Throughout my life I have always loved being outside and experiencing nature. Even to this day I am still awe-inspired by the vast outdoors and I am constantly learning. I feel very excited to be working alongside such a knowledgeable team in a fantastic environment this summer. We have only been working for about a month, and I have already experienced, learned, and seen so many new things. Here is a list of three “firsts” I have experienced while working in the field!

1) Seeing a Blanding’s turtle in the wild! I have seen many adult and hatchling Blanding’s turtles at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Center (OTCC) in Peterborough, but I had never seen one in the wild. They are my favourite turtle, and I have been so excited to be working on a study that focuses on them. The first day at work we took out the radio telemetry equipment, entered in the frequency, and alas! A beep! There was a turtle nearby! It was thrilling to know that we were getting closer and closer to my first Blanding’s turtle in the wild! As the beeps got louder my excitement grew in turn. My partner was hot on his trail. After some paddling and wading through the wetland my partner said that it sounded like it was in the shrub beside me! Looking frantically, I could not see anything, just the shrub branches, its roots in the water, a leatherleaf (a native shrub) with its little white flowers, …no turtle… Then, all of a sudden April, our crew leader, shouts “THERE HE IS!” I could see his little round body trying to shimmy its way through the shrubs as April plucked it from the water. This little turtle was my first Blanding’s! Its characteristic yellow chin and smiling face were looking up at me. I don’t think it was as thrilled as I was, but it was smiling, nonetheless. 

Blanding’s turtle. Photo by Anna Kramer.

2) Being in the water with watersnakes! In all my time spent outside throughout my life I had never before seen a watersnake. But when I was told that there was an abundance of these mystical creatures at the field site, I was delighted and to be honest a little nervous. But since then I have probably seen over 30 Northern watersnakes and have come to love their fleeting visits! They amaze me every time I see one effortlessly gliding by me on the water, covering a distance that would take me a couple minutes in a matter of seconds. From far away they look like quick dark ropes, but they are gorgeous to see up close. They brown in colour, with slight dark brown or even reddish banding patterns on their backs. They really are beautiful. Sadly, I do not have any pictures of a watersnake because every time I see one, I simply watch in excitement!

3) Seeing a five-lined skink, the only native lizard in Ontario! I have learned about these lizards in class and heard people talk about the exciting time when they saw one – but I had never seen one myself until now! While travelling to and from wetlands in search of turtles we pass by a lot of rocky outcrops with smaller thin rocks on top. My co-worker, Tyler, informed me that those thin rocks are the perfect cover for the five-lined skink. One day as we passed by a thin rock, we lifted it to see if we could find one of these little guys underneath. As we lifted the rock, a blue flash as quick as lightning bolted to a nearby rock! A juvenile skink! Juveniles and young females have bright blue tails that are hard to miss. We only saw him for a brief moment, but it was an experience I will never forget! We carefully replaced the rock to how it was before we lifted it to ensure we did not disturb its habitat. I was so happy to have seen my first five-lined skink!

A juvenile five-lined skink on a rocky outcrop. Photo by Anna Kramer.

I am very optimistic about this summer and excited for whatever nature sends my way next!