Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sunbathing Reptiles

Lately I've been spending a lot of time visiting wetlands. Kodi likes water as I've mentioned before and one of my recent work projects involved planting (with the help of volunteers) hundreds of native tree and shrub seedlings around a restored wetland. Most of my walkabouts with Kodi involve walking near at least one wetland.

These wetland visits have yielded a surprising number of turtle and snake sightings. On sunny days I always take time to sit and watch them basking on logs, hummocks, and beaver lodges. The most common sighting is of the painted turtle. I often see more than a dozen painted turtles of various sizes basking on logs and bare sedge hummocks on a late morning or early afternoon walk, when the air temperature and the sun's warmth are just right. If it is too cold or too hot, the turtles won't be out. The painted turtle, although common, is one of the most beautiful of our native turtles, with yellow stripes on its throat and neck and red markings on the edge of its shiny, smooth shell.

Last week I blogged about two rare Blanding's turtles that I spotted basking along with a handful of painted turtles and a small wood turtle sunning itself against a cattail blade. My latest sighting of sunbathing reptiles involved three northern water snakes on a beaver lodge. Two of the snakes were intertwined and sunning at the bottom edge of the lodge. A third, larger snake, was coiled at the very top of the lodge - maybe he was king of the heap.

 A beaver lodge with three sunbathing northern water snakes.
Click to enlarge and you may be able to pick them out.

For some great wildlife watching grab a pair of binoculars on a sunny, late morning or early afternoon, and head out to the nearest wetland. Turtles may slip into the water when you approach, but take a seat and wait and they will emerge again. Scan beaver lodges for sunning snakes. While you sit and enjoy the solitude of the wetland and surrounding woods, you might see a goose family swim by as I did. Four black and yellow goslings floated along in a line, dad in front and mom behind, keeping a watchful eye on Kodi and me.

 The pair of geese swim over to check on Kodi, to make sure he doesn't disturb their goslings,
which they must have tucked away somewhere safe on the other side of the wetland,

and Kodi curiously and harmlessly eyes the geese.

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