Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another Woody Summer

I have mentioned before that I don't find many things as enjoyable as hopping into a canoe or kayak on a northern Michigan river and looking for turtles.  It is a perfect way to spend a couple weekends during the heat of the summer.

This year I invited Carl Brune and his son Ryan up and we were able to plan a tight trip up north.  It was quite the haul for the two of them, and I hope they enjoyed the trip.

They had come up to Detroit the night before, so we were able to get a real early start to our first day.  We pulled up to the canoe livery sometime before noon, and were soon loaded up into a canoe and kayak.  I had planned on bringing both dogs, Cid and Joy, but Joy had a sore paw and ended up having to stay home. 

We started with a river my brother Brian and I had canoed last year with some luck.  We managed to see a bunch of different animals, but struck out on wood turtles in the river.

Today would be different.  We were on the river about an hour and I spotted a turtle on the bank.

Wood Turtle Glyptemys insculpta

It was nice to get that one off our backs.  Cid was well behaved during the photo shoot.  Later he would decide to try and jump out of the canoe.  He quickly remembered he doesn't like swimming.

We didn't see any more woods here but saw plenty of snapping turtles and map turtles.

Map turtle  Graptemys geographica

We found a nice muddy flat with some snappers hanging out in it.  Ryan spent some time catching the turtles, while letting his kayak and paddle float away.

Another map

We finished a long day, and headed to the campsite.  Cid was enjoying the car while we slaved away and set up camp.

We were up early the next day, broke camp, and set off to our next river.  This would be a new one for me and I was excited to get out there.  We spent some time flipping logs in a wooded field but turned up a disappointing nothing.  It poured on and off while driving to the next river, and we were wondering if the livery would even be open.  Sure enough it was, and we were the only car in the parking lot when we pulled up.  We took some time to eat a snack and pack up, but were on the river fairly shortly.  It was maybe 5-10 minutes down river when I noticed an obvious wood turtle crawling out onto a log to bask.  I got a very crappy shot off before it realized it was spotted and dove back down.  We looked hard in the area but were unable to locate the turtle.

Wood Turtle

A while later I looked off to my right and saw an odd looking "rock" under the overhang of the bank.  I quickly spied it with some binocs and realized it was a turtle.  We looped back around against the current,
and luckily the turtle was still there.  It was floating very oddly, bobbing unnaturally, and not at all bothered by the canoe approaching.  I snapped a few shots and decided to hop in after it, wondering if it was dead.

 I managed to swim right up to the turtle and quickly grabbed a very alive and fiesty turtle.  An idea briefly popped into my head and my other hand shot out into the murky water - a second turtle was swimming away!  I felt bad for disturbing this imperiled species, but it was amazing to witness evidence of reproduction.

Just shortly down the river, Carl spotted this basking on a river bank.

We were exploring that same bank, and I noticed another turtle hanging out.

The streak continued, soon we spotted another basking turtle.

We ended  up seeing another basking wood turtle right there but it got away before we could get shots of it.

More map turtles were seen.

As well as a few basking water snakes.

All in all it was a great couple of days.  The herp diversity was way down compared to the trip with my brother last year, but 8 wood turtles in 2 days is pretty amazing.  It was also great to see Carl and Ryan, its hard to hook up as much these days.



  1. Wow...I didn't know it was possible to photograph a basking map. They tend to slide into the water whenever I come within 100 yards of them...

  2. Very easy when approaching from a canoe or from in the water. You should try it sometime.