Archive for March, 2013

Another Sign of Spring — Juvenile Garter Snake

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Juvenile Garter Snake

Temperatures today reached the high 40s, so the Turtle Journal team explored a nearby abandoned cranberry bog to see what spring life may be emerging.  The entire wetlands echoed with a chorus of spring peepers, punctuated by the croaks of wood frogs.

Juvenile Garter Snake Basking in Bog Channel

Shallow bog channels were filled with egg masses, both frogs and salamanders.  In the channel closest to the woods, Don Lewis spotted an unusual twig or grass reed lying crossways, which actually proved to be a small basking garter snake.

 Juvenile Garter Snake in Abandoned Marion Cranberry Bog

Turtle Journal documented this juvenile garter snake and immediately released it back into the safety of the bog.  The team loves to find such exquisite signs of spring, especially after this neverending winter.

Juvenile Garter Snake in the Hand

LIFE BEGINS (Wood Frog Eggs)

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

Wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) serve as troubadours of springtime in SouthCoast wetlands.  Their distinctive quack-like croaks can be heard as March temperatures crack the mid-40s and even before cheery spring peepers serenade the marsh.  

Wood Frogs Haunt Spooky SouthCoast Wetlands

In this video from mid-March 2012, behind the scary theme music you can hear the raucous chorus of amorous wood frogs heralding another mating season in Southeast Massachusetts.

Neverending Winter in Southeast Massachusetts

Despite this neverending winter in the Northeast, with wetland trails still covered in ice and snow, the Turtle Journal team visited several SouthCoast swamps and bogs on Sunday as temperatures “soared” (sic) into the low 40s. 

Frog and Salamander Egg Masses in Shallow Bog Channel

In an abandoned Marion cranberry bog, we found a large number of assorted frog and salamander eggs affixed to reeds under a thin layer of overnight ice in shallow channels closely abutting the surrounding woodlands.

Wood Frog Egg Masses in Shallow Washburn Wetlands

With bright late March sunshine, temperatures reached the mid 40s in Marion’s Washburn Park, where the warm shallow water of bog channels enticed hundreds of wood frogs to bask and breed.  Egg masses were clustered in sunny areas throughout the swamp.

Wood Frog Egg Mass Closeup

Examination of the egg masses indicated that they may have been freshly deposited as eggs seemed to be in the early stage of development.

Closeup of Dividing Wood Frog Eggs

A closeup of individual zygotes appear to catch eggs in cleavage at the 2 and 4 cell stage.

Closeup of Dividing Wood Frog Eggs

The closeup above captures individual zygotes in the process of division.

Great Blue Heron Returns to Marion Rookery

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Returns

On Sunday morning, March 24th, the first Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) returned to the SouthCoast rookery in Marion, Massachusetts.  This lone Great Blue Heron stood tall in its nest and seemed focused on the horizon, as if waiting for its mate and others to arrive.

Empty Great Blue Heron Nest @ Marion Rookery

There are four heron nests directly on the shoreline of this Marion pond and several others in trees tucked away in the surrounding wetlands.  All of these other nests remained vacant this morning. 

Rebuiling Great Blue Heron Nest, April 2012

Last year we documented four pairs of Great Blue Herons on these pond-side trees rebuilding and buttressing their nests during the first week of April.  See Nest Building at the Great Blue Heron Rookery.


Spotted Salamander Egg Masses

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Yellow Spotted Salamander Egg Masses

Since the yellow spotted salamander congress last Tuesday, March 12th, (see Slithering Salamanders Usher in Spring Congress), the weather has turned decidedly frigid here in Southeast Massachusetts, with nightly freezes and a major snow storm.  Despite an icy morning today, we revisited the site of the March 12th congresses at an abandoned cranberry bog  to search for egg masses.  Within a few minutes of searching, we discovered a number of egg masses in the flooded channels of the abandoned bog.

Yellow Spotted Salamander Egg Massess

About half of those egg masses were relatively clear, while the rest were clouded and nearly opaque.  The two masses photographed above were found side-by-side anchored to reeds in a shallow bog channel. 

Mostly Clear Yellow Spotted Salamander Egg Mass

The clear mass shows individual eggs all encased within a protective outer gelatinous layer.  This outer casing distinguishes salamander egg masses from those of frogs that use the same shallow bog channels to deposit their eggs.

Individual Yellow Spotted Salamander Egg within Mass

This extreme closeup of a single salamander egg embedded in the gelatinous outer protective mass illustrates a signature difference for identfication between salamander and frog egg masses.

Clouded Yellow Salamander Egg Mass

The photograph above shows a yellow spotted salamander egg mass with a clouded gelatinous protective layer that obscures the individual eggs within the nearly opaque covering.  Individual eggs can be detected as blurred dark spots scattered within the protective layer.  The Turtle Journal team will continue to monitor development of these egg masses through the spring.  For more information on salamander egg development, see Spotted Salamanders: From Eggs to Larvae.

Let the Turtling Begin

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Female Spotted Turtle and Sue Wieber Nourse

Torrential rains and rising temperatures last night gave way to sunshine and 50 degree temperatures this morning.  Those conditions spurred SouthCoast fresh water turtles to emerge from winter brumation where they have kept safe and comfortable through the last 5 1/2 months.  Sue Wieber Nourse found two basking spotted turtles at a East Marion pond and captured one of them, a mature female.

Mature Female Spotted Turtle #13

Turtle Journal has followed the life cycle of this spotted turtle, #13, for many years.  She is unique with scutal anomalies all along her carapace.  She also sports a large bump under her shell at the 4th vetebral.  Despite these “flaws,” Lucky #13 has been assessed as healthy and normal when we find her each spring happily basking with one of the guys.  Today was no different.  (See The Adorable Couple: Spotted Turtles Emerge from March 14th, 2012.)

Painted Turtle Basks in Abandoned Bog Reservoir

Also this morning, Don Lewis discovered a large painted turtle basking on a rock in the middle of the reservoir of an abandoned cranberry bog in Marion.  This location will sport tens of basking turtles once spring sets in.  Yet this morning, we found only this lone turtle that had emerged early from brumation.  Nevertheless, with spotted and painted turtles on the move, the game’s afoot.  Let the turtling begin!