May 10, 2014

Baby Turtles at Three Rivers

Photo by Erin
Having already been to Clark Reservation once so far this month, and twice in April, we were looking for a change of scenery and decided to hike at Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area.  We met Erin at the parking lot along Sixty Road.  First we checked out the short wildlife viewing boardwalk, then headed westward on the two track north of what is variously called either Green Pond or the 100 Acre Swamp.  Frankie and I hadn't been on this trail in two years, back when he would start hikes on his own power, then ride in the big external frame Kelty carrier when he was tired.  It is fun taking him back to such places so he can claim them for his own.

This hike is an out-and-back, about 2 miles round trip.  Since the route follows an old road, it is easy going, with gentle grades and levels surfaces.  Except for the mud pits, of course, which Frankie enjoyed immensely.  Throwing rocks into water is a great passion of his, and today he discovered he can make his own projectiles from mud if no rocks are available.  It was a warm out, so I let him have his fun.  The weather was gorgeous, the spring wildflowers are blooming, and the leaves are just starting to come out.  Ah, how I love that brief green mist phase of spring... 

But the absolute highlight of the hike was the baby turtles!  There is an open sandy field that rises slightly between two low spots about halfway to the turnaround point (a weir at the end of the pond that is impassable for the stature-challenged; I've crossed it in the past by making a precarious leap, but would never attempt it with Frankie, as the span to be crossed exceeds his height, and the fall from the inevitable miss would involve both pain and submersion).  Anyway, we found the first of the newly hatched painted turtles on the way out.  So unbelievably cute!  After watching it struggle awkwardly through the sand, we meddled a bit by carrying the tiny guy down to the edge of the water.  We didn't actually put the hatchling in the pond, just set it in the sun nearby and let it choose its own route from there.  The poor creature was understandably a little spooked and just hunkered down, but we checked the spot when we returned and it had moved on.

On the way back, we found three more turtles in the same spot.  Apparently they'd hatched in the hour and a half since we'd last been there (a LOT of time was spent in those giant mud puddles).  Again, we used questionable ethics and carried the tiny reptiles with us to the waters edge.  Painted turtles are very hardy once they mature, but the hatchlings have many, many predators and only a tiny percentage survive to adulthood.  I fully understand that a snapper or racoon might get them later today despite our intervention, but we couldn't bring ourselves to just leave them right in the road, to be scooped up by the next passing crow or chewed up by the next exuberant dog.  Two of these three were bold enough to scramble in the water immediately, putting on good show for us, while the other retreated into its shell to proceed unobserved after we moseyed on.

What a day in the woods!

common violet (Viola sororia)
white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)
The spot where the umbilical cord was attached in the egg is still visible.

A nest site and eggs where baby turtles had hatched

Photo by Erin


painted trillium (Trillium undulatum) surrounded by Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense)


foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)


Our route is shown in yellow.
Our route is shown in orange. 

No comments:

Post a Comment