Eastern Box Turtle Study
March 31, 2023
This weekend has been unfortunately unfruitful with empty traps on Saturday morning but thankfully we caught to juvenile male white footed mice on Sunday morning. Sunday morning as we are recording the measurements from the last mouse I look over and notice that he is just munching away on a mealworm, apparently, even animals “stress eat”.
As the semester ends and my time at Francis Marion and Southern 8ths ends, I am trying to be mindful while trapping this weekend. I find myself paying more attention to the landscape trying to engrain every blade of grass in my memory and reflect on the entire experience from this last year. I have become close to all my fellow researchers whom I had never spoken to prior to starting. I will miss 7 am trap checking and the excitement every time we catch something and the extra excitement that follows when we realize that it is a new species to add to our list. I have learned a lot about fieldwork through this project, but I have also gained some friends and hopefully lifelong connections with the people at Southern 8ths and those who are a part of Carolina Wildlands.
This weekend we caught just one white footed mouse. There was too much predator activity because we had at least 2 traps moved by raccoons during the night and once even during the day. Saturday after checking the traps we rode along with Clay while he collected memory cards from the camera traps. We came up on a group of wild turkeys and Clay got out his turkey call and tried to get the male to gobble in response, it happened once and then they realized that we were not female turkeys and ran away. Later that afternoon Morgan and I took a walk down to the creek close to where we trapped and found some cricket frogs and identified some plants, my favorites being Red cedar and an unfurling Christmas fern. I love to take pictures of the natural world when I am out exploring so I can remember the place and the memories of what I found or what I was thinking about while adventuring.
March 4, 2023
This weekend we trapped farther out behind the Turley house than we trapped last weekend. In the manner of field work we only caught one white footed mouse this weekend even though just a few yards closer to the household we caught the most we have ever captured in one weekend trapping session. The weather was lovely and warm this weekend which lent itself to hikes around the property. I came upon this beautifully crafted but abandoned bird’s nest. I am not exactly sure of the species that created it, but it reminded me that nature does not see its own beauty.
February 25, 2023
First weekend of trapping this semester, was a fun and successful one. We met the new batch of students from Wingate and demonstrated the techniques that we use to trap along with the changes that we are implementing this semester to increase catch rate. This was a great experience because I enjoy sharing my work with other people and educating on techniques. This semester we have changed up our bait in order to hopefully have a higher success rate when trapping we are adding dried mealworms to our mix of rolled oats and black oil sunflower seeds. We also decided to include a bucket in our processing equipment to put the trapped mammals in before we scruff them to get a better grip and prevent them from getting away while being measured.
The new bait has seemed to be a success because we caught a total of 3 White-footed mice this weekend. Unfortunately the bucket did not work as it was not tall enough and when we put the mouse inside it immediately jumped out. I suspect that we caught the same individual mouse the next morning because we caught one in the exact same trap as the previous morning. Small rodents have a tendency to return to the traps because they are baited and sheltered this is why I believe it was the same mouse. All in all we were very successful even though it was very cold and I have extremely high hopes for the following weekends to trap more species and a higher number of mammals than last semester.
November 4, 2022
This weekend was eventful with Laura and Paul Tedeschi coming down from Connecticut to have a nature journaling seminar with us. It was extremely inspiring to hear about the serendipity of how they came to live in Edwin Way Teal’s home and to learn about Teal himself. The message of how important it is to make common people understand what scientists are trying to say is one I believe in wholeheartedly. After the seminar we went and set our traps before dark around a nearby ephemeral pond. The next morning we met up with Laura and Paul so they could document the process of checking the traps and processing the animals. Unfortunately, we did not catch any mammals. A while later we all met up with Sydney and her professor, Dr. Kiyoshi Sasaki, to tag along while they tracked down their box turtles. This peaked my interest because it is a completely different method of research than what we are conducting, so it was nice to compare and ask questions. Along our walk to reach John the box turtle I noticed a group of Monotropa uniflora commonly known as Indian pipe which is a rare and unique plant because it does not contain chlorophyll and lives off the fungi found in the root systems of trees. This behavior is called myco-heterotroph. That afternoon we reset our traps and added just a bit more bait in a few that seemed to low. The following morning we met up again with Laura and Paul to document our procedures but unfortunately again did not catch anything. We had to explain that sometimes that is just how it happens and it is normal. After explaining our lack of mammals we packed up our traps and our things, on the ride back to Francis Marion we spotted a rare fox squirrel scurrying on the side of the road. All in all, despite the lack of fresh data, the weekend was fun and enriching.
October 29, 2022
This weekend at Southern 8ths was a bit different than previous weeks as the SC Native Plant Society was holding their meeting at the facility. Friday when we arrived there were lots of people camping there overnight for the meeting the following day. Just like other weeks, we have to set traps as soon as we arrive because of how late we leave FMU. This week our trapping spot was in the woods around this fallen shed structure with a lot of sunken-in places on the ground where tree trunks used as posts appeared to be overall a perfect place to trap for small mammals. The next morning we checked the traps and caught a new species Peromyscus leucopus commonly known as the white-footed mouse. This guy was harder to ID just because it looks so much like the cotton mouse, just a little bit smaller, but based on our measurements it was most likely a white-footed mouse.
After checking the traps we got started with the Native Plant Society meeting which was very fun and informative. I think I have decided to become a member once the new branch opens closer to my area. Presenting our research project was very nerve-racking but also very fun. It was nice to be able to talk to people who were interested in what we are doing at Southern 8ths. We made a lot of new friends and connections both with the other students from Winthrop and Wingate and with the President and members of the Native Plant Society. The bird walk was very fun as well. It ended up being a small group, half of which were a part of the Columbia Audubon society as well as the Native Plant Society. We were quizzed on “all things birds and plants” the entire time. Luckily, I am taking an intro botany class with Dr. Gerald Long currently and answered most questions correctly.
The following morning checking the traps we believe that we caught the exact same white-footed mouse as the previous night. Based on measurements, sex, and the fact that it was caught in the exact same trap in the exact same spot we determined it to be the same mouse. This incident had us discussing the need to bring a marker to mark the animals we capture, just for the purpose of knowing for certain if we trap the exact same animal more than once over the course of the weekend. This information wouldn’t be used in our research, but it would be nice to know just how trap-happy the animals can get when food is involved.
October 14-16, 2022
Today the weather is wonderful, it’s 75 degrees and I arrived to the property a little bit earlier than everyone else in my research group so I decided to sit at the picnic tables behind the learning center. I’ve begun to open my eyes more since starting this fellowship trying to take in more of my surroundings and limit my screen time. So just within about 15 minutes of sitting there quietly I got some fantastic videos of animals including one of a bird eating a caterpillar in the canopy right above me.
This sort of awe of nature continued throughout my trip this past weekend. We did lots of bird watching, which I’ve never really done before, and we saw a ton of different species some of which were Northern flicker-(ant specialist), Eastern blue bird, Palm warbler, and the House finch. We put our traps out by Fireworks Pond in this meadow that was full of wild flowers and wild weeds – most native, some not.
After checking all 20 traps the next morning we sat in this “mobile observation station” that was previously used for announcing at horse tournaments to observe both Fireworks Pond and the meadow (Fireworks Prairie West). We sat in there for about half an hour watching and waiting until we got tired of that and decided to go out and explore around the pond ourselves. We headed back to the learning center to dry our feet and did our own individual things until it was time to reset the traps that night. The next morning we checked the traps and finally we caught our first mammal! Our Professor said that he should have been recording us because a soon as we all realized that we had caught something there was a shout of happiness from all of us. It ended up being just a little eastern harvest mouse that we dubbed “Freddie” because he was the first catch of many to follow (fingers crossed).
September 16-17 2022
The first night of trapping at Southern 8ths was spent right outside of the learning center right along a small stream of water. The weather was clear skies and mild temperatures somewhere in the mid 70’s. We placed our traps up and down the hill leading to the stream and around the stream itself trying to stick to covered areas with brush where the small mammals are likely to feel more comfortable. We baited the traps with a mixture of black oil sunflower seeds and old fashion oats. We set 20 H. B. Sherman traps but unfortunately was unable to catch anything over night. The following morning we collected the empty traps and flagging. We were then taken on a short tour of the property which was fantastic. This project so far has already opened my eyes to things in the landscape of Chesterfield that I was unaware of even though I lived here my entire childhood up until moving to Francis Marion for college. We learned several different types of insects and plants during the tour some that I already knew but most that were new to me including seeing several Virginian tiger moth caterpillars feasting on Fireweed.