Thursday, 3 July 2014

Some Georgian Bay herp photos

Here are a few of the herps from the weekend at Beausoleil Island in southern Georgian Bay.

We found a few Red-bellied Snakes, including four under one rock!

Shoreline in the late evening light...

While sitting around the campfire and making dinner in the evenings, we heard several Whip-poor-wills, a few species of frogs, and had single American Woodcocks (a flyby) and Barred Owl as well. Gray Treefrogs were perhaps the loudest of the species heard, and one particular male had taken residence in the wooden gazeebo that was built out in the open.

During mid-morning the bugs were pretty bad and the sun had warmed the rocks substantially. Luckily the lake was never far away so we frequently headed for the brief respite from the mosquitoes in the waters of Georgian Bay. At one such point we tried catching a few dragonflies afterwards, as they were cruising along the shoreline. Here are my feeble attempts at IDing them.

Stream Cruiser

looks like it would be easy to ID, but I'm tired...

Clubtail sp. (Ashy?)

Common Baskettail

Snakes were hard to come by for the most part. On previous trips I had seen close to 30 species, but then again those trips were a bit longer, I was with a group of about 15, and we were earlier in the year (late May/early June is usually much better than early July). We did come across one Ring-necked Snake, a species that usually can be found in higher numbers. 

Northern Leopard Frogs were commonly seen throughout the day, wherever there was water. This one was absolutely massive, and in the late evening light I snapped a few photos. 

Northern Leopard Frog eye!

Todd looking for snakes...

Cell phone pic taken from near our campsite, looking out over the water.

We were rained out for part of Tuesday, our final day on the island. With the mosquitoes in full bloom, the rain clouds continuously passing over, and the snakes being few and far between (just the odd Northern Watersnake chowing down on fish near the shoreline), we decided to head out early, and by 2:00 PM were back on the mainland. Instead of going straight home, we decided to check out a nearby spot for Massasaugas!

The spot did not disappoint, and it took about 45 minutes of searching before Todd spotted the sauga, a gravid female basking in the mottled sunlight. It was a beautiful snake and looked very similar to my "lifer" Massasauga back in 2008.

Eastern Massasaugas are found in the upper Midwest east to Georgian Bay. Throughout most of their range, they are found in fens, prairies, and similarly damp habitats, and are known by some as "Swamp Rattlers". In the Canadian Shield area of Georgian Bay, Massasaugas are found in more open habitats, often on open rock barrens or alvars, though always in relatively close proximity to wetlands. They have a stronghold throughout "cottage country" in Ontario, while the few remnant prairie populations in southern Ontario are declining to critical levels. Eastern Massasauga is afforded habitat protection in Ontario and is listed as a Threatened species. Fortunately, large chunks of good Massasauga habitat still exist in this part of Ontario, and continued education of people living there may help reduce mortality as well. Hopefully as time goes on and more people move to that part of Ontario, that Massasaugas continue to hold on.

The location where we found the basking female was the exact spot where I had found a recent "litter" of rattlesnakes one year - I think I found 6 in the area, and 5 more later in that same day. 

We watched the Massasauga for a while and continued on, though the deer flies would not stop harassing us. We turned up a handful of Five-lined Skinks (the first of the weekend), heard some Mink Frogs, and then headed home!

Not a bad way to celebrate Canada day, with one of Canada's iconic herp species.


  1. That unidentified ode is a Racket-tailed Emerald

  2. Excellent! Those Gray Treefrog photos are particularly nice. I was on Beausoleil Island last summer and I suspect the "noise" I was hearing from the trees were Gray Treefrogs. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Dwayne! Yeah could very well be - they are one of the more common "summer" frogs, along with Green Frogs, American Bullfrogs, and Mink Frogs (depending on the area). Gray Treefrogs do a short musical trill that is somewhat similar to a Red-bellied Woodpecker.