Published April 9, 2017
Tags: reptiles, turtles, Virginia
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.
Published April 7, 2017
Tags: reptiles, turtles, Virginia
Snapping 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.
Shell length here 6-7″ long. Love the dinosaur thorns on the tail.
One 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.
Published April 24, 2016
Tags: Great Swamp, reptiles, turtles
Published March 8, 2016
Tags: Great Swamp, turtles
Found 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.A late-blooming Prickly Pear (Opuntia), one of my favorite local flowers. A 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.Diamondback Terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) also at JBWR.Our 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. I 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.