A Quick Trip to Calvert Cliffs

Aaaaah… Spring!  It was 80 degrees with a stiff breeze when my brother Hawksbill Will and his friend Yuko (who were both visiting from Hawaii) and I headed out for a day trip to Calvert Cliffs State Park.

starting-the-hike-225x300Calvert Cliffs State Park is located in Calvert County, MD along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  The park features 13 miles of hiking trails, salt and freshwater marshes, a sandy beach, and fossils from ancient marine creatures.

The park also features an abundance of lizards, snakes, turtles, frogs, and salamanders — my kind of place!

It was the first really warm day in almost 2 weeks.  We encountered our first herps in the pond near the parking lot.  Loads of red-bellied slider turtles and eastern painted turtles were basking on logs in the warm sun.  As we hiked further along the trail, we came upon a large freshwater marsh that was filled with even more turtles.  It was like turtle nirvana!

how-many-turtles-300x225In the same marsh, we also saw a few of Maryland’s largest frog species, the American Bullfrog.

bullfrog-263x300We also found a few red-backed salamanders and saw five lined skinks and one fence lizard.

cv-and-bay-300x225Once we reached the Bay, we spent some time eating lunch and looking for fossils and sea shells.  The air was very warm, but the water was icy cold.  That did not stop my adventurous brother, though, he dove right in and went for a swim!!!  Burrrr!

 

A Toadally Awesome Night

Posting by CobraCaroline

Bats, toads and salamanders — oh my!  And don’t forget worms!

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Naturalist Ethan Demontrates Worm Handling Technique

A small group of Reptiles Alive staff and friends, along with budding herpetologist Ethan, set off on an adventure of amphibian proportions last weekend.

Tuatara Tony, who is also a naturalist with Fairfax County,  arranged for us to have access to a western Fairfax, VA park after dark, so we headed out into the woods around 6 pm.  It was a bit cool with temperatures in the mid 50′s.  The largest full moon in years was also set to rise, so we a were unsure of how successful our herp search would be.

As we headed into the darkening woods, young Ethan was delighted and excited with each and every earthworm we discovered.  Ants and small spiders also caught his attention and he was sure to point out to each of us any small invertebrate we failed to mention as we carefully lifted logs and rocks.

We found a few small red-backed salamanders under the logs, but no spotted salamanders which we were hoping for.

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Red-backed Salamander – unstriped or “lead-back” color phase

We found a small vernal pool near the edge of the woods and Ethan saw his first mating pair of toads.

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American Toads

As we headed back into the woods, we followed a small stream that was filled with spotted salamander eggs.  It seemed we were too late to see any of the adults, but just then, Joe called out “Hey guys, I think I’ve found one!”  We rushed over and sure enough it was a big beautiful spottie!

The sun had now set and the woods were getting darker.  We saw a few bats fly over head, along with the low flying jets landing at Dulles airport. Between the roars of jet-engines, another more melodious sound could be heard.  We started towards the trilling calls.  They seemed to be coming from a large vernal pool in the middle of a gas line cut in the woods.

As we drew near the pool, the music of toads became louder and louder.  I could not believe my eyes or ears!  I saw and heard more toads than I have ever seen any where!  The water was alive with toads.  Swimming toads.  Hopping toads.  Toads climbing on each other.

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Mating Ball o’ Toads

It was truly toadally amazing night.

Delmarva Reptile Fest a Spectacular Success

Posting by CobraCaroline

I awoke early on Saturday morning to start loading live reptiles for the 3 hour drive to Pocomoke City MD.  Snakes, lizards, a tortoise and an alligator all got comfy in their car seats and relaxed while I drove the reptile van across the Bay and through the heart of the Eastern Shore.

Arriving in Pocomoke City, I noted the sign welcoming Reptiles Alive into town.  How awesome!  I LOVE this little “city!”

I parked at the back of the Delmarva Discovery Center (DDC) and went in to find my friend Jennifer Rafter, the DDC’s Curator.  We had an early quick lunch of soft-shell crab sandwiches that I had picked up at a local seafood market and then got to work setting up for the shows.

There were already lots of visitors at the DDC, and they were having a great time enjoying the exhibits featuring the Delmarva’s natural and cultural history and the special attractions that had come for Reptile Fest.

Local artist Jenny Somers painted and displayed her amphibian and reptile artwork that included beautiful wine glasses with red-eyed tree frogs and snakes painted on them and awesome herp paintings.

Heather Cunningham along with Maria and Will Beckey staffed a display featuring the Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas.  The Atlas’s mission is to determine the distribution of amphibians and reptiles in Maryland.

Lots of volunteers and DDC staff including Brooks Olney, Katy Fleming, and Victoria Overholt were on hand to help out with the special temporary display the DDC had set up featuring live snakes and turtles found in Delmarva.  Visitors even had the opportunity to safely pet a live corn snake at this exhibit!

Shannon Chandler and managed the craft area with supplies and volunteers to help children create frogs of their own!  This was a VERY popular activity and the frogs they created were so cute.

Jennifer and DDC intern Raymond Zeintak assisted me with setting up the performance space for the live animal shows.

At 1 pm, I started the first show.  The performance was packed with eager children and adults who were excited to see what exotic creatures had come to visit.

Soy the Honduran milk snake was the first reptile of the show and he caused a stir of “oohs” and “aahs.”  At 5 feet long, his shiny orange and red scales are really eye-catching.  The audience listened intently as I explained how people and snakes are the same on the inside.  They also learned that snakes are afraid of people and that the best thing to do if you see a snake is to “Just leave snakes alone.”

Next, we met an animal from Down Under:  Teliqua the blue tongue skink lizard from Australia amazed the audience with his super cool blue tongue.  Children and parents alike jumped with surprise when they heard the end of my story about the time a blue tongue skink met a dingo dog.

Super tough girl Janis the leopard tortoise from Africa came out next.  As always, everyone LOVED her!  She is so big and pretty with her black spots.  Everyone learned what a turtle shell is made of and what happens when a tortoise meets a lion.

What is the biggest lizard in the world?  The Komodo Dragon – which is actually a type of monitor lizard.  And we met a member of the dragon family when Logan the Nile monitor lizard was introduced.  Gasps of awe could be heard as everyone saw him – he is impressive!  He is over 5 long with beautiful yellow spots and a huge long forked tongue.  And the story about the mommy crocodile, the Nile monitor lizard and the pizza is always a favorite with audiences of all ages.

The grand finale featured Moonlight the albino Burmese python.  Moonlight is still growing, but she is already a crowd-wower at 8 feet long.  Her yellow and white colors and easy going attitude seem to make her favorite , even with people who are a bit afraid of snakes.

After a wrap up with Moonlight, I concluded the first show by inviting any audience members with reptile questions to come up to the table and I would be happy to talk with them.

I repeated this process two more times that day.  All three shows were completely filled up with people.  In fact, there were over 200 people at the Delmarva Reptile Fest that day!

After the event was over and the DDC closed to the public, Jen and I discussed how successful the day was.  We decided to start planning for next year!  So get ready for the 3rd Annual Delmarva Reptile Fest at the Delmarva Discovery Center in the winter of 2012.

Sssssee you later alligators!

I would also like to give a BIG thank you to DDC Executive Director Brian Garrett, all of the members of the DDC board and the residents of Pocomoke City for being so kind and welcoming to both myself and the reptiles.  Thank you all!

Hawai’i Hawksbill Sea Turtle Report

HAWAI‘I ISLAND HAWKSBILL TURTLE

RECOVERY PROJECT

2010 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

Prepared by Will Seitz, Lauren Kurpita, and Liz Ransom February 2011

Aloha Honu‘ea Ohana! The 2010 hawksbill turtle nesting season is pau! For the last nine months, over 40 diehard turtle volunteers and interns tirelessly monitored and managed Hawai‘i Island’s southern coastline for hawksbill nesting activity and protected endangered turtle nests. This season was highly successful with 39 nests found and protected at six beaches: ‘Āpua Point and Halapē (in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park), and Kamehame, Koloa-Nīnole, Pōhue Bay, and ‘Āwili Point outside the park. Additionally, an olive ridley nest was saved from the surf and protected at ‘Āwili Point (pictured here).
Similarly to the 2009 season, the 2010 season was one of the longest on record. Honu‘ea field season is almost year round now, with this last season extending from April 2010 to mid-January 2011. We identified 12 individual nesting hawksbills and one olive ridley. There were likely more unidentified elusive nesters and nests. Of the 12 hawksbills, seven were returnees from previous seasons, while the other five were newly tagged. These five new recruits now bring the total number of tagged adult female hawksbills on Hawai‘i Island to 105. The olive ridley was only the fourth documented olive ridley nest in Hawai‘i state history. About 4,000 hatchlings safely reached the ocean from the 40 total nests including the olive ridley. Over 80,000 hatchlings have reached the ocean since the project began in 1989. There is hope for the honu‘ea! The following are site summaries:
Āpua Point: One newly tagged turtle laid four nests at this oasis. Families from Kalapana who were camping at the beach were able to observe this nesting turtle. As usual, these hatchlings here were helped across the cobblestones to the ocean. We estimate that over 200 hatchlings reached the water here thanks to volunteer assistance.
Halapē: The most popular backcountry campground in HAVO had two returning nesters that laid ten nests. One of the nesters, Barnacle Betty, was a returnee from 2004. The other turtle was tagged in 2007. Volunteers informed campers who were able to witness nesting turtles and hatchlings. This was especially needed since the nests were located in front of the campsites. Turtle personnel helped put out a wildfire that was accidentally started by campers. Personnel also worked with the Park Maintenance and Vegetation crew and the Wilderness Volunteers to control invasive koa haole that was encroaching on the nesting habitat. An estimated 547 hatchlings reached the ocean from this beach.
Kamehame: Four turtles and 10 nests were documented at this hawksbill nesting mecca. We suspect there were several additional nests as well. Kamehame had the most nesters and nests in the State. Two of the turtles were newly tagged and the other two were returnees. One of them was tagged way back in 1996 and had not been seen for 10 years. The other was seen two years ago, and during the interval was satellite tracked by NOAA residing off leeward Maui. From the 10 nests, we estimate that over 1,345 hatchlings reached the sea. Volunteers also assisted with habitat restoration by removing non-native plants.
Punalu‘u: Some community members reported seeing hatchlings near the pavilion at a small pocket beach. However, we were unable to locate a nest here.

Kōloa-Nīnole: One newly identified nesting turtle laid three nests at this site near Punalu‘u. Sadly, all three nests were unsuccessful due to exposure to high tides. In addition, another returning nester was seen here. We suspect that she nested undetected at another nearby beach, Kāwā.
Pōhue Bay: Nine nests from two returning hawksbills were protected and over 1,300 hatchlings reached the ocean at this important nesting site. One of the turtles was a returnee from 2005 and the other from 2007. Interestingly, both of these nesters were sighted by divers off of Maui in the years between nesting seasons. Including the turtle from Kamehame, there were at least three nesters this year that travelled from Maui to nest in Ka‘ū.
Āwili Point (Road to the Sea): One newly tagged hawksbill laid three confirmed nests and possibly two more. At least 248 hawksbill hatchlings reached the sea here from two highly successful nests. A third nest was unsuccessful due to heavy rains in the fall. The biggest surprise of the 2010 season was when an olive ridley turtle laid 88 eggs in the tidal inundation zone of the beach (pictured here) and were rescued by volunteers and translocated to higher ground. She was newly tagged. The nest was a huge success with 80 hatchlings safely reaching the ocean thanks to the efforts of the volunteers.
Keauhou, Punalu‘u, Horseshoe, Kahakahakea, Hāli‘ipalala, Humuhumu Point: No nesting was observed at these beaches. Beach checks were limited to daylight hours, so we could have missed signs of nesting activity since wind and tides may erase tracks made during the night.

SPECIAL MAHALO to Minky Markiewicz the last two decades of volunteering for Resources Management Division! THANK YOU! We wish you the best on your new journey. We will miss you!
Mahalo for your support! We want to acknowledge our supporters and partners: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawai‘i Natural History Association, National Marine Fisheries Service, World Turtle Trust, UH-Mānoa Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, Three Mountain Alliance, ‘Imi Pono No Ka ‘Aina, Ka‘ū High School, Hawai‘i County, Trust for Public Land, Yamanaka Enterprises, Nani Kahuku ‘Aina, Americorps and Kupu, Hawai‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, UH-Hilo, and the Big Island ‘ohana!!!

HUGE MAHALO to all the 2010 season interns and volunteers:

Randy Bacon
Ryan Belcher
Dave Bouck
Carrie Boyle
Wes Briones
Cole Burgess
Amy Comstock
Robbin Dilley
Reni Driskil
Natalie Folsom
Vanessa Foster
Nichole Gaskill
Joe Grandelski
Laura Griffin
Zu Gonzales
Malia Lehua Heimuli
Matthew Holl
Jenna Huskinson
Aleysia-Rae Kaha
Trevor Johannsen
Scarlett Kettwich
Selma Kettwich
Emily Leucht
Minky Markiewicz
Summer Maxwell
Stacie Miller
Monica Oey
Kelly Peebles
Brad Peterson
Liz Ransom
Michael Rawls
Kenny Riley
Jessica Robertson
Angie Salonikios
Hannah Shimabukuro Thelma Tomich
Katie Turner
Sasha Vallieres
Diane Ware
Sophie Wilhoit
Jamie Willeke
Colin Wirth