Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Box Turtles and Serpentine Barrens

Last week I flew back to Pennsylvania for the designation ceremony of the Nottingham Serpentine Barrens as a National Natural Landmark. The serpentine barrens are a globally rare ecosystem that supports many rare and endemic species. The picture below shows the grassland areas intermixed with pitch pine forests.

During my visit I had the opportunity to extend my stay a few days and work on my beloved turtle project at Gettysburg. Despite the pouring rain during my field work and the lack of my skilled turtle dog, I was able to locate turtles. 

Without my dog I had to depend on luck and my ability to track turtles by following the trails they leave in the Japanese stiltgrass (finally, a use for that nasty exotic!). The cool thing about following the turtle trails is that you can see what a turtle has been up to as they meander around. Sometimes the trails lead to berry bushes, carion, or a "form" where the turtle may have spent the night. I even followed a trail once that led to a scenic vista at a cliff edge. Was the turtle just looking at the scenery? Or did he get confused and turn around before he fell off the cliff? I like to believe the former.

The highlight of the field work was finding box turtle #4. She was one of the first turtles I found back in 2006 and she was relocated (along with many others) to the temporary holding pen while a portion of the forest was being clear cut. It was interesting that I found her back in the original location where I found her over 3 years ago only now her forest has been converted into a meadow. It gave me hope that she was able to survive the transition. Of course, she is not the only turtle that I've found safely returned "home". Of the nearly 200 turtles that I've marked I have recapture data for nearly a quarter of these. Now, if Ada would just take longer naps I could attempt to publish my findings one day!

1 comment:

Paul & Heather Miller said...

You are amazing! I bet that was bittersweet to find #4!! You've come a long way, baby. :) Glad to hear your trip to G'burg was a success!