Species #31: Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii)
Location: Southwestern Michigan
Date: 22 May 2017
Species #32: Ornate box turtle (Terrapene o. ornata)
Location: Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois)
Date: 25 May 2017
Post by George L. Heinrich
I had been looking forward to revisiting the midwest region after last year’s amazing turtle trip. My friends, Bob Krause and Jim Barzyk, had taken me to see some beautiful turtle habitat in southwestern Michigan during that visit. Despite the morning temperatures starting out in the low 40s, we still found eastern box turtles (Terrapene c. carolina), and one specimen each of wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata), and Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii). Here it was a full year later and with slightly warmer weather, so I was hoping for even more turtles. We had great success in the northeast region just a week earlier (see Update #9 by Tim Walsh), so the only species that we had to find in Michigan during the recent trip was a Blanding’s turtle. This species ranges from Nova Scotia to Nebraska, although several populations are disjunct. Considered imperiled (threats include habitat loss and road mortality), they can be found in marshes, bogs, lakes, and small streams.
Wildlife artist James Krause (www.4thpointstudios.com), known for his stunning paintings of turtles, joined Bob, Jim, and me for the current trip and within minutes located an adult eastern massasauga (Sistrurus c. catenatus), a federally threatened rattlesnake that I had long wanted to see in the wild. That sighting was followed by a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), an eastern box turtle, several spotted turtles, the shell of a painted turtle (Chrysemys picta), and finally two Blanding’s turtles (species #31) which we photographed extensively.
Our goal for the second day was to find a wood turtle. Although we had found seven of them in New Jersey during the previous week, this was Michigan and I wanted to photograph them in this magnificent northern forest. Jim found the first one, so that pushed me to search harder. I found the second and final one of the day, an adult female sitting adjacent to a fallen tree trunk.
We had one more goal for this trip, to find an ornate box turtle, and to do so we headed to a different habitat in western Illinois. Bob, James, and I met up with three members of the Chicago Herpetological Society (Mike Dloogatch, Linda Manchen-Malawy, and Nancy Kloskowski) at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve in Whiteside County. The preserve which is recovering from past grazing is owned and managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It was my first visit to prairie habitat and I was interested in the plant diversity, many species of which were new to me. Bob found the first ornate box turtle (Terrapene o. ornata), a beautiful adult female. I later found a smaller adult female box turtle and a bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi), much to my pleasure. James then found another adult female box turtle, bringing the total to three. After two weeks away from home, and several days in the field in both the northeast and midwest regions of the country, the species count for The Big Turtle Year had advanced from 24 to 32.
Thank you again to all of our project partners and sponsors, not only in these two regions but from across the United States. It’s time to shift gears and search for some marine species in south Florida.