Sunday, June 5, 2016

Dell Water Dating Games

     Yesterday I had a fully packed day of fun. On my to-do list was to gather and procure camping gear for a trip I am taking with my husband and friends to volunteer on the Colorado Trail- this involved a trip upstate and to campmor (the coolest store ever) in Jersey, I also planned to volunteer counting and tagging horseshoe crabs in the evening, and then to meet with friends for (delicious) margaritas into the late hours of the night. So I managed to squeeze in a short adventure into Green-Wood Cemetery before my to-do list began.
     To say the least, there were some mating and dating happenings in and around the Dell Water. I'll let the pictures do the 'splaining, but I warn you there are copious photos of turtles getting randy, enjoy!
I arrived at the Dell Water and heard loud splashing and as I got closer, saw two large dinosaur-like creatures battling just below the surface. I was pleased to see two Common Snapping Turtles flirting, going through the romantic motions that snapping turtles usually do.
It begins with some face-to-face time. Below the surface they are moving their heads around, a mean of communicating their intentions to court and reproduce. This is basically as sweet as snapping turtle dating gets...
Once they have exchanged bobbing and swaying heads, they wrestle, often with nips to the face and neck, appearing to embrace, as they roll around in the water.
You can see the pink on the snout and face of this turtle, probably raw from some "loving" nips from the other turtle, just a tad bit smaller than this one.
This provided a very cool opportunity to see parts of the turtle that are normally hidden below the surface... their olive-colored undersides, their plastron (the "belly" shell), all four of their feet (and the claws that adorn them), and their long, dinosaur-like tail.

The other turtle seems to be given the larger one a run for its money, with the numerous nicks it has to its face. 
The plastron (bottom shell) of the snapping turtles are not large at all, they are quite small, leaving lots of exposed skin. It appears leeches have taken advantage of that extra skin, as you can see, those little brown guys attached to the skin, next to the shell.
There was audible hissing from these individuals when they surfaced.
In due time the male will mount the female to mate. The female is fascinating, she can "hold on to" sperm and store it for some time and then utilize it when the time is right. There also is no defined mating season for these turtles, they do it when cues from the environment feel right. Most of these turtles and other species are laying eggs now through late June, often confusing the average person. It's likely that if you see a turtle far from water, its a female looking for a suitable place to lay eggs. Don't put her back in the water, turtles are tenacious and have a plan that they stick to, when it comes to traveling. If they are crossing a road, you can help them, if it is safe for both of you, and help it across in the direction it is traveling. Never pick snapping turtles up by the tail, or at all, if you do not know how to handle them. If you are truly concerned, or in doubt, you should contact your local wildlife rehabilitator.
And in case you are interested, I also have the moving picture version of the above...

The green herons were also vocalizing, at one point two were on the Dell Water and one was displaying, lowering its head, raising it feather, and making some comical noises.
I also visited the great egret who frequents the Crescent Water (just next to the Dell Water). He/she was actively snatching minnows from the water.
Oh yeah, I LOVE egrets- so there are a lot of him/her. Egrets look the same, whether male or female, so it's hard to say what this bird is.
I love the concentration and commitment they have to the hunt- totally in the zone.

Oh yeah, they are totally adorable and alien head on.
I am not a believer in angels and stuff like that, but I'd like to think that egrets inspired the wings people put on angelic figures. Seriously, they are so gorgeous and stunning in flight. 
A green heron was actively fishing on the opposite shore, it seemed the egret wanted to try its luck there.
Displacing the green heron, who is a bit more comedic in its a appearance in flight...
Setting for a new location. This is the "mate" to the green heron on the Dell water in the next few photos below-
When they are hunting and you find an acceptable distance to observe, it gives a lovely opportunity to watch them acting as they should. It is so important to give wildlife an appropriate distance when you are observing them.

Not sure how easy it is to fish from that rock, he was not really looking to try a different location.

I really like herons, they are so handsome, and the petite green heron is gorgeous, especially when you catch them in the sunlight.