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All posts for the month July, 2010

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center

The DuPont Environmental Education Center has a healthy population of Eastern Snapping Turtles and they have been a common sight for many recent visitors. Large adults are likely to be seen lumbering across and lounging in the marsh and much smaller yearlings have been seen swimming at the pond’s surface.

Eastern Snapping Turtle. Photo by Jim White.

Even if don’t see them, you may find evidence of a snapper’s presence. We have seen tracks left by adults in the muddy ground next to the building. The tracks are identified by widely spaced rows of shallow depressions with a slightly sinuous line in-between them, which is caused by the tail dragging on the ground.

Snapping Turtle tracks. Photo by John Harrod

Female Snapping Turtles seek out dry, sandy areas to lay eggs. In late spring, a female was spotted on the abandoned railroad berm laying its ping-pong ball sized eggs. Eggs typically hatch 2-3 months later , depending on the temperature and rainfall, after which the young then make their way to the safety of the water.

Female laying eggs. Photo by Meghan Hawkins.

Unfortunately, this mother’s young did not make it. The nest was found to be dug up by a predator, likely a fox or raccoon, and eggs made an easy meal.

Remnants of the nest. Note the scattered egg shells. Photo by John Harrod.

Come look for snapping turtles and other wildlife on our adult and teen canoeing trip  on the Christina River on July 21.

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

Looking inside a Killdeer nest: a downy chick, a just-hatched chick, and an egg.

Everywhere you look at this time of year, there are baby animals.  Fledgling robins beg for worms from the fenceposts, poster-cute cottontail bunnies test out their legs on the lawn, and the local farmyards bustle with little lambs, calves, and piglets. 

On a Father’s Day birding trip with my father, we came across a Killdeer nest right on the edge of the road.  A depression in the gravel held an egg, a freshly-hatched chick and a fluffy nestling.  Mom and dad Killdeer paraded around, shrieking and performing their broken-wing display to encourage our two-ton vehicular beast to leave the area.  The tenacity and courage of these shorebirds is reflective of the protective instinct common throughout the animal kingdom.

A baby American Toad sits comfortably between two veins on a skunk cabbage leaf. Image by Derek Stoner.

At Ashland Nature Center right now, hikers must watch where they step.  On the trails near the creeks and marsh, tiny American Toads are hiding.  Just emerged from the puddles and transformed from their tadpole stage, these quarter-inch long baby amphibians look like little crickets as they hop across the trail.  Two of these toads would fit comfortably on a dime, with room to spare!   The reproductive efforts of the adult toads have paid off, and hundreds of their progeny are now growing up in their new terrestrial world. 

A two-week-old white-tailed deer fawn bounds through a woodland. Image by Derek Stoner.

In woodlands and fields right now, spotted bundles of cervid joy lay wiating for their mother to return.  These white-tailed deer fawns grow up quickly, but their first few weeks are particularly dangerous.  Instinct tells them to lay still and allow their excellent camouflage to help them elude the eyes of predators.  Only when danger nears will the fawn run away on wobbly legs and attempt to escape to safety. Last week while walking through the open woods, a fawn jumped out of a wineberry thicket ten feet away.  I grabbed a few frames with the camera as the cat-sized fawn ran into another thicket, stopping there to gawk at likely the first human it had ever seen.    

The proud mama pig at Coverdale Farm is covered up by her 13 nursing piglets. Image by Derek Stoner.

At Coverdale Farm, the baby parade continues.  The mother pig welcomed thirteen curly-tailed piglets recently, and spends her days feeding herself loads of food so that she can nurse thirteen hungry mouths on a near-constant basis.  The rate of growth for baby pigs is incredible, and you can practically see them expanding before your eyes! 

Having recently celebrated Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, now we can reflect on the animal parents who welcome Spring each year with a promise of new life.  Can we create a Parent’s Day holiday to celebrate  the animal parents?