Know Your Michigan Turtles: Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)

Common Musk Turtle, photo by Nick Scobel

Happy World Turtle Day everyone!

World Turtle Day (May 23rd) was started in 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue to bring awareness about dangers to turtles worldwide. It’s also the perfect day to add the 10th and final turtle to one of the most popular posts on Michigan in Pictures, Know Your Michigan Turtles!

The UM Animal Diversity Web entry for the common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), a relatively small turtle with an average length of about 3 to 5 inches, says in part:

The habitat of the common musk turtle includes any kind of permanent body of water, like shallow streams, ponds, rivers, or clear water lakes, and it is rare to find the turtle elsewhere. While in the water, this musk turtle stays mainly in shallow areas. Sometimes it can be found basking on nearby fallen tree trunks or in the branches of trees overhanging the water

…The most prominent behavior of the common musk turtle is its defensive tactic. When disturbed, this turtle will quickly release a foul-smelling liquid from its musk glands. This kind of defense earned the musk turtle the nickname of “stinkpot”. Also, the male is particularly aggressive and will not think twice about biting. Another unique behavior the nocturnal common musk turtle exhibits while foraging is that they walk on the bottom of the stream or pond instead of swimming like other turtles.

Sternotherus oderatus is somewhat of a food generalist, as it is known to eat small amounts of plants, mollusks, small fish, insects, and even carrion. Foraging on the muddy bottom of streams or ponds is the chief way of collecting food.

Nick runs the very useful Herping Michigan Blog where you can find lots more of his excellent photos of Michigan’s reptiles and amphibians along with informative writeups.  View the photo bigger and see more of Nick’s awesome turtle photos on Flickr.

Get the complete list of all 10 turtles native to Michigan right here!

Fox Kit Friday

Fox Kit, photo by David Marvin

Spring is also baby animal season in Michigan, so here’s a little about baby foxes and what to do if you encounter one from Friends of Wildlife in Ann Arbor:

There are two species of fox in Michigan, the Red and the Gray. The Red prefer meadow areas and the Gray favor woods.

As with most wildlife, the kits are born in early spring. The vixen (female fox) chooses a hollow log, an empty woodchuck hole or a roadside culvert for the nursery. This nest site provides her young protection from predators, especially coyotes. The male fox helps with the rearing by bringing the vixen food while she nurses their young and keeps the kits warm. Then later in the kits development both parents teach them how to forage for food.

The foxes diet consists mainly of small rodents, moles and bugs. The benefits that foxes afford farmland, orchards and the general public is their consumption of these invasive pests. It is an absolute miss conception that fox eat cats, dogs or small children.They are very curious creatures but avoid contact with domestic animals and humans.

When fox kits are first born, their eyes and ears are closed, they remain secluded in their den with their mother. As they develop, at about one month, they start venturing out to play, attacking twigs, leaves and their siblings, but never far from the protection of the den.

If you do find an infant fox, please contact them for further instructions and see their website for information about other species!

View the photo background bigtacular and see more including some shots of these kiddos walking around in David’s slideshow.

PS: David has a video too. He writes: “Please note that the video was taken from quiet a distance away with a high power lens so as to avoid as much human contact with the kits.”

Turtles don’t care about personal space

Apparently turtles have no concept of “my personal space”, photo by Dale Devries

Regular readers are aware that World Turtle Day is a big favorite of mine. It takes place a week from today on Tuesday, May 23rd, and I’m extra excited for this year as I will post the 10th and final turtle on my list of the ten turtles native to Michigan! Be sure to tune in and definitely consider supporting American Tortoise Rescue and their World Turtle Day!

I tried to find a definitive answer as to why turtles “stack” like this. It appears to be a way for littler turtles to get more sun, but I’m curious if anyone has a definitive answer.

About the photo Dale writes:

I took an old section of dock and made a ramp up to it just above the waterline, and the turtles have voiced their approval! I have no idea why we have so many turtles here, but it must mean the lake is healthy!

View the photo background big and see more in Dale’s The Best of West Lake slideshow.

Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air, photo by Julie

Julie caught this pair of cardinals earlier this week. Definitely a lot of this going on out there!!

View the photo bigger and see more in her Birds slideshow.

 

Danger on the Trail: Michigan’s Tick Season in Full Swing

Danger on the Trail, photo by otisourcat

The other day I went on a hike. After I got in the car, I belatedly remembered to check for ticks and found TWO just hanging out on my leg.

You can check out the information about Michigan ticks from the State of Michigan, and you might also find these 5 essential oils that repel bugs useful:

  • Lavender – This smells sweet to us but bugs absolutely hate it. It works on mosquitoes, flies and other insects.
  • PennyRoyal – this is a member of the mint family and it is toxic to insects.
  • Lemongrass – This essential oil comes from tropical lemongrass and has a citrusy sent. It is a natural flea and tick repellent and can be sprayed directly on the skin.
  • Eucalyptus – use this alone or along with citronella oil to keep bugs away. According to the Journal of medical entomology, Eucalyptus extract can reduce tick bites and infections.
  • Lemon – some lemon essential oil can work against fleas and other bugs. Slightly dilute it and spray it on your clothing and skin.

View the photo bigger and see more in otisourcat’s massive Here & Now slideshow.

Possum Power!

Caught In The Headlights, photo by James Marvin Phelps

Tick season is upon us, and with the added threat of Lyme disease, it’s serious business here in Michigan. My friend Tara with the Leelanau Conservation District shared some information about opossums from Opossum Awareness & Advocacy (opossum facts image below that you can share):

Did you know that opossums eat up to 5000 ticks per season thereby reducing our risk of contracting Lyme Disease and other tick-born diseases? They kill vermin, including mice, and garden pests. They are not dirty; they are very clean animals and groom and clean as much as cats. Better still, most opossums cannot contract or spread rabies. Opossums are the United States and Canada’s only marsupials.

They may look a little scary to the uninitiated, but they are actually timid and do so much good for humans compared to most other creatures. If you see an opossum consider yourself lucky, leave it alone and please do not harm it. They have a hard time surviving in cold climates because they don’t have very thick coats. Sometimes opossums play dead because they are afraid. Please don’t hit them with your car. Spread the word and please help protect opossums!

View the photo background big and see more in James’ massive Michigan slideshow, and follow James Marvin Phelps Photography on Facebook.

Yellow Rumped Warbler

Yellow Rumped Warbler, photo by Jeff Dehmel

Jeff’s back with another bird everyone! I couldn’t resist – the colors on this are so perfectly April!! Here’s a couple of facts on the Yellow-rumped Warbler from All About Birds:

Yellow-rumped Warblers are impressive in the sheer numbers with which they flood the continent each fall. Shrubs and trees fill with the streaky brown-and-yellow birds and their distinctive, sharp chips. Though the color palette is subdued all winter, you owe it to yourself to seek these birds out on their spring migration or on their breeding grounds. Spring molt brings a transformation, leaving them a dazzling mix of bright yellow, charcoal gray and black, and bold white.

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is the only warbler able to digest the waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtles. Its ability to use these fruits allows it to winter farther north than other warblers, sometimes as far north as Newfoundland.

They’re the warbler you’re most likely to see fluttering out from a tree to catch a flying insect, and they’re also quick to switch over to eating berries in fall. Other places Yellow-rumped Warblers have been spotted foraging include picking at insects on washed-up seaweed at the beach, skimming insects from the surface of rivers and the ocean, picking them out of spiderwebs, and grabbing them off piles of manure.

The oldest recorded Yellow-rumped Warbler was at least 7 years old.

View the photo background big and see more in Jeff’s Holloway Reservoir slideshow (where you’ll see his photo of a bald eagle from not long ago).

More spring wallpaper and more birds on Michigan in Pictures.