We came away with stories to tell!
Our day began in a ULM classroom. Dr. John Carr patiently walked us through the major families of amphibians and reptiles of northeast Louisiana with the help of an illustrated PowerPoint and a couple of great handouts. We had many questions.
Armed with our new knowledge, extensive notes and phones/cameras, we then headed to Black Bayou Lake NWR and reconvened near the Visitor Center. We were greeted there by Ryan, McKenzie and Ben, Dr. Carr’s graduate students, and… two turtles!
One of the two was a Map Turtle (Graptemys sp.), who had been rescued off a road on the way to the Refuge. She was quickly determined to be bearing eggs that Dr. Carr and his students wanted to incubate and hatch for research purposes, so she was placed in water in a tub. By the time we returned from our field work, she had laid one egg in the tub!
The other turtle that greeted us at BBLNWR was a male Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). It was a scorching day and we were hot, but the snapper was hotter! We kept a healthy distance from his darting head and beak-like jaws while Ben held the turtle and Dr. Carr notched his shell for identification purposes before releasing him back into the wild.
Later, Dr. Carr and his students emerged from the swamp carrying a female Common Snapping Turtle (photo above), who was equally hot under the carapace! Of course, we also got to see Louisiana’s favorite Red-Eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), plus a couple of skinks, and–momentarily–a tiny escape artist Eastern Narrow-mouthed Toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis).
A hardy handful of us returned to the Refuge at 8 p.m. and were met again by Dr. Carr, his graduate students and Dr. Kim Tolson, who will lead a mammals workshop for us later this year. Back down the trail we went, to be greeted first by a deafening chorus of insects. The closer we got to the lake, the more the frogs took over.
What a wonderful cacaphony! We heard everything from tiny cricket frogs to deep-throated bullfrogs and several sizes in between, including bird-voiced tree frogs, bronze frogs, green tree frogs and more.
Hearing frogs and seeing them are quite different things, but with many eyes looking and several people willing to leave the boardwalk and wade, we were also able to see and photograph several species.
Did I mention snakes and ‘gators? Yes, we saw those, too. It was a fabulous day.