Posts Tagged 'turtles'

Muckle Turkle

The Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum). This species is endangered here in New York State, where they are only found on the non-NYC parts of Long Island. (Habitat destruction, car wheels, the usual work of H. allegedly sapiens.) A fair number were in the Pitch and Tar Swamp at Jamestown Island, Virginia, where I took these pictures last week. These are the first Muddies I’ve ever come across.They’re small turtles, about 4 inches long when fully grown, and just under 5″ for the record-breakers. And have they got a lot of neck! Evidently, they’re sometimes mistaken for young Snappers, but the practiced eye will disabuse that notion. I read that they’re the only mud turtle in most of their range and have a strong tolerance for salt water, so can be found in brackish marshes and the like.

I tried to turn one of the numerous examples in that turtle paradise into a Stinkpot (Sternotherus odoratus), a.k.a., Common Musk Turtle, but I failed. That’s a species I still haven’t seen. They are supposed to still be on Staten Island.

Turtles Galore

A foot bridge connects the mainland of Jamestown Island with the original settlement of Jamestowne, the first permanent English colony in North America. On a recent visit we barely made it across the old tar and pitch swamp. Because down below in the muck were four species of turtles: Snapper, Painted, Spotted, and Mud, that captured all our attention. Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata), the least numerous of the lot. Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta, the most common. This trio abandoned this upland as thisSnapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) clambered out. Several of the Snappers were still caked in mud.One was boulder-sized.

(I’ll return at a later date with the Mud Turtles.)

Snapper

Chelydra serpentinaSnapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), the smaller of two seen in the water of the native garden at NYBG this weekend.

Note the spotless shell. Compare with another NYBG snap seen two years ago in the Discovery Center pond. Much more growth on the shell of that younger specimen. The huge beastie I’ve seen in Prospect Park’s watercourse a few times over the years has also evinced a spotless shell, which I attribute to chorine in the water (yes, it’s tap water). Here’s a little one in the Prospect Pools. Here’s a tiny one I found crossing the road a few years ago in Massachusetts.
Chelydra serpentinaShell length here 6-7″ long. Love the dinosaur thorns on the tail.

Pet-trade Refugee

Trachemys scripta elegansOne of the many surplus Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) dumped into local waterways. Idiots buy them and tire of them and let them loose. The red “ear” is actually just a mark; on this specimen it’s rather pale; sometimes it doesn’t show at all. I once counted 70 RESs, which are native to the southeast and the Mississippi Valley, along the Lullwater from bridge to bridge. Releasing pet turtles is illegal because of the risk of disease, but that stops nobody.

Why do people insist on taking animals from the wild for their own, all-too-often ephemeral, entertainment? I suppose if they see it in a store or bucket on the street — it’s actually illegal to sell turtles smaller than 4″ because of the risk of salmonella — they don’t think it’s a wild animal to begin with. Or one that will grow out of a toy aquarium before too long; these animals can live for decades. Or after Junior’s attention has moved on to other whims, and that cute lil’ turtle is no longer so.

There’s a subculture of fancy turtle and tortoise fans that make much of their fetish here in the city and elsewhere, pleased how their pet, for instance, spends the winter in the freezer to mimic the amazing down-cycling some of these animals use to get through the frozen months. Really? You’re proud of having de-natured a wild creature for your own vanity and ego? And spare me the argument of breeders, who are doing it for profit.

There’s a now-famous tortoise that is walked in Central Park to much social media hoopla. But the poor creature belongs in habitat on another continent, not Central Park. Such attention, like dumb kids’ movies, has probably amped-up the demand, unleashing the cruel and destructive pet-hunting industry — for where there are warped desires, the profiteers will leap in to provide and crush everything else beneath their feet.

3 Turtle Species

Clemmys guttataSpotted (Clemmys guttata).Chrysemys pictaPainted (Chrysemys picta).Chelydra serpentinaSnapping (Chelydra serpentina). All on the same day at Great Swamp. There were two Snappers, the pictured one being enormous; a dozen Painted; and half-a-dozen Spotted. I am most enamored of the Spotted. Here’s another:IMG_6594

Turtlelicious

Chrysemys pictaThe afternoon shine off this wet carapace alerted us to this Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) at Great Swamp NWR.Chrysemys pictaThe swamp is waking after its winter slumbers.Chrysemys pictaNot even any Skunk Cabbage in evidence, but was it ever mild, nearly 60. Chrysemys pictaThat sun must feel good to a turtle. And the frogs, too, were starting to celebrate. A couple of Spring Peepers sang out. Talk of the heralds of the spring!GSNWR

Everywhere You Look

HisteridaeFound in the salad spinner after washing some organic lettuce. A Histeridae family beetle, also known as hisser or clown beetles, even though they don’t wear much makeup. They eat the larvae of flies.OpuntiaA late-blooming Prickly Pear (Opuntia), one of my favorite local flowers. Speyeria cybeleA very beat-up Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele), a new species for me. They’re rare in the city; this was at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and seemed to be flying pretty well, considering.Malaclemys terrapinDiamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) also at JBWR.Malaclemys terrapinOur only brackish water turtle. Only the females come to land, to lay their eggs. This one was heading back to the bay, so presumably she had spent the night digging a nest. Considering most of the JBWR nests are plundered by Raccoons (introduced by the highway), best wishes to her. MutillidaeI thought at first this was a large, fast-moving ant, but it’s actually a Red Velvet Ant of the Mutillidae family. Pardon the common name, these are actually wasps and are supposed to have a fierce sting, leading to their alternate name of, head’s up, people, “Cow Killer.” (This is why we have a telephoto lens.) Females are wingless; the winged males look a little more waspy. The larvae are ectoparasites on other wasps, including Cicada Killer Wasps.


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