had to wait a couple months to follow them. Unfortunately, it was too early for herps and too warm for on ice activities so I waited for the melt.
As soon as I had time tried to get out. I have a buddy that helps run a banding station and so when I get a chance I head out there for a visit to see what is passing through and do a little herping. This year there were some great folks doing some work on migratory bats that let me tag along.

A silver-haired bat
ImageLasionycteris noctivagans by N Cairns, on Flickr

Close-up looks at the birds always impress me
Mourning dove
ImageZenaida macroura by N Cairns, on Flickr

Ruby crowned kinglet
ImageRegulus calendula by N Cairns, on Flickr

Dekay’s brown and garter snakes are extremely common make up the vast majority of the snakes you get to see.
ImageStoreria dekayi by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageThamnophis sirtalis by N Cairns, on Flickr
In this area a large proportion of the garter snakes are hyper melanistic leading to a handsome near pure black snake.
ImageThamnophis sirtalis by N Cairns, on Flickr

Turtles are also common in the area, spotted’s have eluded me but I’ve found Blanding’s to be quite common locally in the shallow beaver made swamps.
ImageEmydoidea blandingii habitat by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageEmydoidea blandingii by N Cairns, on Flickr

For the last couple years I have helped teach a field herpetology course at a research station near Kingston Ontario. It usually has about 15-20 students of varying levels of knowledge and interest, we teach them the local diversity, instruct a basic research skill sets and go though some relevant literature in the first week then they do self directed projects the second week. This year was great as there were some keen folks this year and we managed to find all the local snake species. It’s fairly hands on instruction so I don’t get to take as many pictures as I’d like but I still get moments.

We hit the beginning of turtles season where the map turtles are still clustered at their over wintering sites.
ImageGraptemys geographica by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageGraptemys geographica by N Cairns, on Flickr

Painted turtles are the most common species.
ImageChrysemys picta by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageChrysemys picta by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageChrysemys picta by N Cairns, on Flickr

This lake is also full of musk turtles
ImageSternotherus odoratus by N Cairns, on Flickr

Ribbon snakes are very common, stalking the amphibian breeding pools.
ImageThamnophis sauritus by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageThamnophis sauritus by N Cairns, on Flickr

So are the northern watersnakes
ImageNerodia sipedon by N Cairns, on Flickr

Love me a redbelly
ImageStoreria occipitomaculata by N Cairns, on Flickr

Milk snakes are not common in this area but we usually see a couple over the 2 weeks. ImageLampropeltis triangulum by N Cairns, on Flickr

This area is likely one of the best places to see a grey [black] ratsnakes in Canada with a number hibernation sites that have been researched extensively.
ImagePantherophis spiloides by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImagePantherophis spiloides by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImagePantherophis spiloides by N Cairns, on Flickr

Toad choruses are a lot of fun to watch:
ImageAnaxyrus americanus by N Cairns, on Flickr

A number of the calling males had these small leeches attached to them. These blood feeders use the vibration of the vocal sac to hone in on their targets. If you think about it, they are perfect for targeting, long, loud trill. Some also have large Desserobdella as well.
ImageAnaxyrus americanus by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageAnaxyrus americanus with Desserobdella picta(?) by N Cairns, on Flickr

Pickerel frogs
ImageLithobates palustris by N Cairns, on Flickr

One of the few peepers I’ve seen in the north calling from an elevated perch and as we watched he was picked by one of the few gravid females that were still around this late in the year.
ImagePseudacris crucifer by N Cairns, on Flickr

A few other cool non-herp species, an eastern mole.
ImageScalopus aquaticus by N Cairns, on Flickr

One of my favorite fish the central mudminnow
ImageUmbra limi by N Cairns, on Flickr

Immediately after the class I packed the last of my stuff and headed west to south western Saskatchewan. As usual our hot water tank was dying (hard water) so I spent a day or two trying to get parts. Spending all that time in the basement lets me get reacquainted with the resident population of tiger salamanders that live down there.
ImageAmbystoma mavortium by N Cairns, on Flickr

In May the prairie starts to flush with life, the ducks and other birds come back, the herbivores put on weight and the predators thrive on the young and dumb.
ImageAnas discors by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageLepus townsendii by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageCanis latrans by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageButeo swainsoni by N Cairns, on Flickr

The end of May and beginning of June signal two of my favorite things: spadefoot season and Missouri River fishing trips.
I really like spadefoots and survey for them during and after large rain events (part of a more in depth research project I’ll be starting next spring) this year had a number of major rain falls where I observed adults active but as usual only three days of calling.
There were good numbers of gravid females:
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr

And a variety of males
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr

Including this real stunner:
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
These warm rainy nights are also good for plains garter snakes out feeding on earthworms and road killed frogs.
ImageThamnophis radix by N Cairns, on Flickr

The fishing trip was short this year, only one night and the fishing wasn’t great but the snakes were out in force in particular the racers. It started well with a young of last year hoggie just across the Montana line.
ImageHeterodon nasicus by N Cairns, on Flickr

This Woodhouse’s toad was a constant at our campsite night or day.
ImageAnaxyrus woodhousii by N Cairns, on Flickr

As I mentioned racers made up the bulk of our observations:
ImageColuber constrictor by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageColuber constrictor by N Cairns, on Flickr

And it wouldn’t be a Montana trip with out a big bull snake laying across the road.
ImagePituophis catenifer sayi by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImagePituophis catenifer sayi by N Cairns, on Flickr

Back home some of the locals were starting to get active as well
ImagePituophis catenifer sayi by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImagePhrynosoma hernandesi by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageAntilocapra americana by N Cairns, on Flickr

Summer here is typified by one species, the greater short-horned lizard
ImagePhrynosoma hernandesi by N Cairns, on Flickr

Thanks for looking,
Best,
Nick

part 2 (http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=23940)

Re: Summer recap part one (little late)

Posted: November 27th, 2016, 5:57 pm
by Porter
Is that a melanistic musk turtle...? Awesome melanistic gartersnake :thumb: Do you have a full body and belly shot by any chance? Man melanistic sure have been surfacing lately... Here's another found this year that I saw posted on flickr

ImageWandering Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans vagrans) by Gavin Beck, on Flickr

Re: Summer recap part one (little late)

Posted: November 27th, 2016, 6:10 pm
by Porter
A lot cool shots here :thumb: I like theses the most...

ImageAnaxyrus americanus with Desserobdella picta(?) by N Cairns, on Flickr

ImageCanis latrans by N Cairns, on Flickr

ImageThamnophis radix by N Cairns, on Flickr

Re: Summer recap part one (little late)

Posted: November 27th, 2016, 7:48 pm
by NACairns
Thanks Porter, I appreciate that.
It seemed to be a pretty normal musk turtle but I really like the neonates
Here are a few other garters from the same population. About 40% of them are melanistic in that area.

ImageThamnophis sirtalis sirtalis (hypermelanistic) by N Cairns, on Flickr

ImageThamnophis sirtalis sirtalis (hypermelanistic) by N Cairns, on Flickr