Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Turtle Encounters

A week ago I helped my first turtle of the year across the road. It was a painted turtle with a bit of duckweed (a small aquatic plant) stuck to its back and it was just starting to cross the road. I stopped and moved it to the other side of the road, in the direction that it was traveling. One always hopes that they don't just turn around and go back.

Yesterday I had more turtle encounters while visiting a small, isolated pond near the Lamprey River. I saw three different species: painted, Blanding's, and wood. The painted turtles were no surprise; 14 in all were basking on logs. Sitting on the same log with four painted turtles, were two Blanding's turtles, a state endangered species. A Blanding's is easily identified by its yellow chin and domed, helmet-like top shell. See if you can pick out the two Blanding's turtles in this picture.

Here is a little closer picture of the smaller of the two Blanding's turtles. I think you can see the yellow chin clearly.

I walked a little farther around the pond and heard a rustling in the cattails. There I saw a one-inch thick water snake crawling through the cattails, about a foot off the ground. Then I heard a crash when the snake fell or dropped back to the water among the cattails. I continued on and then spotted another turtle sunning itself on a cattail stalk. I must confess I thought young (about 3 inches long) snapping turtle and moved on. Later, when I looked at my photos again, I realized it was a wood turtle, a species of conservation concern in New Hampshire. Wood turtles tend to be secretive and it seemed too open and exposed for such a turtle. But have a look at the photo - a wood turtle for sure.

This is the Year of the Turtle (It seems to be the year of many things, although turtles are always worth celebrating). Have a look at the website of the Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and you will read why turtles are highlighted this year. Many turtle species are in decline because of road mortality (watch for turtles crossing and help them across when you can), fragmenting of their habitats (they move from wetlands to uplands to nest), collecting by the pet trade, and an overabundance of mid-sized predators such as raccoons and skunks.

This is the time of year to see turtles and help celebrate the Year of the Turtle.

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