Sunday, April 30, 2006

I’d like to find a spotted turtle. Even more, I’d like Jen to find a spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata). They are the cutest turtles out there, cuter yet than their smaller relative the bog turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii). Spotteds are small black turtles with one or a few bright yellow polka dots on each scute. You’re not likely to see spotted turtles at big lakes or rivers; these guys like shallow water in the woods.

I’ve never seen one in the wild, but another herper reported seeing them at a park in Bucks County, and I decided to head out that way with Jen. It was late in the day on Saturday, which was a problem, because spotted turtles are most active in the morning.

We didn’t see any live turtles (I think this shell was once a box turtle - Terrepene carolina):

We did have a great time with salamanders. The redbacks (Plethodon cinereus) I expected to find, but the spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) were a surprise.

I have been close to tears over the nights of perfect spotted-salamander-breeding weather that I have missed out of town or otherwise incapacitated. I know they sometimes turn up under cover, but I’ve turned over a lot of logs and never seen one.

Jen found three. Two were little, about two inches long; she was scandalized by the size of the third, a hefty adult of about seven inches. Unlike the squirmy redbacks, they just sit there limp if you handle them gently, making them really easy to photograph:

My pen broke, so I was unable to record the details of the eighth through forty-fourth redback salamanders Jen found. On cool spring days when the ground is damp to wet, we’ll find redbacks under almost half the logs or rocks we check. Here are a few of the little guys. I almost wonder what the point is of photographing them. Maybe now that I have gotten past simply recording their presence I can work on finding the perfect redback salamander and taking the perfect photograph of it. I’m not there yet.

I’ll end with this wood frog (Rana sylvatica). I didn’t catch it, and I didn’t try very hard once I got the photograph. Am I lazy to think that frogs are too much trouble to catch once you know what they are?