12 May, 2019
Last week I told you all about the birds that I saw on my Global Big Day (GBD). This week I thought it would be fun for me to tell you about the non-avian animal that I saw while birding. After-all, this is a blog about being a naturalist and not just being a birder and sometimes the best times to get good looks at animals is when you’re not out intentionally looking for them.
In the foggy morning there wasn’t much wildlife to view at all. The only non-bird animals that I saw were squirrels and still barely. My awesome wildlife viewing didn’t really start until the afternoon when the fog finally lifted.
Once I arrived at the Tuttle Creek River Pond and headed down the bank of the little pond on the North side, I immediately saw some turtles. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to see them before they saw me. One of them, a Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), was floating just under the surface of the water. As I lifted the camera to take a photo it dove and I never saw it resurface.
I then noticed a much smaller turtle wading further out with just its head above the water. I love when turtles do this and so I decided to capture it. Turns out that this was a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), my favorite turtle species. I later got a much better photo of this species basking in the sun on a rock. When it was basking it hooked its legs over the edge of the rock that it was on and when it decided that it was done pulled its legs in and slid down the rock (hence the name slider).
After the trail ended, I found an amazing wetland area where I thought shorebirds would be, but instead I was graced by the presence of a furry friend. A Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) was swimming about in a little pool that had formed. I wasn’t sure if it had noticed me so I snapped a few quick photos before it swam away, but it wasn’t swimming very far. This little fellow was actually pulling green Cattail (Typha sp.) shoots out of the ground, swimming to a little patch where it could sit out of the water, and eating the ends off of the Cattails.
As I mentioned last week, I had a friend meet up with me at this point, so I headed back to the car, but I knew that this was an area that I had to show him and his fiance. There’s no better way to advocate for wildlife than to show them off to people.
When we got back to the Muskrat spot it was gone. I felt bad because they had to walk through some muddy and wet parts to get to the little mound where I was able to watch. We decided to head back to the cars to finish the day off real quick when my friends fiance stepped on a frog.
The frog was a toad and was fine, just sinking further into the mud, but it didn’t move from its position either. What I’m thinking is that it figured if we weren’t able to see it and therefore step on it, it was probably safer just sitting still. Not only did we see it, but I of course snapped a photo as well. The best ID that I can come up with for this is an American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus).
Almost back to the car, I noticed a beautiful yellow butterfly. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) is my favorite butterfly species. I’ve always wanted to get some photos of these beautiful butterflies and I was finally able to.
The last non-avian species that we discovered was a Great Plains Skink (Plestiodon obsoletus). I wasn’t able to get a photo of this one. It was moving around under some leaves where I couldn’t see it. After investigating with a stick, I didn’t want to get bitten if it were something dangerous, it wasn’t in the leaf litter anymore. There were some large rocks nearby and I figure it was hiding underneath one. Hoping to find a salamander (I’ve never seen one in the wild) I began flipping rocks. Eventually I flipped a rock and a very long skink ran out fro under it to another large rock which I decided not to flip to avoid stressing the animal too much.
You can always go out into nature to find one thing and end up finding so much more. We were out looking for birds, but ended up having quite the wildlife filled day. Just another reminder that the best way to observe and enjoy nature is simply to get out in it.
I should have probably putting this little plug at the end of all of my blog posts, but always forget. I am a brand ambassador for Madera Outdoor company. They make high quality hammocks and camping/backpacking gear and for every hammock sold they plant two trees because hammocks need trees. Other things that you might buy plant trees as well, but everybody is hammocking now so why not buy yours from a distributor who is helping to make a place for you to hang it as well.
If you buy through my link I get 10% of all the sales. All of the money that I make from sales of Madera equipment will go back into this blog in some way, helping me to inform people about the wonders of the natural world around them. So not only is Madera helping to save the world by planting trees with their sales, but by having brand ambassadors who are out advocating for nature as well. To help support this blog so I can continue on my mission of advocating for nature, here is the link to buy some wonderful, high quality outdoor gear.