As mid May became late May, the bird migration slowed down. There were no longer warblers of every species rummaging for grubs in the forest canopies. A few flycatchers were passing through and that’s about it. The days and even the nights grew hot as we entered a week-long heat wave. The weather was unpleasant but I still wanted to get outside. What’s a guy to do?
Well, I went to Parfrey’s Glen of course. I head there at least once every year, and in a variety of weather, but the only post I’ve done in the past was in December of 2016. Back then the landscape was barren, the only green coming from the pines atop the cliffs. What a change from December to May! Everything was leafy and the canopy was dense and the forest floor shaded. The water I avoided in the winter felt refreshing as I walked through it in my water shoes. The creek was the best “trail” for parts of the hike and that was fine by me.
While I didn’t see much in terms of warblers and shorebirds in the past few weeks, I have had better luck with herping than I have the rest of the year. I’ve been seeing quite a few turtles besides for the standard painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), including a few large female common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) and eastern spiny softshells (Apalone spinifera spinifera). My herping highlight so far has been to finally see my first eastern milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum). The sun was growing low on a mild day and I was walking near the edge of a woods looking for firewood. I was not the first to see it. One of my fire buddies pointed it out first and I didn’t know what species to expect when I looked over. It was not a long snake, maybe about as long as a large garter, but thicker. It was brown overall with dark reddish blotches in a crisp, uniform pattern.
Fun fact about non-venomous snakes: many of them mimic rattlesnakes in order to convince would-be predators to leave them alone. How do they do this? When it realized we saw it, it headed into dense cover and began vibrating its tail. The sound against the dead leaves isn’t a dead-ringer for a rattlesnake, but it’s close enough. I’m too smart to be fooled. Nice try, snake.
Surprisingly that was my first snake of the year. Hmm. Better late then never.
The calendar still says its spring, but I know better. The seasons are a continuum rather than an abrupt change. Bird migration is dying down. Mosquitoes are everywhere (I know, right?). The trees are fully leafed out. This might not be summer yet, but it sure is the lead-in to it.