Day One – a turtle steals the show

We decided to kick off our week of bioblitzing by recording interesting sightings while hiking a couple of sections of the trail system at Murphys Point Provincial Park here in eastern Ontario. We set out around noon and finished up a little over three hours later. We didn’t try to count absolutely everything, as that would have been next to impossible. Instead, we just moved from place to place, stopping at some of our favourite points along the trail to take a look around, listen to birds and frog calls, and shoot a few photos.

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to report our sightings without being too boring. I guess I’ll go with the following. If you just want to see photos taken during Day One, go to this image gallery that I’ve set up on my photo server. If you’re interested in knowing which species we saw, check out the list below. Names that have a corresponding photo will appear as linked text that you can click on to see the photo. If you just want to read an account of what we saw, then read on.

Our total count for fauna: 16 species of birds, 2 species of turtles, 1 species of snakes, 3 species of frogs, 1 species of butterflies and 1 of caterpillars, 4 species of insects (although we saw more), about 3 or 4 species of spiders and some velvet mites, and 2 species of mammals. We didn’t do so well with the flora: 2 fungi, 2 mosses, 1 lichen, 1 plant, and 8 trees that I just chose to photograph although there could have been many more. I confess to not spending as much time on flora as I probably should have.

The neatest sighting of the day was probably this Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) which we found crossing the bit of road that passes over some large culverts on Black Creek. The water was rushing through the culverts under such force that a turtle couldn’t possibly swim through, so I suppose it decided to go over top instead.

When we first saw the turtle, it was creeping along low to the ground. I approached to shoot a couple of photos, and it raised itself up on stiff, straight legs so that it looked about double in size (see above and below photos — click on them for larger view). It then turned to face me (see top photo). It really was rather imposing!

Other nice sightings from today: Several very bold Eastern Chipmunks sat on logs scolding us. Sabrina walked up to one and almost touched noses before she felt out-stared and turned away (she’s a funny dog and doesn’t like being watched by creatures – as you may remember from her encounter with the Praying Mantis last September).

Both of my snake encounters were purely accidental. First, I almost stepped on an Eastern Garter Snake while walking along the edge of the road to photograph the Snapping Turtle. Then, just as we reached the end of our walk, I once more almost stepped on a Garter Snake that quickly shot out into a shallow vernal pool and remained frozen quite still, looking a bit like a stick.

Walking along the road, we could hear a chorus of Leopard Frogs a short distance into the woods, so we wandered over to listen. The numbers must have been quite high to create such a roar of snoring frog calls.

While taking lunch at a spot which I began calling “Spider Hill” a couple of years ago, as there are always so many Wolf Spiders present, we found at least 2 or maybe even as many as 4 species of Wolf Spiders wandering through the leaf mulch in very good numbers.

A Great Blue Heron was seen from a distance, standing on a nest, and another was spotted flying over Loon Lake.

Just after leaving the park, we moved a Painted Turtle off the highway as a precaution against being hit by a vehicle (I’m glad we did as a big string of vehicles came along just after the turtle was moved). I shot top and bottom views of the shell to send to someone who is doing research on Painted Turtles here in Ontario. We also saw three occupied Osprey nests along Port Elmsley Road – always a nice sight.

That’s about it for the main report. To view the list of species counted, see below. Also, Wayne from Niches has also posted about Day One of his bioblitzing, so be sure to take that it too!

Reptiles & Amphibians:
Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) – 1 seen.
Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) – 1 seen.
Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) – 2 seen.
Northern Leopard Frogs (Rana pipiens) – 1 seen and very large chorus heard.
Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica) – several small choruses heard.
Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) – several faint calls heard.

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) – 4 seen at various point along walk.
Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) – 3 seen and more heard.
White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) – footprints and droppings seen throughout trails.
Beaver (Castor canadensis) – long dam seen at end of Loon Lake.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) – Calling and hammering in one area of park.
Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) – Drumming heard in 4 areas along the trails.
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) – 2 seen and heard near pond along Black Ance Road.
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) – 2 seen tapping at top of adjacent trees.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) – 1 seen on nest, 1 seen flying, 1 seen on return trip home.
Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) – 5 seen over park and several more on return trip home.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) – 1 seen flying erratically along Black Creek; flock heard in distance.
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) – 1 heard in vicinity of Black Creek.
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) – 1 seen in vicinity of Black Creek.
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) – 2 seen by pond along Black Ance Road.
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) – 7 seen moving about through ground juniper along McParlan Trail.
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla) – many – ubiquitous throughout woods along all trails.
American Robin (Turdus migratorius) – 5 seen at various points along trail.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) 1 heard near Heron nest, 3 seen on nests on return trip home.
Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) – 1 seen coursing meadow along Roger Stevens Dr. on return trip home.
Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) – 1 pair seen swimming together in marsh along Roger Stevens Dr.

Insects & Spiders
Mourning Cloak butterfy (Nymphalis antiopa) – 8 seen flying over trails.
Woolly Bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) – 1 caterpillar crossing Black Ance Road.
Zelus species of Assassin bug – 1 seen.
Twice-stabbed Lady Beetle(Adalia bipunctata) – 2 seen on tree.
Wolf Spiders (Lycosidae family) – 20+ of various species.
Red Velvet Mites – several seen throughout day.
Also – an unidentified beetle, and hopper. Other insects seen but not photographed or ID’d.

Tinder Polypore (Fomes fomentarius) – several seen on trees.
Devil’s Urn ? (Urnula craterium ?) – 1 seen – I’m not positive about the ID of this one.

Lichens and Mosses
Reindeer Moss (Cladina rangiferina) – extensive in some areas along tops of rock ridges.
Fire Moss ? (Ceratodon purpureus ?) – seen growing atop logs in several places.
Nodding Pohlia Moss ? (Pohlia nutans) – quite a bit in area of pond along Black Ance Road.

Trees & Plants:
Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) – large tree along Black Ance Road.
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) – nice specimen near Leopard Frog pond in vicinity of Black Creek.
White Pine (Pinus strobus) – many nice ones growing along Black Creek.
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) – several in forest between Black Ance Road and Loon Lake.
Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana) – ubiquitous throughout park.
Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) – several nice clumps growing along McParlan Trail.
Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) – population along McParlan Trail near Black Ance Road.
Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) – a few sprigs poking up through leaf mulch, but no flowers as yet.
** Note, this is only a small selection of trees seen and identified at the park.


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11 Responses to “Day One – a turtle steals the show”

  1. Wayne Says:

    Wow – fantastic on the snapping turtle and painted turtle! And good job on the counting – that’s a facet I haven’t been remarking on. Glad you saw the garter snakes! Similarly for the birds – you observed quite a large number of species.

    I haven’t seen that particular Devil’s Urn here, but it looks like it to me. I always enjoy running across these sprouting up from dead logs and twigs.

    The Pbase photos are great – what an array of Wolf Spiders you have!

  2. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – The snapping turtle was a very neat sighting — that one sort of made my day from a photography point of view. It was nice to see as many herps as we did, and also to find some nice ponds of frogs actively calling.
    I’ll have to work on the Wolf Spider IDs this week. I know the most likely ID of a couple, but I don’t really know if I’ll be able to ID any of them to species – maybe just genus.

  3. Cindy Says:

    great list Bev.. today was ‘turtle day’ for us too, a beautiful Blandings and a painted turtle.. my feet were too swollen to get out and do a comprehensive insect search, but I sure enjoyed the birds we have.. cool to hear the grouse drumming again huh :)

  4. Cindy Says:

    (I meant yesterday, not today.. not even dressed yet! lol)

  5. burning silo Says:

    Cindy – Thanks! We’re getting real “turtle weather” here — after all the snow last Monday, I think the turtles are making up for lost time and will be on the move all this week as temperatures are about 70F or more by mid-day. The frogs are really singing too. And yes, cool to hear the grouse drumming again!

  6. Cathy Says:

    As always, your photography delights and your narrative permits me to share a world that I will never encounter. Yet – I feel I’ve been there – standing in gaping awe above that anachronism – the snapping turtle reminder of the rich layers of life that go on and on even when we’re not looking or mindful of life’s fecund diversity.

    Now for a waaaaaaa moment: when I clicked on the Sabrina ‘encounter’ link – waaaaaaaa – I got Dutchman’s breeches. Very nice, but no Sabrina – waaaaaaaa :0(

  7. John Says:

    The snapping turtle was extraordinary and its “standing up” to twice its size was remarkable. It’s been so long since I’ve seen turtles up close. It’s time I wander down to the creek near my office, the only spot nearby where I can see turtles. I loved the photo of the Great Blue Heron, too; for reasons unbeknownst to me, I get a feeling of elation every time I see one.

  8. robin andrea Says:

    An amazing number of animals and quite a diversity of species. What an incredible day you had. You picked a grand place to explore.

  9. Larry Says:

    I remember my father standing on a snapping turtle by accident while fishing once. He thought it was a rock-boy-those things can get big!-it must have been over 50 lbs.

  10. burning silo Says:

    Cathy – I always feel like I’m in the presence of a dinosaur when I meet up with a large Snapping Turtle. I’ve fixed the link to Sabrina and the Mantis, and here it is as well:
    Thanks for mentioning that it wasn’t working!

    John – The turtle’s “size illusion” was really quite remarkable. I love Great Blue Herons too. That photo wasn’t exactly the best as it was taken from so far away, but it was just neat to see that very recognizable silhouette.

    robin – We really did seem to have a fantastic day yesterday. We hiked at a couple of different spots today, but didn’t have quite so many memorable encounters.

    Larry – Yes, they can get to be very large. I’ve seen a few big ones in the creeks where I paddle my canoe.

  11. Laura Says:

    Productive day, Bev! That snapper is impressive with its algae covered shell.