Monday, June 21, 2010

Painted Turtle Lays Her Eggs

Saturday was egg laying day for the painted turtles in our neighborhood.  First we spotted this female trying to burrow into our lawn and moved her along to a more turtle-friendly area away from dogs and cars.

Later that night while walking my Sheltie, I discovered another painted turtle on a neighbor's lawn.  This one had already dug her hole.  I ran home and got the kids and the camera.  My daughter videotaped the egg laying.  The turtle layed seven eggs, deftly catching each one with her curled right hind foot before depositing it into the moist hole.  

The turtle's nesting spot was too close to the street, so my son took her down to the creek away from traffic.  We covered the hole and noted the spot.  Eighty days from now - around September 7 -seven baby painted turtles will make their way into the world.  The short clip below shows the first two eggs being laid. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Babies!

As I type this entry, dozens of Chinese praying mantises are hatching from their ootheca (egg case) in the living room.  We're always so excited for this wonderous happening every year after keeping the egg case cool in the fridge over the winter.  Today, the children were home from school and got a chance to witness the emerging babies. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Leopards in the Grass

Leopard frogs (Lithobates pipiens), that is.  I took a group of first graders on a hike yesterday to learn about ecosystems and and they were thrilled to see so many leopard frogs.  I wasn't sure if frogs were going to be exciting enough for them since the list of animals they told me they expected to see before we began our hike included bears, pandas, moose, and platypus.  Sorry kids, not today!

But they were thrilled with the frogs, toads, insects and pond creatures they found.  One little boy told me he'd never seen a live frog before so he was especially excited (he was the one who mentioned the possibility of spying a platypus in the Ipswich River).

We found the two pictured above beside the vernal pool.  The frog in the top photo appears gravid.  Once they've bred and laid their eggs, the leopard frogs will move out into the surrounding woods or grassy meadows where they can feed on insects.  One child in the class caught a leopard frog in the grassy field where he was sweeping for insects.

Depending on the weather, the eggs will hatch on average in about 15 days.  Metamorphosis takes about 11 weeks.  The juvenile frogs then head out toward areas with tall vegetation.  Once winter comes, leopard frogs return to the water to hibernate until spring.

Click here to hear a sample of one of the leopard frog's calls.  Like many amphibians, northern leopard frogs are highly sensitive to the conditions of the environment and may exhibit physical deformities such as extra legs in response to pollution.  In some areas, especially Canada, populations of northern leopard frogs are declining.

What's That? Wednesday

Time for another What's That? Wednesday photo.  Good luck!