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Monday, June 24, 2013

Herping the World Series of Birding

Take a bunch of bird-lovers from Vermont, stick them in southern New Jersey, and they’ll find a lot more than just birds… even if they’re in a birding competition!  That was especially true this year as the weather was more suitable for frog-hunting than birding at the World Series of Birding.   The North Branch Nature Center’s youth and young adult teams enjoyed discovering many types of herptiles (reptiles and amphibians) over the course of the weekend, both during our scouting day as well as the 24-hour competition.

Eastern Spadefoot on a wet road

We started birding at the stroke of midnight, but after hours of searching for nightjars, owls, and rails in the pouring rain, frog species were outnumbering birds.  Eastern Spadefoots were a pleasant surprise on an otherwise dreary night.  Gray Treefrogs were also crossing the road, along with Fowler’s Toads, Spring Peepers, and Wood Frogs.  Other amphibians could be heard calling from swamps and ponds.  The Carpenter Frogs cackled and Green Frogs grunted, not deterred by the rain.  It wasn’t until dawn that the number of bird species observed surpassed that of frogs!

Amelia holds a Black Ratsnake
By noon, we had already surpassed 100 species of birds, and were well on our way to double-digits for herptiles.  The rain would occasionally dissipate, and during those narrow windows of relative dryness, reptiles sought sunny places to bask.  Watersnakes and a Ratsnake were nice lunchtime surprises.  The Box Turtle that we stumbled upon in the morning was another fortunate and thrilling encounter!  Even when focused on birds, we were bumping into reptiles throughout the day.

One of the most fun herping moments of the trip was during scouting, when we flipped some concrete slabs in a forest, uncovering a group of Southern Ring-necked Snakes and Eastern Worm Snakes! And since it was the day before the competition, we got to slow down and enjoy the experience!  Both were “lifers” for most of us northern folk, and made us completely forget about the Red-headed Woodpecker we missed.  Herps and birds combined, it was another fantastic year at the World Series of Birding!

Melissa checking out a Wormsnake
Complete Trip List
·         Diamondback Terrapin
·         Eastern Box Turtle
·         Redbelly Turtle
·         Black Ratsnake
·         Eastern Wormsnake
·         Northern Watersnake
·         Southern Ring-necked Snake
·         Eastern Red-backed Salamander
·         American Bullfrog
·         Carpenter Frog
·         Eastern Spadefoot
·         Fowler’s Toad
·         Green Frog
·         Chorus Frog
·         Gray Treefrog
·         Spring Peeper
·         Southern Leopard Frog
·         Wood Frog

Eastern Box Turtle in the dunes

male Carpenter Frog singing

Southern Ring-necked Snake was a highlight!

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