I worked the VC yesterday and today so didn’t expect to post much of anything. Today was kind of interesting though.
What the heck was this man doing outside the VC, down on his knees, and carefully digging in the hard dried out earth with a spoon? It’s been my experience that fishermen usually dig for earthworms with a shovel, and not in a hard as cement sunny area. I just had to find out.
It turned out to be Tim Mitchel from Iowa State University who came to continue his research on painted turtles on the refuge today. He was digging up a painted turtle nest to gather some of the eggs.
Earlier this spring he had found 19 painted turtle nests on the refuge, and covered each of them with hardware cloth held down with tent pegs so the raccoons couldn’t dig them up. I had noticed these mesh squares in several places on the refuge, but didn’t know what they were for. Now I do.
Tim is here to collect the eggs to determine the sex ratio of each nest. You see, just like alligators, the sex of the hatching turtles is determined by the incubation temperature in the nest. Warm temps produce ‘hot chicks’, and colder temps produce ‘cool dudes’. When he found the nests earlier this spring, he also counted the eggs and inserted a device to record the temperature inside the nest on an hourly basis.
Tim was as meticulous as an archeologist in removing the eggs. The incubation length for painted turtles is about 60-90 days, and the sex is determined about 1/3 of the way through the incubation time. Unlike snapping turtles and sea turtles, the young don’t ‘boil’ out of the nest upon hatching. The newborns will hibernate in the nest until next spring.
Not all of the eggs in a nest are viable, and when Tim finds what he thinks is a good egg, he puts a dot on it with a Sharpie. He puts the dot on the top of the egg as he removes it from the nest. If he turned it over and put the dot on the bottom, the embryo would drown. He is doing this study in seven different states including Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oregon. I sure did learn a lot about painted turtles today. Cool beans!
As I returned inside the VC, I found this ‘cammo’ tree frog clinging to the door jamb.
This little dude was only about as big as your thumb nail. Guess he was just hanging out waiting for a bug to fly by.
Last week, a mama raccoon brought her young ones for a free lunch at the bird feeders outside the VC.
Today, she returned alone. I guess it was time to send the kids out on their own. Though not visible in these pics, it was obvious that this raccoon was a female. She sure did enjoy the sunflower seeds and corn in the lower feeder that the squirrels like. All things considered, today’s seven hours in the VC was one of the most interesting I’ve had.
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy