Baby Red-Eared Slider

Wednesday, August 2, 2017,

We haven’t done any major cuteness here in a while so maybe we’re due. This little guy is a baby Red-eared Slider. This year’s model for certain. Unless you’re viewing this post on your Smart Phone, you’re seeing a larger than life image. Its shell is barely an inch long, if that.

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These are good-looking turtles from the get-go. And that, unfortunately, is the reason they are here on Long Island and many other northern freshwater ponds and rivers. I’ve photographed them as far north as Maine. It’s illegal to sell them now but years ago these southern-based turtles were mainstays of any pet store you walked into. Most stores would have a display right there at the check-out counter. The whole kit came complete with the baby turtle, a one gallon terrarium (yes, you read that right), and a plastic palm tree. What the nice folks behind the counter didn’t mention was that these beautiful little turtles did not remain so little. In only a few years they did not only outgrow that tiny terrarium but they grew bigger than the terrarium itself. The once cute little turtle no longer fits on a convenient shelf in a bedroom. This poses a problem.

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So what does one do with a child’s beloved pet when there’s no longer any room at the inn? Well, the answer for far too many folks, and for far too long, was to release these once loved animals into the wild. The reasoning was “It’ll be with its friends. It’s where it belongs.” The problem with that line of thought was that they did not belong here. Red-ears are a southern species of turtle but despite that they have thrived here and in many other places where they just shouldn’t be. There are now laws in place restricting the sale and release of these turtles (even in Florida) but the damage has already been done. This cute little guy wasn’t born in a pet shop, nor, probably, were his parents. For good or bad, these turtles are now a part of our Long Island landscape. There are so many of them that they are crowding out many of our own native species, including the even more beautiful Eastern Painted Turtle. Every year, on every freshwater pond, lake, or river, I see more invasive turtles than the very species that belong here. There’s something a whole lot wrong with that picture.  JK      

 

Big and Ugly

Thursday, May 25, 2017,

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Really big. Really, really big. And really, really ugly. But check out that eye. That eye is magnificent. Click on the image for a larger view. This is a Common Snapping Turtle that I caught a glimpse of at Frank Melville Park in Setauket. She’s so ugly that she’s downright beautiful. Beauty is everywhere, even where you can’t see it. JK

Two Generations of Red Ears

Tuesday, May 9, 2017,

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This is a pair of Red-eared Sliders that I saw at Frank Melville Park in Setauket. To be honest, I never noticed the little guy till I was reviewing my shots when I got home. To the uninitiated this might seem like an obvious choice for a Mother’s Day post. Unfortunately, there is no real reason to believe that these two turtles are related. Like most other turtle species, Red-eared Sliders make their nests and lay their eggs, and that’s it. It’s a system that works for them. This is a species of turtle that doesn’t belong this far north but they have been conquering new territory thanks mostly to the pet trade, despite the fact that it is no longer legal to sell Red-eared Sliders in New York. Unfortunately, these turtles were able to establish themselves in our waters long before any such sanctions took place. Nature has no need to wait for politicians to take notice of the obvious. JK

Tiny Terrapin

Tuesday, April 18, 2017,

This is a Diamondback Terrapin. A brand new one. Handsome little beastie, no?

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These pics were taken almost a year ago at Sunken Meadow State Park. (Yeah, I’m still behind on my posts). It was the start of a good day. I didn’t know that yet, or rather, I didn’t know how good it was going to to be. I did know that it was a fine morning to be walking the beach and maybe for taking some decent pics. It was late May and I was enjoying a morning before the sweaty days of summer here on Long Island. I couldn’t know it yet, but before my visit was through I’d get some fairly decent shots of a Piping Plover patrolling the beach. Not to mention these pics.

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When I came across this little one – (check out the photo below to see how tiny he was) – I was looking to take pics and video of the hundreds, heck, maybe thousands of Fiddler Crabs that inhabit this little spit of land when I noticed this guy booking away right beneath my feet. I very nearly stepped on him. I failed, completely, to get anything useful of the Fiddler Crabs that day, but just look at what I did get. You can never know what you’re going to find when you step out the door.  

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All we need to do is take that step. Just look and see what’s waiting for us. This and other little wonders are out there every day.  JK

Baby Boxer

Friday, October 14, 2016,

This is a baby Box Turtle. Cute little beastie, isn’t it? I was with a group of birders at Avalon during the most recent Four Harbors Audubon monthly walk. One of the walkers – one with much better eyes than my own – spotted this tiny little guy near the side of the path. And, as the next two pics will show, this is one small turtle. In fact, these photos are slightly larger than life. Click on each pic for an even larger view.

After all of us had a chance to view this diminutive marvel we began discussing what species of hard-bodied critter this was. Birders are like that. It’s not enough to see a bird – they insist on identifying everything they see. Some of the walkers thought we were looking at a baby Snapping Turtle and others were thinking it was a Diamondback Terrapin. I was certain that it was neither. I’ve seen plenty of baby Snappers and baby Terrapins and this wasn’t one of either. My first instinct was Box Turtle but I couldn’t be sure. While I’ve been very familiar with Box Turtles since childhood, my experience with baby Boxers is quite limited. The shape of this guy’s head screamed Box Turtle but that shell didn’t look quite right. The dome didn’t seem high enough but, again, I don’t get to meet many baby Boxers. 

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Luckily, birders are not my only resource. I sent these pics to some of my friends at Sweetbriar Nature Center and then I posted the shots at Facebook’s Long Island Wildlife Photography page. The general concensus was that this was, indeed, a baby Box Turtle. And while this may seem like an ‘I told you so’ moment, the truth is that without the input of others I would never be certain of what this little guy is. Thanks to everyone who helped me figure this out. JK