Saturday, March 20, 2010

We're getting all caught up in spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata) season right now, but before I start posting nothing but out yellow polka-dotted friends, I thought I'd put up a quick post of a quick trip from last week.

I got to my favorite marsh a little later than I had planned (too late for spotted turtles, apparently), but set off wandering anyhow as the sunlight cooled (temps in the high 50s) and the shadows stretched out.

I was feeling pretty unaccomplished as I crossed a bridge over a shallow creek and my vision snagged on a shape in the mud at the bottom. Was that a leaf or a turtle? I took a step back to get a different angle... still not sure. I took a few steps forward... still, still not sure. I scratched my head a moment while staring. That resolved nothing.

Finally I waded in, reached down, and my finger tips hit shell. I pulled up this little cutie (I mean that sincerely, even though Jen always remarks on how ugly she finds them). Note the small tail in the middle photo - males have tails that are almost as long as one of their legs.

That's my first stinkpot (a.k.a. musk turtle - Sternotherus oderatus), so named because of scent glands they deploy when scared. This girl didn't, but she did launch a little snap at me while I was working the camera - note that stinkpots have strong jaws and longer necks than you might expect, so keep your fingers relatively far back on the shell while handling them. These turtles like slow-moving and shallow water, and split their time between hiding in mud and vegetation; marching over the bottom, poking those long noses around and crunching up invertebrates; and a little basking, often several feet above the water on over-hanging branches you never imagined such a clunky little creature could scale. One of my guidebooks notes that if a turtle falls into your canoe from above your heads, it's probably a stinkpot. Here she is hiding again after the release:

I made another another find that left me feeling accomplished again. I flipped a piece of tin Scott and I had set out last year, and it finally yielded snakes: two garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis). Here's the yearling curled up (I apologize again for the orientation of the photo - some day I'll switch blog hosts over this problem):

...and here's the adult smiling for the camera as garter snakes do:

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