Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Herp of the Day: Glyptemys insculpta

June 7th

While grocery shopping with Shawn downtown, I got a call from Eric who got a call from Sarah who got a call from Fitz... Wood Turtle! Of course we had to rush over to Fitz's house to see this lifer. Last year Eric, Shawn, and I searched the valley behind Fitz's after he reported seeing them nesting, but we had no luck. This year we set up the phone tree above, and it worked, with Eric getting to see his life Glyptemys while I was stuck at work... anyways, long story short Fitz found another one over the weekend that Shawn and I were able to go see.

The Fitzes have Glyptemys insculpta living in the valley behind their house, and they come up to dig nests in their backyard. The valley contains a creek, some swampy areas, and forest, whereas their yard is a north-facing slope with lots of gravel and scrub. They like the open, warm, loose grit for digging nest chambers.

When we got over to Fitz's place, he had this lovely lady waiting for us in his yard:

This turtle is AWESOME. Her carapace is plain, but she is painted with bright orange color on the soft parts hidden around the shell openings that is hard to capture accurately on film. We posed a few photos to express our joy at seeing such a beautiful girl, then took her down the hill back to where Fitz found her.

(Photo by Shawn Billerman)

One interesting thing we noted was her appearance of being ready to pop with eggs, visible as big round bulges between her legs and tail. We suspect that she was responsible for a partial nest dig from the day before.

(Photo by Shawn Billerman)

The coolest thing though was that this individual is previously known. Fitz had marked this girl and several others when he first noticed Glyptemys on his property in 1997, making this girl at least 11 years old, and likely quite a bit older than that as she was adult or near-adult when first marked. Oddly enough, this was the first year Fitz had recaptured any of those handful of marked individuals from the first year. Fitz made some sketches and measurements to compare with his old notes.

Despite our presence hovering over her, this big girl was remarkably calm about it, emerging from her shell and walking about fairly quickly after being set down. This allowed for better photos of the bright coloration. I even noticed that the orange turns into two little yellow marks on her chin, not something I had known about them.

After that last quick round of photos, we let her go her own way. I guess turtles don't have a great turning radius, because she decided the best way back into the forest was straight ahead... through Shawn.

Minor human obstacles aside, she disappeared into the underbrush, hopefully to soon lay a full clutch of future baby Glyptemys.

(Photo by Shawn Billerman)

1 comment:

  1. Nice pictures and good narration. My inlaws have reported NAWTs on their property up near Watertown. These really are fantastic turtles. Cheers. Glenn