Turtle Hike and Pond Study

This past Saturday, Kids Unplugged returned to Westmoreland Sanctuary to join the naturalists there for a short trek to Betchel Lake to set the turtle traps. During our visit we learned from Sanctuary Director Steve Ricker that the traps do not harm the turtles but allow the staff to catch them and record information such as weight, length and distinguishing characteristics.The turtles are then marked for future identification and released at the site of capture.

We arrived at the pond, serenaded by some sort of amphibian voice, and the kids went straight for the pond-study nets. Minutes later, my daughter held up her net beaming. She’d caught a toad–a gentelman toad whose brothers we could hear singing away, encouraging the lady toads to join them for some vernal egg-laying. Steve brought out a large bucket (like the joint-compound buckets your contractor buys), added some pond water and deposited said toad inside for further examination. He did encourage the kids not to touch Mr. Toad too frequently for fear that he might become too nervous and turn upside down.
Before setting the traps, Steve brought the kids into a little lean-to beside the pond where he showed them a tiny, almost translucent egg he retrieved from a nest hidden in the eves of the shed. I cannot recall the type of bird whose egg it was but I did learn that birds cannot smell and that the mother bird will not reject eggs in her nest if she detects a human scent upon them
. Am I the only one who grew up thinking this? In any case, the kids were fascinated by the teeny egg and listened attentively to Steve’s mini-lesson about the traps even though their pile of pond nets was calling to them from the back of the shed.

Then it was time to set the trap. The kids helped to open up the net and carry it to the pond’s edge where, much to their delight, Steve, now accompanied by Sanctuary naturalist Adam Zorn, waded thigh deep into the cold pond water to set the trap.

We spent a good, long time along the pond’s edge. Other toads were caught and added to the bucket. Turtles were searched for in vain. And other than one of my kids (of course) we headed back up the trail mostly dry for a visit to Westmoreland’s fantastic nature museum to end our adventure.


Speak Your Mind