Friday, May 02, 2008

Rollings Middle School of the Arts

Yesterday and today, 6th graders from the Rollings Middle School of the Arts in Summerville visited the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest. In addition to the normal boardwalk tour, the students used hand lenses to take a closer look at mosses, ferns, various tree leaves, and even a toadlet.

Besides seeing and learning about the many plants and 1000-year-old trees, the students saw snakes (one group saw all 5 species found in the swamp and will receive a certificate stating that they hit "the cycle" as snake seekers), a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) nest, the ubiquitous (there's that word again!) Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea), a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea), a Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)and a male Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) that survived an obviously vicious predatory attack!

Students helped weigh and measure the carapace and plastron lengths of the SpottedTurtle, which came in at 130 grams, 9.93 cm carapace, and 7.93 cm plastron. One image shows that the turtle is missing its left rear leg. Judging by the bite marks that penetrated the carapace, the leg was likely lost at that time. Nature is tough enough! Unfortunately, the Spotted Turtles also need to contend with habitat loss, as they prefer isolated wetlands that are often filled in or drained for development, or they are subject to capture and sale on the international pet market.

We're happy that we can provide sanctuary for all types of plants and animals, including a three-legged Spotted Turtle. Maybe he needs to get together with the three-legged Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) we have in the nature center and start a support group.

Images by Mark Musselman

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