Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Turtles - Testudines - Tortues

On Saturday, I went out with E in the kayaks and saw many turtles. We saw mostly Chrysemys picta (painted turtle); in a short jaunt outside in the kayaks we saw seven, of which most were sunning themselves on a log which appears to be particularly suitable for turtle sunning (it's at just the right angle for them to walk comfortably up the trunk from the water). I don't usually take my camera out when I go out on the water, so I only have one somewhat poor photo of C. picta for the weekend, taken from the shore. I've added a shot I took at QUBS in early may which shows the shell better.

C. picta - at the lake
C. picta has a conservation status of least concern both in Canada and the United States. This species is easy to spot because of its habit of coming out of the water to bask in the sun. On a Sunday kayak jaunt with my mother, we saw nine of them, of which six were sunning themselves together on the abovementioned good turtle sunning log.

C. picta - at QUBS
I also spotted one Chelydra serpentina (common snapping turtle). It also is a species of least concern in the US and Canada. However, they are much harder to spot because they don't come out of the water to bask in the sun. They're actually quite a rare sight at the lake even though they're Canada's largest freshwater turtle -  they are remarkably inconspicuous. The photo posted on this blog last year showed C. serpentina in a very characteristic posture; they like to bury themselves in silt with little but their noses exposed for breathing, which makes them very hard to see from above the surface (my mother has had better luck while snorkelling).

This weekend, I was wandering the shoreline in search of frogs when I noticed a small C. serpentina basking in the sun next to a log. I say 'small'; they can get very big indeed and this individual's carapace was only about 9' long (a respectable but by no means remarkable size for this species). I have encountered ones much larger than this at the lake. I remember a particularly incredible encounter with a huge one during an early morning kayak trip some years ago; I mistook its head for a log sticking out of the water but it was actually a gigantic snapper sunning itself in the shallows. It must have been at least 20' in the shell and I think that's a low estimate. It measured quite a bit longer than my kayak paddle from nose to tail, at any rate; maybe half of that was shell.

One never seems to have one's camera during such encounters, unfortunately, so we will have to content ourselves with photos of the smaller C. serpentina taken over the weekend.

It isn't uncommon for us to find tiny C. serpentina hatchlings in the bay, hiding amongst the accumulation of poplar leaves (Populus spp.).

C. serpentina - at the lake
A lovely creature, head retracted as it attempts to be inconspicuous.

C. serpentina

No comments:

Post a Comment