The First Herps of 2013

With temperatures hitting the mid-60s today, I decided to go outside and take a look around. Though warm, there were still patches of snow on the ground and many areas of standing water were still frozen.

As I hiked, I could hear Spring Peepers calling off in the distance, but there calls were scattered and sporadic. The first herp of 2013 was a much bigger frog than a Spring Peeper – American Bullfrog.

In the same area while looking through the underbrush, I spotted my first reptile of the year – Midland Painted Turtle. I could hear lone Spring Peepers calling off in the distance, but these herps were right in front of me, so I photographed them.

I wasn’t the only one herping today – Red-tailed Hawk.

Here’s male a Midland Painted Turtle courting a female. To express his affections, he scratches her cheeks with his extra-long front fingernails.

She did not seem impressed with his technique.

These Ground Beetles are cool. They have big jaws and “play dead” by freezing in this position when they feel that they’re in danger.

Soon it began getting dark. I decided to track down one of those Spring Peepers that I’d been hearing throughout the day. Finding one can be tricky, they are very small and tend to stop calling as they are approached. But persistence paid off.

Not a bad outing for January 12th in the Greater Cleveland area!

Third Eye Herp

Midland Painted Turtle

Most reptiles are hibernating at this time of the year in Northeast Ohio. They need warmth to function and February is a cold time of the year – it’s winter. Today I saw this Midland Painted Turtle out basking. It was in the low 50s and partly sunny. I had seen turtles basking earlier in the month, when we had a warm spell, and this turtle was out basking on that day as well (the other turtles, which were further down the waterway, were not out today).

True to their common name, these turtles usually have red or orange markings along the edge of their shell. They also have yellow and red stripes on their neck and legs. Painted Turtles are among the most abundant and conspicuous turtles in Ohio. They are particularly fond of basking.

The Painted Turtle is also the most widespread turtle of North America. They range from coast to coast (though not continuously). More than any other turtle species in the U.S., they remain active for most of the year – even when its very cold, they can occasionally be seen swimming beneath clear ice. Seeing turtles in February makes for some great winter herping.

Third Eye Herp