Monday, May 26, 2008

How did you spend your Memorial Day weekend? I went herping of course. (we also spent time with friends and family, don’t worry) I went out three times – Saturday with Scott, Sunday with Jen, and I managed to drag Simon out on Monday. I’ll break these into two posts by theme.

On Saturday we returned to a large property in Chester County that features a huge wetland complex. I can’t say enough times how happy and grateful we are to have been granted access to the property, and once again we had a fabulous visit.

I can’t say my legs have fully recovered. There’s something uniquely fatiguing about yanking your leg out of sticky mud step after step for half a day. These photos makes it look like a grassy meadow, but figure on about a foot of mud and dead vegetation under a thin layer of water in between each plant.

We did walk through the solid-land fields and woods around the marsh for about an hour looking for rat snakes (Pantherophis obsoleta) and copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) with no luck. Several painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) seemed to be mating in one of the ponds on the property, and Scott nabbed this one in the shallows.

Then we headed into the muck. We didn’t find a whole lot, but what we found was pretty special. Spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) are relatively common in the areas of South Jersey where we usually hunt them. To be clear about it, they’re rare overall, but when you find an isolated bog in the Barrens or a protected vernal pool at the edge of the Barrens, they’re often in there.

We’d spent a few hours out once before in that marsh in perfect spotted turtle weather, and we’d been surprised by their apparent absence. There is so much picture-perfect spotted turtle habitat (shallow marshes of all kinds with a shallow creek) in there, we felt like if this were in Cumberland or Burlington County (NJ) we’d have seen at least a handful.

On Saturday (highs in the low 70s, mostly sunny) we finally found some. I found the first one, a relatively rough-looking female sitting next to some briars with her head and top of her shell out of the water and mud. I didn’t get a good photo, but I did snap shots of the two Scott found (not the greatest photos I’ve ever taken, to be sure).

We also spotted other assorted wetland herps: a couple water snakes (Nerodia sipedon) that got away, some pickerel frogs (Rana palustris), one calling green frog (Rana clamitans), and lots of mystery frogs – the ones that hop and splash just before you can get a good look.

No comments: