Monday, May 2, 2011

Chrysemys picta picta

I've been trying to catch up on a year-old Earth Day resolution (happy belated Earth Day, by the way) to help educate my readers about invasive plants. While spring is certainly here most of the plants I found were still in the middle of leafing out so photographing them is going to wait a week or two longer. Instead I managed to find and photo some vertebrates. One of the only reptiles you'll easily find in Massachusetts is the Eastern Painted Turtle:

I actually spotted 15 turtles at the pond today. You can see a variety of sizes from a full grown adult here on the right, two small turtles (probably about a year) and a mid-sized juvenile at the left. Just like all reptiles these turtles are sunning themselves. Unlike mammals like us they have to get heat energy directly from the sun. I was really happy to see so many turtles today because it is a sign the pond is fairly healthy and not being overrun by introduced predators like dogs and cats. No amphibians though, which isn't a great sign.

Painted turtles are so called for the "painted" yellow stripes on their heads and chins:

This image had to be blown up a bit so it doesn't have the best resolution, but you can clearly see the yellow stripes. Most semi-terrestrial turtles like these go pretty far to build there nests but these turtles stay close to water. The nest is a few inches deep and generally has a little water at the bottom while the eggs develop. This may be the reason these turtles seem to do fine in a pond right in the midst of several busy Boston roads.

The Eastern Painted Turtle is sometimes confused with the extremely endangered Red Bellied Cooter which are found primarily in Plymouth County, MA. Many organizations "head start" these turtles, collecting them when they are just hatched (and at perfect snack size for predators) and then releasing them about a season later when they are big enough to stay safe. These turtles are distinguishable from Eastern Panted Turtles by a slightly different size and head markings.

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