Herpetological survey

I assume that no one reading this blog will be surprised that I have been keeping track of all the herps (reptiles and amphibians) that we find/hear at Turtle House. To date, we are up to twelve species. It would be lucky thirteen, but Brandon won’t let me count the northern water snake I saw in the river (he claims it is not a proper ID because I didn’t catch it… ahem). Without further ado, here is the list!


So far we have seen or heard six species of anurans (frogs and toads). We commonly see the green frog (Rana clamitans melanota… yes herp nerds I am using the old names here – Lithobates and Anaxyrus hurt my feelings), like this little guy spotted in the stream 8/26/2010:

We have also heard his ranid relative, the northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens), although I haven’t gotten a good picture of one yet. Also in the “heard but not photographed” category are two common species of chorus frogs: the western chorus frog (Pseudacris triseriata) and the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). We also hear a lot of this guy, probably my favorite frog: the gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor). Brandon found this one for me back in the woods, and carried it all the way down to the river so I could see/hug it (6/25/2011):

Our last anuran buddy is the American toad (Bufo americanus), whose grumpy little face always makes me smile. This one was spotted 5/18/2011 while we were looking for morels – but toads are fun too (just not to eat).


So far for reptiles we have two snake species (not counting that water snake), and four turtle species. The first snake we found was this northern brown snake (Storeria dekayi), spotted 5/1/2011.

I found another brown snake, along with an eastern garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) and another toad all under the same piece of plywood, 6/3/11. Look how happy I was (nerd):

On to turtles. Our first turtle, of course, was the namesake for Turtle House – this lovely midland painted turtle (Chrysemys picta marginata), spotted 5/29/2010.

There are a bunch of painted turtles living in our pond, and we frequently see them sunning themselves on logs or just swimming around, like this one from 6/29/2011:

Also in the pond we spotted a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), but I didn’t have my camera with me. There is also at least one large red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) in the pond. This is most likely an introduced animal (e.g., a released pet) since these turtles are not thought to be native to Michigan. Here she is on 6/1/2011 (bad pic, I took it on my phone):

Finally, the most exciting find at Turtle House so far has been a musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), 5/8/11. The small stream that feeds our pond has a little waterfall, with a pool at the bottom. I was sitting there one day, and all of a sudden this turtle came charging out from the bank and across the pool. I almost fell on my face running down the hill to grab it for a photo op! Here is the habitat upstream (thanks to Brooke for this photo and the one below):

And the waterfall, from above and then with me and my buddy Anna for scale:

And here is my adorable stinky friend (these turtles are also called “stinkpots” because of the musk they can produce when disturbed, but this one was quite cooperative and didn’t deign to stinkify me). This animal had a really strange asymmetry going on with the carapace, and was BIG for a musk turtle:

This bottom picture is a good illustration of the much reduced plastron in these animals – their underside is mostly skin and not much shell at all!

Here are a few more shots from when I let her go back in the stream. She definitely gave me the stinkeye for bothering her!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s