The Big Turtle Year: Update #10

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.

James Krause holding an eastern box turtle (Terrapene c. carolina) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

James Krause holding an eastern box turtle (Terrapene c. carolina) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

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.

Species #31 for The Big Turtle Year, an adult Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Species #31 for The Big Turtle Year, an adult Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Profile of an adult Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Profile of an adult Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Plastron of an adult Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Plastron of an adult Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Jim Barzyk searching for Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) and spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Jim Barzyk searching for Blanding’s turtles (Emydoidea blandingii) and spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

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.

George L. Heinrich photographing an adult wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by Robert Krause.

George L. Heinrich photographing an adult wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by Robert Krause.

Profile of an adult wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Profile of an adult wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

George L. Heinrich holding an adult female wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by Robert Krause.

George L. Heinrich holding an adult female wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by Robert Krause.

Adult female wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Adult female wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Plastron of an adult female wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Plastron of an adult female wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Bob Krause searching wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) habitat in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Bob Krause searching wood turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) habitat in southwestern Michigan. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Three members of the Chicago Herpetological Society (Mike Dloogatch, Linda Manchen-Malawy, and Nancy Kloskowski) examining an ornate box turtle (Terrapene o. ornata), species #32 for The Big Turtle Year, at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve in Whiteside County, Illinois. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Three members of the Chicago Herpetological Society (Mike Dloogatch, Linda Manchen-Malawy, and Nancy Kloskowski) examining an ornate box turtle (Terrapene o. ornata), species #32 for The Big Turtle Year, at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve in Whiteside County, Illinois. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

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.

The Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois) is owned and managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

The Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois) is owned and managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Adult female ornate box turtle (Terrapene o. ornata) at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Adult female ornate box turtle (Terrapene o. ornata) at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Plastron of an adult female ornate box turtle (Terrapene o. ornata) at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

Plastron of an adult female ornate box turtle (Terrapene o. ornata) at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

James Krause examining an adult bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

James Krause examining an adult bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) at the Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie State Nature Preserve (Whiteside County, Illinois). Photograph by George L. Heinrich.

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.