Category Archives: Florida reptiles

Mud Turtles — Midgets of Charm.

Maybe it’s just perception, but sometimes stuff you’ve never known keeps occurring within a short period of time.

Earlier this year, we encountered a mud turtle making its way across the road on our way to Womack Creek in Tate’s Hell SF. We stopped. I photographed. Just to make sure it wouldn’t get run over, I carried it over to the side of the road it was headed. It was light . It’s limbs tightly encased in its shell, it felt really nice in my palms. And then I forgot the experience.

Two weeks ago at a Tallahassee Sierra Club, George L. Heinrich of the Florida Turtle Conservation Trust spoke about spending one year — the year of the turtle — trying to locate over 59 turtles throughout the US. One of these was the mud turtle, in Texas, where the access was protected because poachers love mud turtles — for the pet trade.

Even then, I didn’t remember that mud turtle we had seen on Jeff Sanders Road. Reviewing photos on inaturalist.org I came across a photo of a mud turtle we had taken at Rock Landing off the Crooked River in Tate’s Hell SF. By then, I had enough information about mud turtles to make it stick in my mind.

Two days ago, while paddling Womack Creek, on river right where most cooters and sliders do not seem to like as much as river left, on a branch of a submerged tree, I glimpse a small turtle. It’s unusual shape caught my eye and I back-paddled and got into a thicket of branches. This little one didn’t move — most turtles will plop into the water at first sign of even the slight chance of encroachment. And as I tried to maneuver my kayak through all the branches, it stayed there, not evening hiding its legs within it’s shell.

This one looks like a Florida Mud Turtle, Konosternon steindachneri except that Amphibian and Reptiles of Florida (Krysko, Enge, Moler) says that it’s endemic to the Florida peninsula south of the Suwannee River. Apparently the other similar species K. subrubrum is to be found west of the Suwanne River, so it might be that also, or a hybrid, which the authors think possible. I’ve posted it on inaturalist.org, so I may be revising this paragraph.

It’s summer and the critters are moving, May 11, 2018 …

Juveniles — teenagers — have a lot to learn.  They are more curious than cautious, but in that, for humans, is hope — perhaps a new way to see things around us.  For critters, however, without an overarching adult watching, growing to adulthood is risky.  Alligator, raccoons, cooters and now, this yellow crowned night heron.

Whatever it was doing when Ed came upon it, it diverted its attention to what was more interesting — us.  As it went from muddy shoreline to a short step up a branch to a flight up to a higher branch, it’s eyes were upon us.  But it did not fly away.

It’s attention span was longer than our over 15 minutes.  We paddled away as it continued to watch from its perch.

Meanwhile on the shore, a juvenile raccoon we had seen in January with its mother and siblings was foraging for a late breakfast,  a little after 10am.   Then, the mother had given her brood a sharp warning sound, which none of them heeded.   She herself headed into the brush, they stayed foraging in the mud for crayfish and other goodies.  Now, this one is on it’s own.

Again…our interest span was shorter that this raccoon. It continued to forage;  we paddled upstream. 

The non-venomous water snakes on the creek seem to be a lethargic group — they take their positions and stay there.  Adults or juvenile, it doesn’t seem to matter.  But this juvenile, after extending its forebody a bit, didn’t move.

And then the caterpillars.  Of what species I don’t know.  They were too busy eating the leaves of both the cow creek spider lily and the swamp dragon’s head to take heed of anything.

It’s a busy time on the creek and the young ones are doing what they need to be doing to continue their species.

Three brown water snakes – May 4, 2018

17-P109088118-P109088419-P109087749-P1100006

With temperatures starting at 72F and inching up to 82F at end of the trip, we knew we’d spy at least one snake.  They are usually seen sunning under leaf-canopied stems of shrub branches extending over the water.  Unlike cooters, skinks and gators, they tend to remain in place if one approaches them without undue motion or vibration.

We saw only brown water snakes, but we did see three, one barely discernible.