Friday, June 15, 2007

More yellow - Blandings Turtle, and other observations

Recent wildlife sightings : On the evening of 13 June we interviewed (measusred and photographed) a large female Blandings Turtle on Bolton Road north, and less than an hour later, a large female Painted Turtle which was lying upside down on Highway 29 south of Almonte - there must be a name for balancing on your back like that, unable to do anything about it.... She was doubtless relieved to resume control of her locomotion in the safety of the grassy ditch after we'd measured her. There were just a few chips abraded from the edge of her shell by the vehicle that had flipped her.

Then on the 14th, during his visit to the South Nation River at Crysler, Fred watched a Great Blue Heron swallow a Sucker which was as long as the Heron's neck! He wrote: " the parking area below the bridge at Crysler I watched Great Blue Heron barely capture, stagger to shore under the weight of, and then gracefully swallow, a Sucker (Moxostoma?) that appeared to to be at least 45cm long -- the largest prey item I've ever watched a Heron process" I wish I'd been there with the camera!

And while he was away from home, a neighbour came by here with a big mama Blandings Turtle. He'd been thinking it looked like a Box Turtle - well, Blandings do have a hinged plastron, but they can't quite close the back half as well as Box Turtles can. Jennifer and I took photos of it, measured it, and gave it a dunk in our rain barrel before it was returned to where it had been found on the centre line of County Road 18, south of Oxford Mills.

Admiring its bright yellow throat, Jennifer described how it fools male Green Frogs into thinking the yellow throat of the approaching turtle is that of a rival. This turtle may be fourty or fifty years old, or more - it measured over 22 centimetres, plastron length, and I could feel eggs when I poked my thumb infront of her hind leg. Blandings aren't reproductively mature until the age of twenty.

Blandings Turtle

Our neighbour said he feels honoured to have seen two of these venerable reptiles this year, and helped them get safely off the road. Fred recalls a time when we drove Bolton Road (the main route north from Bishops Mills) on our way to a friend's place near Burritts Rapids, at least once a week from 1979 until 1983, never seeing any Blandings Turtles. They are rare over most of their range, but seem to be increasing around here. Local people say that the Beavers came back in the 1960's, and we first started to see nesting Blandings Turtles on the road around here in 1990 - maybe the first generation of increase in the Beaver-enhanced wetlands along the creeks.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Challenge - Snowshoe Hare style

On the evening of 6 June I counted two Snowshoe Hares on the Bolton Road Hare transect, but I couldn't count this Hare - it was south of the transect - almost where the gravel road named "Kyle Road" meets the equally narrow but paved "Branch Road".

This Hare saw me and hesitated, then dashed right in front as if he were on a suicide mission. I didn't brake too hard for fear of spinning out on the gravel, so I was surprised to feel no bump. A split second later, out of the corner of my eye I saw him spin around beside the van, and when I glanced in the rear view mirror there he was sitting in the middle of the road behind me, looking as saucy as a jaybird. It seemed to me that he was challenging me to a chase, or perhaps watching to see the van lose control and slide into the ditch - like others had before?

Hares are intelligent, and this is a good year for green growing things, and for creatures that eat green growing things. Hare populations are on an upswing, but not high yet, so life must be pretty good - even time for sports, like challenging cars!


We have been recording Snowshoe Hare observations along the southern end of Bolton Road (formerly Cristman Road) in Grenville County, Ontario, since the early '90's, and have a NatureJournal data sheet for those who regularly drive Bolton Road south. It explains the 10 - 11 year cycle in Hares, its relationship to the sun spot cycle, and is set up with tick boxes to record observations. The Hare cycle is the most spectacular multi-year pattern that occurs in Canada, but everyone is totally silent about it, as if it wasn't national news! Perhaps it happens over too long a period of time for commercial people to notice. It involves incredible abundances, spectacular population crashes, fascinating correlations with other phenomena - what more do they want!

Fred has written an article about ten year cycles in boreal wildlife. See Nonfibre Values .

I will send a stack of datasheets to anyone who is interested.