A Terrapin Tale

It seems that surest way to prevent there from being any terrapins on the causeway when I drive in to the mainland is to remember my camera. If I put my camera in my purse before I leave, there will not be any terrapins in the road. Which is a good thing, really, but still.

Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) are brackish water turtles that live in the salt marshes of the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. At this time of the year, just like the sea turtles coming out of the ocean, mother terrapins emerge to lay their eggs in hammocks, tree-covered islands of high ground dotting the marsh. Unfortunately for them, the highest high ground to be found anywhere in the marsh behind Jekyll Island is the causeway connecting us to the mainland, so their instinct to crawl to the highest elevation they can find leads them out into dangerous traffic. (My boss recounts a story of a terrapin actually found a good part of the way to the top of the Sidney Lanier Bridge that spans the Brunswick River near the end of the causeway. It’s amusing to imagine what might have been going through that turtle’s mind: “Wow, I’m going to have the highest nest ever!”)

Whenever I do happen to spot a terrapin in the road, if it’s possible to pull over safely I do and move it off the pavement to the edge of the bushes and trees lining the causeway’s margins. I’m not the only one, either; in addition to the official “terrapin patrol” operated out of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which also rehabilitates any injured ones they find, I’ve seen other good Samaritans pulling over and braving traffic to rescue the little ladies. Luckily the road on causeway is only two lanes wide, so you can do this without really taking your life in your hands.

Like I said, I haven’t been able to get any photos of the females, but to give you an idea of what cuties they are here’s a video clip I originally posted in January of our three captive males. They really have a lot of personality!

A Case of the Icks

If you’ve noticed the lack of new posts this week, it’s because I’ve been sick as a dog, the sickest I’ve been since I was in high school – I missed three days of work.  Especially sad because my new camera, replacement for the old one that now only makes angry buzzing noises when I try to turn it on, arrived and I’ve been too sick to go out and play with it.  I’m on the mend, so expect posts full of pics from my shiny new Canon PowerShot this weekend, but for now enjoy another xkcd comic that made the zoology nerd in me laugh.

Critter Tracks

February and March are such teases in Ohio.  Right now we seem to be having a bit of a mini-thaw and the sound of dripping water is everywhere, but I know there are more snow showers in our forecast for later this week.  I’m certainly guilty of complaining about the knee-deep layer of snow that’s been on the ground for the past several weeks, but I’m gaining a whole new appreciation of that fluffy white snow now that it’s being replaced by slush and mud.  What’s worst is when you step into what looks like a drift of nice snow but turns out to be a thin layer of snow on top of a lot of slush and liquid.  Instant soaking foot.  Eeeeew.

When you live in the woods, one of the nice perks of having a thick coat of snow on the ground is seeing all the animal tracks.  During the day the only mammals we see a lot of are the gray squirrels, but the tracks in the snow reveal what a busy place our woods are at night.  I’m a novice at identifying tracks but you’d be amazed what you can learn from a little Googling.

Note the five toes.  These were definitely too big for a squirrel, and I know raccoon prints are more hand-like – wouldn’t they have longer “fingers,” and a distinct “thumb”?  After comparing with some picture online, my guess is skunk.  But who knows.

These are a little easier.

Five toes in front, four in back: teh internetz inform me that this is a trait of mice and squirrels.  And since the track ends abruptly at the base of a tree trunk, I think it’s a safe bet that these are indeed from my old buddy the gray squirrel.

Too bad none of the tracks in my woods are quite as interesting as these…

(from xkcd)