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Borrego Springs, CA

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Turtles, frogs, and a bandit

I worked the VC yesterday and today so didn’t expect to post much of anything.  Today was kind of interesting though. 

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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.

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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.

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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’.  Winking smile  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.

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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.

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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!

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                   As I returned inside the VC, I found this ‘cammo’ tree frog clinging to the door jamb.

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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.

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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.

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

28 comments:

  1. How interesting about the turtles! I never knew that their sex was determined by weather-- how amazing!

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  2. Amazing how much I learn reading blogs. And isn't it neat that there are guys and gals like Tim (and you) who care so much about our fragile environment.

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  3. Interesting day thanks for sharing this lesson with us.

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  4. @ Padre Island National Reashore they collect the eggs of Kemp Ridley turtles. They incubate @ a higher temperature to encourage more female births. Then when they hatch they have several public releases of the baby turtles. It is all so interesting. Becki

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  5. What a neat career he has! Thanks for sharing his work and this study!

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  6. Fascinating stuff about the turtle research.

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  7. Tree frogs all the way up there? Yuck, is there no escape?

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  8. yaaa. . .I was getting concerned.

    On Thursday, you said you were gonna skip a day of posting. . .and now it's Sunday.

    I've been waiting to hear about the buffalo. . .did they get the rest of them removed from the refuge?

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  9. Glad to see the wire mesh over the nests. After so many years of lost turtle habitat and declining numbers, it's wonderful to see something being done to help increase the population. :c)

    About time you had a fun and interesting day at the VC! I know how much you love working there... ;c)

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  10. I tend to be on the "leave nature alone" side of the equation, although I can see putting the mesh over the nests to keep the eggs from predators and allow them to hatch. I also notice Tim wasn't wearing any kind of gloves, so I guess contaminating the eggs when handling isn't an issue.

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  11. What a fabulous post! I'm going to share this with an OKefenokee volunteer - she may be able to use this technique to save turtle eggs from predation. Love that you you have Bison but I think they have a lot of cow genes in them, based on their horns.

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  12. What an interesting study. Didn't know by turning an egg over it could drown the little one inside.

    I must be a "hot chick." We had two girls....lol

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  13. Love the wee tree frog. I use to get them in my pond back in BC....they are so darn cute!

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  14. Fascinating turtles! How interesting.

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  15. I wonder how they deal with the 'hard as cement' soil when they hatch? Maybe by that time rain has soften it? A frog no bigger than a thumb nail? Wow, that is incredibly tiny, how cute!

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  16. We have painted turtles here but haven't heard of any research going on. How interesting! Today was my day in the VC... only 4 visitors and it rained all day... but it's the quietest time I have all week so truth is, I look forward to my 4 hour Sunday shift ;-) I found Marilyn Kircus's comment interesting... now I'm going to have to check out bison/cattle breeding... I'm assuming that the bison have a much heavier, thicker horn?

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  17. You have really interesting things going on around you. I am SOOOOOO jealous.

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  18. Sounds like a great VC day. One of the best. Very interesting about the turtles. He sure does travel in his research. I like the "hot chicks"/"cool dudes". Easy way to remember.

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  19. Always the teacher, your blog was very informative...I learned a lot about painted turtles today..I'm not a lover of turtles, but I did really well in Biology in high school....You must have been an awesome teacher....Heck, you still ARE!!

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  20. I like the idea of learning more about the sea turtles!

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  21. Most interesting about the turtles. I did see a rare Blandings this summer on the Cannon Falls bike trail....:)

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  22. Tim is a dedicated guy! Now I know a lot more about painted turtles:)

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  23. Always learn something when I read blogs

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  24. Interesting about the turtle eggs. They look like stones, don't they? Nice to have a cool day like you had!

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  25. An interesting day for sure. That turtle guy sure has to be dedicated to do that meticulous work.

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  26. You see some of the coolest things as you volunteer!

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  27. Nice post.Thanks for sharing this in your blog

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