Week of April 16, 2023 – April 22, 2023

staff member Anna Stunkel Environmental Educator

by Anna Stunkel, Environmental Educator

As buds burst and birdsong echoes from the forests, a great variety of scaly and slimy critters awaken. At Baltimore Woods, Phillip’s Pond is one of the best places to find our reptile and amphibian friends. These animals are known as herptiles or “herps,” and looking for them is called herping. The water can be teeming with swimming tadpoles and newts in spring, and choruses of peepers echo from the nearby wetland. The shiny shells of sunning turtles are a welcome sign of warm weather.

During Spring Nature Camp, campers were delighted to find many emerging reptiles and amphibians at Phillip’s Pond. We decided to explore the pond on one of the warmest days of the week, when temperatures reached the high sixties. As the campers dipped their nets into the water, there were immediate happy exclamations of, “a tadpole!” We caught many tadpoles both large and small, marveling at how quickly they can swim. After a little while, Red-spotted Newts were also discovered. Aquatic adult newts are greenish with red spots, while terrestrial young newts are reddish orange and are known as red efts.

Not long after we began catching creatures, one of the campers approached me and asked, “is this real?!” holding a tiny hatchling Painted Turtle! The little turtle was only a couple inches long, with beautiful red markings on the shell and body. We also noticed several adult Painted Turtles sunning on the logs near the wildlife blind.

Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs were calling in the little wetland across from the pond, peeping and quacking away. We found one peeper that hopped right next to one of the campers’ feet and then swam away into the water. We ventured over to the wetland to check it out and discovered several masses of Wood Frog eggs.

Next time you visit Phillip’s Pond or explore a pond near you, see what kinds of reptiles and amphibians you notice. Do you hear any frogs calling, or see turtles basking on logs? Happy herping!