A visit to Botany Pond by Greg Mayer

October 10, 2022 • 11:00 am

by Greg Mayer

I paid a visit to Botany Pond last Friday (7 October). It had rained much of the day before I got to Hyde Park in mid-afternoon, but the sun had started to come out and there was more going on than I thought there would be. The water was high– covering the “ring” islands next to the cypress islands– perhaps from the recent rain.

A sunny corner of Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

First, quite a few mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were there.

Mallards in Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

There were 22 of them, evenly divided between hens and drakes, though I think the exact equality was coincidental. There did seem to be some male/female pairs, but not all had a match.

A mallard hen and drake at Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

Most of the drakes seemed to be in full nuptial plumage, such as the following fellow,

Mallard drake in nuptial plumage at Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

but a couple had either not yet completed the fall molt, or were just weird.

Mallard drake with the sides of its head brownish at Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

Members of Team Duck arrived a bit after I did, and they confirmed that while some matched pairs were present among the ducks, a number were not in a committed relationship.

Team Duck in action at Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

Several of the named ducks were present, including Honey, Bernie, Billy, Ginger, and Gooseduck. I tried to take a picture of Honey, but they were moving around quite a bit. I’m not sure if this is her; the triangular spot at the base of the bill doesn’t seem quite right, but Jerry should be able to tell one way or the other.

[JAC: This is not Honey.]

Maybe Honey? Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

I had gone to Botany Pond with a particular interest in the turtles there, which include two subspecies of slider, the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and the yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta). The latter is represented by a single individual, not seen on this visit. Despite the rain having stopped not long before, there was one very active large male that came out on to the rock “beach” to sun for a bit. He was in and out of the water a few times.

Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) at Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

This male was very dark. In the water, though, you could see more of his shell coloration, as well as the long front ‘nails’ and long, thick tail that identify his sex.

Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) in Botany Pond, University of Chicago, 7 October 2022.

There was a second large male red-ear in the water, but he did not come out, and I did not get a picture of that second turtle; he was much greener.

Amphibian Week Day 3

May 5, 2021 • 3:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

For the midpoint of Amphibian Week, Chris Petersen of Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation sent me these amphibian facts.

Characteristics of Amphibians:

· Include frogs and toads, salamanders and caecilians (approximately 8,300 species worldwide)
· All are vertebrates (have a backbone)
· Are ectothermic (meaning they rely on external sources from the surrounding environment to maintain their body temperature)
· Most live part of their life in water and part on land (although there are many exceptions)
· Most have moist glandular skin through which they can respire (breathe) to various extents (some exclusively so, but most also through lungs or gills)
· Lay unshelled (jelly-like) eggs in moist to wet environments
· Most go through a process called metamorphosis to develop from a water-living life stage to a land-living stage

I then headed out to Greenquist Pond here at UW-Parkside to see what amphibians were about. You’ll recall that Chorus Frogs and American Toads have been calling on campus, but I hadn’t seen them at this pond. Here’s what I found.

Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, Greenquist Pond, Somers, Wisconsin, 5 May 2021.

I walked around three sides of the pond, and heard or briefly saw several Rana jump into the water, many emitting a little “yelp” as they dove in. I think both Green Frogs (Rana clamitans) and Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) make that noise, so I wasn’t sure of the species. All were smallish, except for one that was bigger, but could have been either a large Green or a medium Bullfrog in size. I was heading back, reconciled to failure, when I spotted this medium-sized Bullfrog on the bank, which didn’t spook. I was able to get pretty close to get this shot, and even was using sticks to bend shadowing leaves out of the way, but it stayed put.

The Green Frogs and American Toads I showed in earlier Amphibian Week 2021 posts were also from this pond, but I’ve not seen them at the pond yet this year. (Some of the frogs today may have been Green Frogs.)

There were also turtles, so I’ll cheat a bit (they are reptiles, of course) and throw them in here. There were four five Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta),

Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta, Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May 2021.

plus this Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), with another two Painted Turtles behind.

Red-eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, and , in back, two Painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta, Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May

There were a total of four five Painted Turtles, all with the slider in this corner of the pond. The slider is the most popular turtle in the pet trade, and is not native to Wisconsin. Although we find them not infrequently, they all seem to be released or escaped– they don’t seem to breed up here, even though they can survive the winters. (I had my own “Spot the …” moment– I didn’t see the further back Painted Turtle in the above photo until I’d posted it here!)