Sunday, August 01, 2010

I still have a lot of mud under my toenails; I'm not sure how to get it all out - clipping, brush-scrubbing, probing with the little swing-out tool on the nail clipper haven't worked - but I guess that's the price for muddling. Not familiar with muddling? One of the many evocatively named herping techniques (flipping, cruising, noodling...), muddling consists of feeling around in the mud for reptiles (usually turtles) hiding down in there.

It's a blast, aside from the pain of cleaning out your nails. I think I've always enjoyed that feeling of the mud squishing between my toes, and of course I enjoy splashing around in waterways looking for turtles, whether or not (more often not) I find anything.

Grossed out? Please, make up with the mud. Discover what billions of little children have known - mud is a lot of fun, and searching for turtles will give you the perfect excuse to get dirty again.

This time the turtles kept one step ahead of me. I started with a shallow pool where someone reported seeing a large snapper prowling about. I found a whole lot of tadpoles and some enormous bull frogs (Rana catesbeiana), but no snapper.

Three times bubble trails extended away from me to the deepest part of the pond. I followed them, sure that they were turtles walking along the bottom, but the deepest part of the pond was a little more than I could manage - I sort of tiptoed, brushing the bottom but not getting any traction. I stirred up huge clouds of bubbles myself, I suppose methane and other gases (some hydrogen sulfide by the smell of it) from the mud. I can't say that part was fun - not horrible, but a little unpleasant if I thought too much about the bubbles rolling up my pant legs - halfway between a bubble jet whirlpool and farting in the tub.
It wasn't all mud and swamp gas. Here's one the lilies getting in my way... er, enhancing the scenery. Anyhow, after an hour of extensive feeling, groping, and poking around with a stick I had to move on to get ready for the nature walk.

Mid-summer isn't a great season for a herping nature walk, but we wrangled up a garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and a couple frogs along the route ahead of time so that we could recruit one of the kids to release them back at the capture site as we passed it.

Here's a nice little wood frog (Rana sylvatica):

...and a pickerel frog (Rana palustris), a genuinely pretty species, which I had forgotten until one of the walkers commented on its handsome pattern. The pickerel frog is cursed, along with so many other common species, with the herper disregard that comes from seeing so many every year.

We also trapped a couple painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) to show off - another beautiful common species that we should put more effort into photographing.


Cindy said...

Muddling - great term. One day, maybe I will try it. Kinda scary but may be worth it for discoveries. Try scrub brushing in shampoo; works on fingernails at least.

Amber Coakley said...

You're braver than I am! I might wade into the shallows, with boots on. Certainly not chin-deep and barefoot! I'll just do my muddling vicariously through you. ;-)