Friday, December 12, 2014

My Summer

It's been ages since I've posted a blog, mostly due to a crazy work schedule and lack of internet access while working in the northern lower peninsula. Back in late May, I began working with a state agency on a conservation project involving one of our imperiled turtle species, the wood turtle. While working in the northern reaches of the state, I've managed to see a lot of cool things that we don't often see in the fragmented landscape of southeast Michigan. Without further ado, here's a look at what my summer has been like.

Welcome to My Office
Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), Northern Michigan

Wood turtles are found in healthy rivers and streams in the northern reaches of the lower peninsula. Most of my summer has involved following these guys around with radio telemetry. They have a knack for moving into really thick cover after nesting finishes, and I've often tracked them into some of the nastiest thickets and thorns I've ever seen in Michigan. Besides the turtles, the vast forests of northern Michigan also house some snake species that seem to be rare or absent from much of southeast Michigan. After a passing thunderstorm one afternoon, I got my first look at a northern Michigan hognose snake.

Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos), Alcona County, Michigan
Hogs appear to be fairly common in the northern reaches of the state, I saw more than a dozen in the coming weeks, especially gravid females which were staging in apparent nesting areas.

Eastern Hognose Snakes (Heterodon platirhinos), Oscoda and Alcona Counties, Michigan
The bird life in this area of the state is also particularly good, especially with the vast jack pine barrens in the area.

Kirtland's Warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii), Oscoda County, Michigan
Evening Grosbeaks (Coccothraustes vespertinus), Alcona County, Michigan
Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus), Alcona County, Michigan
The drier months of the summer really slowed down any herp movement at all, only bringing about the occasional garter snake. I did happen to find this unmarked turtle, which was out for a stroll after a strong passing thunderstorm in early August.

Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta), Northern Michigan
As the weather has begun to cool off here later in the season, there has been a noticeable spike in snake activity. One morning, after a night of heavy rain, I came around a corner and couldn't miss this beautiful snake in the road.

Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis), Alcona County, Michigan
I don't often get to see greens, so anytime one shows up it's a treat. The month of September was pretty slow at first, but by the temps began to cool about midway through the month, snakes became a daily encounter along forest roads.

Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos), Alcona County, MI
Smooth Green Snakes (Opheodrys vernalis), Alcona and Oscoda Counties, MI
Being able to work in some of the most beautiful places of the state for the summer was awesome, and I already miss it. Things are changing fast for me, as I may soon be moving on from Michigan for another job opportunity. I look forward to seeing where the field takes me, and will keep do my best to keep up with this blog. I have a huge backlog of fall snakes from southeast Michigan, new camera rig stuff, and more things of the avian variety. Stay tuned, and until next time, happy herping.

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