Some Old Familiar Faces

The fine weather of the past week has brought out some old friends. A large female northern water snake that likes to spend her spring days basking in the sun under the still bare branches of the dawn redwoods at the base of the boardwalk is back doing just that. Look for her on the right side of the boardwalk as you walk down the last descending portion of the boardwalk.

 

 

Taking in the sun on a fine spring day (4/1/15).
Taking in the sun on a fine spring day (4/1/15).

 

Although a few common snappers have been spotted over the past week or so in other areas of the Wetlands, a snapper was seen on the first day of April cruising just below the surface in the very shallow water on the north side of the Wetlands.

 

A common snapping turtle looking for what may be its first meal of the year (4/1/15).
A common snapping turtle looking for what may be its first meal of the year (4/1/15).

 

This snapper is familiar to me. I believe it’s a male and can be distinguished from others of its kinds in our Wetlands by a light mark on the back of its head.

 

Note the lighter skin, or wound, on the head of this snapping turtle (4/1/15).
Note the lighter skin, or wound, on the head of this snapping turtle (4/1/15).

 

An eastern garter snake was spotted by some keen-eyed field-tripping elementary students at the base of the Main Wetlands Overlook in Explore the Wild.

 

Thanks to students on a school field trip I was able to get this shot of a young garter snake (4/1/15).
Thanks to students on a school field trip I was able to get this shot of a young garter snake (4/1/15).

 

I saw the first of the year common yellowthroat on Tuesday (3/31). These little warblers are one of my favorites. They can be seen in just about every state, excluding most of the Southwest, are very active birds, have a cheery song, and who doesn’t like a creature with a mask; raccoon, red panda, black-footed ferret, you get the picture.

 

common yellowthroat (3/31/15).
Common yellowthroat (3/31/15).

 

On March 31, I saw a red-winged blackbird fly across the Wetlands near the end of the day. I heard the bird singing the next day. Previous to that, I hadn’t seen, or heard, a spring-time red-wing in our Wetlands in over three years. Whether this handsome male sticks around for the duration depends upon the presence or absence of a female red-winged blackbird.

 

A male red-winged blackbird making after a long absence (4/1/15).
Following a long absence, a male red-winged blackbird makes an appearance in the Wetlands (4/1/15).

 

There’s more excitement to come!

By the way, the water of the Wetlands is as clear (less turbid) as I’ve seen it in perhaps five years. What’s going on? I don’t know for sure but have a few thoughts on the matter.

If you’ve ever heard me mention the red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) that we have in our Wetlands, crawfish that are not native to the Carolina Piedmont and that are destructive to whatever lake, pond, or marsh they are found in, whether intentionally tossed in or arriving under their own power, you may have also heard me blame everything from water turbidity to lower numbers of frogs on the invasive little (big) mud bugs; I’m not seeing as many dragonflies as I used to, it must be the crawfish, a tree falls in the woods, it was the crawfish, I get a flat tire, the crawfish.

Can this seemingly all of a sudden miraculous water clarity be due to the crawfish as well? by their absence?

Hmmm.

I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those destructive decapods walking along the path through Explore the Wild. Occasionally, I’ve spotted a merganser wrestling with one out on the water, trying to disarm the critter’s pinchers by shaking and thrashing it about on the water’s surface, to allow for easier swallowing. When was the last time you saw a mudbug in or around the Wetlands?

Stay tuned.

2 responses to Some Old Familiar Faces

  1. Avatar
    Ada L Bauman says:

    I enjoy your photos and captions. Your commentaries are interesting, too. You are doing a good job educating children and adults about our wondeful natural world. Keep up the good work.

    • Greg Dodge
      Greg Dodge says:

      Thank you, Ada. I’m glad you enjoy the blog. Keep checking in, there’s much happening this time of year.

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