Thursday, August 11, 2011

Now that's a spiny softshell...

Rick and I ducked out of work a little early yesterday to go canoeing...and turtle hunting! The Wednesday before we canoed the Little Miami River and saw dozens of turtles, but I didn't have my camera with me. This time, I brought my camera...

Look at the spikes on that leathery-soft shell...they really put the "spine" in spiny!
It's easy to identify this Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera spinifera) because her spines are incredibly obvious. Her smarmy little "smile" made me laugh, and I could see a word bubble over her head with "you like those, babe?" printed in it.

We rented our canoe from Morgan's Canoe Rentals and set off from Fort Ancient. We did the 6-mile run, going as far as Morrow. It's the fourth time I've been on the Little Miami this summer--two other times with Rick and once kayaking by myself. Birdwatching and turtle watching from the water is incredible. I know I'll be in the market for a canoe or kayak one of these days. Yesterday we saw a Spotted Sandpiper fly right past us and land on the rocks bankside. I was amazed. It was the first time I had seen a Spotted Sandpiper go bob-bob-bobbing along on my favorite river, and it made me happy! I doubt I would have seen the bird from the trail. Being able to drift down the river silently and at the low angle offers a new perspective on birding...and is the only way to turtle watch.

...this spiny softshell is easy to identify too. You can see the little spines sticking up from the front of the carapace...and the feet are heavily marked with yellow and black spots and streaking.

...sacked out in the mud (and still sporting a clump of sand on her back from being buried earlier), Mrs. Spiny watches us slowly drift by. I love the posture she's in because it reminds me of a crocodile with her head and eye nearly hidden in the mud. (Her little friend resting on her back seems to like the posture too!)

...I see your little spines, Spiny! ...and your distinctive ridged nose...not to mention the yellow and black spots on your legs and feet...and the two lines behind your eye...

Rick and I were hoping to find a Midland Smooth Softshell Turtle (Apalone mutica mutica) yesterday. They are documented on the Great Miami River, and they've been spotted on the Little Miami too, but from a distance it's hard for me to tell them apart. When I first saw this big softshell I didn't see any spines, and the coloring looked different. I was hoping, hoping, hoping we had a Midland Smooth, but on closer inspection, I could see the heavily spotted feet characteristic of the spiny softshells (smooth softshell turtles' feet are not heavily spotted or streaked). Even the ocelli (dark spots) of a spiny softshell are visible if you look carefully. I really want to find a Midland Smooth Softshell so I can compare it with an Eastern Spiny Softshell.

...definitely an Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtle.

...here you can see the distinctive soft white plastron (bottom shell) of a softshell turtle. You can also see just how pliable and leathery a softshell turtle's carapace is by the way it drapes over the log.

...this one made me chuckle...looks like she's testing the temp of the water!

I can't wait until the next time we get to go out on the river! For an earlier post on spiny soft shells from the Great Miami River, click here.

Since this post, I was able to photograph Midland Smooth Softshell turtles, click here for photos.

18 comments:

Montanagirl said...

Kelly, those are amazing turtles, and wonderful shots of them. You go, girl!

holdingmoments said...

Fascinating creatures Kelly, and lovely pictures too.

TexWisGirl said...

such freaky-looking critters! :)

Wanda..... said...

Those are in our river!!!?
I've never had an up close encounter before! Great photos, Kelly!

Frank said...

Never seen anything like it before. Super pics Kelly.

Elaine said...

More exquisite shots, Kelly! I love the low angle of the shots. I'll bet you got a few great shots of some of those birds you saw too. I foresee a new canoe or kayak in your very near future....

Lois Evensen said...

I can just feel your excitement as you got these shots. They are fabulous! Wow!

Wren said...

I'd never heard of these, let alone seen one. They are fascinating. Great photos!

grammie g said...

Hi Kelly ...That first shot is just great ..you know you like it babe lol
Very strange creature!!
Hope you come across the other fellar your looking for!!

freebird said...

I've never seen anything like these. Wonderful photos.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Fabulous photos, Kelly... I can understand why you were excited.
Hugs,
Betsy

Hilke Breder said...

Fascinating animal! The only turtles we see here in VT are the painted ones - kind of boring - and of course the snappers. Interesting info and love the pictures, Kelly.

Banjo52 said...

Great photos and interesting information (as usual). Thanks.

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

Again I love your photos of the spiny softshell turtles. I have seen snappers and pond turtles but none of them smiled. And you really captured the anatomy well.
Just wonderful.

Thanks for sharing them.
Guy

Kerri said...

Oh my goodness .... these are FANTASTIC! I'm always inspired when I visit!!

Kelly said...

...thanks again everyone for your kind words! Oh my gosh....I'm so in love with these turtles, and to think a few months ago I knew nothing about them! Like a lot of you, I didn't even know sporting soft shells with spikes existed! Canoeing has been such an eye opener. I love being able to get so close to these creatures so new to me...

Robin Robinson said...

FFFFFFFFAbulous turtle! I've never seen one. I had a Spotted Turtle first this summer, very rare here .

soggyandpeanut said...

Thanks for posting! My husband and I went canoeing at Morgan's last weekend and wanted to see the turtles up close.