A little rain…

…brings a lot of turtles! Box turtles kick it up shortly after a rain. And after a couple of weeks without rain, the boxies really want to move. Whether it’s to find a mate or a nest site, they will begin crossing roads with a purpose. Tuesday afternoon was no exception. 

The radar began to look promising for rain by mid-afternoon Tuesday. Sure enough, turtle patrollers Bob and Marti texted me about  the first road crosser of the day!

Bob and Marti started the afternoon
 
I arrived home to pick up the mail, where I found ABV headed to the woods behind the mailboxes… 

ABV is a new turtle to the study
After ABV was measured and marked, we went out to release her where she was found. I put her in the leaves, turned around, and…
Damaged so much that she could not be marked
 

…we found another one making its way up a muddy bank. She had healed from such extensive shell damage that she couldn’t be marked. Back to the house to log it in! But wait!

The truck had hardly dropped into gear than THIS GUY walks out into the road! Meanwhile, patroller Greg moved this one from the road near his house.

Neighborhood patroller Greg made sure this one was out of the road

The day wasn’t done, though. Rick & Jan called to report spotting yet another female in their driveway at almost 9 p.m.! What happened? We suspect it was a combination of rain after an extended dry spell and the peak of the turtles’ annual nesting drive.

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ABM: Taking refuge at the creek

The southern Appalachians have had a drought of rain and box turtles this spring. We have found several by now each spring for the past three years. This year, only two. One is the female we’ve marked as “ABM”.

ABM
We think ABM is new to us. Hopefully a run through the Image J image matching system will flush it out. ABM is a female, probably an adult, and almost certainly a “tripod,” as she appear to be missing her rear right leg. Her age is uncertain. Even her scutes – no certain gauge – are worn smooth. On that hot Monday, she was moving along a hot and dry area. She was weighed, measured, and tagged before being released where she was found. I expected her to make hasty to a shady spot. Instead, we were surprised to find her mid-afternoon…

ABM

…only a foot away. This time she was hunkered down in a “form,” or temporary shelter. My guess was it was to get out of the direct sunlight without expending the energy to walk deeper in the woods. Two visits in one day were a nice surprise. 

Even more surprising was to find her again on Thursday, almost 100 yards away.


This time, she was soaking in the creek. It’s hard to imagine a three-legged turtle going that far that fast unless she was motivated. A three-day time frame was enough to call for at least a weigh-in. Sure enough, she had lost three grams. That’s roughly the equivalent of a 180-lb person losing just over a pound. Dehydration? Good guess. She clearly enjoyed the soak. We found ABM here again the next day. WOW! Still soaking. Let’s hope that we get some rain, for our sakes and ABM, too.

Herpy Tuesday: Southern two-lined salamander 

A walk Saturday flushed out this Southern Two-lined Salamander.  

This is the cousin to the Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamander that we discussed a few weeks ago. If you need a better frame of reference for what a challenge it is to see these on the forest floor…

Eurycea cirrigera
 …here is the same salamander in my hand. As tiny as they are, salamanders make up much of the vertebrate biomass in the southern Appalachians. 

To learn more, visit their webpage at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory