Spring is in the air here on the Grand Strand (at least it was for a couple days – its currently cold and dreary again). As the seasons change and the weather begins to warm up, all sorts of fascinating animal activity can be observed! Amanda was barked at by a white-tailed deer a few nights ago – most people don’t know that deer can make a surprisingly loud grunting sound, generally in the springtime when it’s breeding season. The first snakes and alligators are starting to emerge from their winter hideaways, and turtles are once again basking on logs when the sun comes out.
Amanda and I were fortunate enough to see a chicken turtle walking down the road from our house a few days ago. Chicken Turtles are a rare species that looks very similar to the far more common yellow-bellied sliders and florida cooters. The chicken turtle has a very distinct yellow stripe on the front of each front leg, a very long neck, and a pear shaped shell (the back is notably wider than the front). Unlike sliders and cooters, chicken turtles don’t have a bright yellow patch behind the eye. Chicken turtles prefer calm ponds, Carolina Bays, and even seasonal wetlands. When the water dries up the turtles bury down into the ground to await the next rainfall.
Our feathered friends are also becoming more active. I have seen Carolina wrens foraging for nesting materials, and the ruby-crowned kinglets are flashing their ruby crowns more and more often. The ruby-crowned kinglet is an oddly named little bird, in that its bright, ruby-colored crown is usually invisible – tucked into the rest of the feathers on its head. When a male is excited (generally around breeding season) he can pop up those red feathers and flash a very distinctive red mohawk to attract a mate or warn off a potential rival. If you see a kinglet without the red mohawk, just play their breeding call on your phone and you will quite often have the little bird land on a branch a few feet away, stick up his ruby crown, and begin to chatter at you. If it doesn’t work, you probably have a female kinglet in front of you (they look identical except for the usually hidden red crown).