Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nothing I've experienced is so much like flying as floating down the river facing down. I study the rocks scrolling along beneath me framed by my mask and, if I've chosen my course well, I only occasionally have to swerve to avoid a snag or double back to check the downstream sides of boulders. The more I think about it, I might be as aquatic as I am terrestrial. I feel at home in water, completely unafraid of the current or the 71 degree-surrounding temperature efficiently leeching away my heat faster than I can generate it (in other words it's good I bring buddies to keep an eye on me). I don't so much care that I'm not seeing any turtles. Of course it's still a thrill when after an hour of going down the river (and then repeatedly swimming or wading back up - not as much fun) something that's not quite a rock passes beneath me and I have to put on the brakes and dive.

All these photos of common map turtles (Graptemys geographica) are Eitan's from our Labor Day trip to the Delaware north of Trenton.

First, here's the male I found.

Here are a couple shots of the female - one of her getting away in the middle of a photo session.

Here I am gazing lovingly at her.

Here they are together - the male on top. Notice the size difference? The official term is sexual dimorphism - the males are a lot smaller than the females, but they also have different heads: the male's is narrower for a lighter diet of small critters like minnows and insects; the girls have broad, crushing jaws for clams, mussels, and snails.

I'll end with a shot of Jen in the river. I hope it captures some of the peace of the setting. I don't care what people say about the Delaware; it's a beautiful river and a divine place to spend an afternoon turtling.


Anonymous said...

What kind of turtle is that?

I discovered this blog recently, and I wanted you to know I've been reading it regularly since; I've been kind of acquiring a love of "herping" since running into a couple of herps over the past year.

Bernard Brown said...

They are common map turtles - Graptemys geographica. Sorry for not identifying them in the post; I've edited it to fix that.

Thanks so much for the comment and the kind words. I'm glad you enjoy it.