Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Monday: 20 June 2011

Continued Hot and Turtley  -  @ 05:49:28

We've had 18 days 90F and above since June 1 (another day was 89F), and preceding that another 7 such days since May 21. June on average has 10 such days, plus or minus 7, so we're already at more than one standard deviation above the average. The next four days, at least, are expected to be close to 100F, so with our 23rd hot day by Friday June 24, we'll be at #5 for most number of days 90F and above. And with 6 days left to go to the end of the month, it seems likely that we'll break the record of 27 this year. WTF happened to spring?

Until last Wednesday night we'd only had 0.48" rain, about 7% normal, since May 1. Then that night we had some large storms move through and deposit 1.44" rain. On Saturday night another came through, with 1.05" rain. Very welcome, but it did nothing to cool things down, I'm afraid.

Yesterday morning I set out around 8am to specifically and methodically search for box turtles. The morning after a rain seemed like a good time, and in the early morning before it got hot. I found nothing in the first couple of hours, scouring the four or five acres up and down the slopes to SBS Creek, about halfway upstream.

Then I got down to the floodplain, and within 20 minutes found two females.

We've seen the first one before, actually, May 7 2008. At that time she was a good bit farther upstream, across the creek and halfway up the slope to the ridge, probably 300 feet away. Since we traditionally name a turtle upon the first rediscovery, she will now be called Gretl, for no particular reason other than that I'm tired of Kristies, Nikkies, and -forgive me- Courtneys.

She is one of the prettiest box turtles I've found, with her bold gold patterns - of course, even the dullest turtle shines in the wet morning after a rain. Even when I saw her, I knew I had seen her before, but not because of the markings.

It's because of the very strange shape of her carapace. Box turtles generally have a hemispherical, domelike carapace, but hers is definitely humped. Here's yesterday's shot, and for comparison a similar shot from three years ago.

The requisite documentary thumbnails:

The second turtle is a new one, at least I wasn't able to match her up against any of the photos I have since 2005. She was artfully hidden under a clump of grass, on the floodplain a few feet west of the roadcut and about halfway toward Goulding Creek.

Nice discrete markings, and she's probably younger than the average turtle I find. And she has a black plastron, in contrast to Gretl's largely pale one.

So while I was pleased to have at least found two turtles, I think a concerted effort should have turned up more. Maybe the day *after* the day after a storm is a better time. There might be some mushrooms coming up this morning.

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