The New England Herpetological Society was invited to visit an agricultural school in Bristol County, MA and take a look at their turtle head-start program. They have been head-starting our state's threatened and endangered turtles for a few years, providing an "endless summer" for their first winter in an effort to let them grow big enough to avoid easy predation. There were a few different species there, but the Blandings Turtle is arguably the most in need of their services. We were lucky enough to look at the turtles and their enclosures, which is very impressive, to say the least.
The turtles are housed in a temperature controlled greenhouse and all of the chelonians we saw looked very happy indeed!
We saw some of our nemesis species, the Eastern Box Turtle.
There are a bunch of active and entertaining Wood Turtles there as well... some of ours and some that are being head-started for a New Jersey population.
I was massively charmed by these little tanks!
There are even some Spotted Turtles getting a chance to grow before the Spring!
Of course, baby Blanding's are the star of the show. They are so personable and they just swim up and say hi. I was practically crying they are so cute!
Let's not forget the Red-bellied Cooters, of which there was a sizable group!
There were even a few Diamondback Terrapins present!
We left the greenhouse (reluctantly!) to make room for other members and went to check out the school's museum. In the lower level, there was a large tank with some local species, complete with a familiar sight to us... a Painted Turtle basking! It did our hearts a lot of good!
They also had some snakes on hand, so we got to see some large female Garters and some neonate and yearling ones as well, not to mention a few small Water Snakes! We talked for a while about herping with some of the students and our friend Kurt. It is exactly what we needed to make it through January! When we left, it was pleasant out but not enough to flip a salamander. We would do that on Monday.
Monday the 19th was Martin Luther King Day and thanks to the good Reverend, we both had the day off. We had made plans to go look for some stream salamanders with Teá. She too has been studying the habitat needs of our Massachusetts nemesis the Spring Salamander. We took all of our knowledge to a place in Worcester where Andrea and I believe the waters are perfect for them. It was going to be in the low 40s, so we thought our luck was going to shine through.
We got there at about 11:30 (thanks for the ride, Teá!!) and discovered right away that perhaps we had jumped the gun on the big Spring thaw...
The cascading water was barely cascading. We were able to get to some running water at a few spots but it was icy cold and many of the rocks were unflippable, still frozen in place. Andrea flipped one Two-Line larvae but we were unable to get a photo.The trail leading up the hill was an ice slick and we decided to instead go to a nearby wooded area with a stream running through it.
The stream was very frozen there too. Plus, I fell on the icy path. Oh, well... the best laid plans...
We got to a spot that looked like this:
Good enough. Teá and I started flipping rocks beneath the surface and skimming with dip nets. Teá nabbed this little larvae which she immediately noticed was lighter and more translucent than the average Two-Lined...
In the field, with my subpar eyesight, I wasn't ready to commit to it being a Dusky, but it showed a few earmarks of one, like husky back legs and white gills.
She soon found a Two-Lined larvae and we were able to compare side by side.
We stayed for a while longer, working in "never say die" mode, dipping our hands into the water and flipping until the pain from freezing was too much, taking them out to warm them, then putting them back in. We stupidly did that for a couple of hours and then we smartened up. We got two species. Springs will wait. Now that Teá had had a chance to see this place, she agrees that it could be Springey... the algae growing there prefers alkaline water, like the salamander.
So, many thanks to Teá for getting us up and out and driving there! Hell, and for netting the two specimens we were able to photograph! It was a good day, if a bit chilling. Not bad for a Monday.