I have just come in from Third Thursday at Trinity River Audubon Center.  The anticipated speaker canceled and there were families there who wanted a program, so I did the "Turtle Talk" and then took them out for turtle watching and a nature hike.  I wish I'd thought to take the pond temperature, because I'm getting reports from others now that yes, turtles don't bask when it's too hot.  We saw nine tonight, in the water with just their noses poking out.  When I took the group to look at the one turtle nest we'd seen, someone discovered a second one not fifteen feet from that!  I'll GPS all three of the known nesting sites so we can see if they come back next year.

This morning we had kids from the YMCA, and one of the fascinating things they discovered was a group of 8 or nine snakes in a puddle of water under the bridge, all sliding around rather furiously -- but never leaving the water.  I missed this since I was giving the classroom lecture on "bugs" (basically any "creepy crawly") but they took me out in the afternoon and we had a look through the binoculars. 

There were several Yellow Bellied Racers (Coluber constrictor mormon), a ribbon snake, and one that might have been the non-venomous diamond backed river snake (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerodia_rhombifer) -- which didn't want to hold still for photos or observation, and as they were in a puddle about four feet below the deck, we weren't going to scale the fence and then try to work our way down to the ground just to identify the snake (we could easily identify the poison ivy right near it, however.  Lots of it.)  After a few minutes (and with the help of Scott), we determined that they were "fishing" for a shoal of tiny Gambusia (minnows, or mosquito fish) that had gotten trapped in the puddle as the pond shrank.  The fish were swimming frantically trying to get away, but there was no escape.  The pool grew smaller during the afternoon, as the snakes moving through it swept the water from the puddle onto the bank.  By evening there was only a patch of mud and a very satisfied (and full) ribbon snake.  The Yellow Bellied Racers were in another larger pondlet (too deep to be a puddle but only about 8 feet long and 5 feet wide), looking pretty content.

The interesting thing is that I see reports of them eating a lot of other things -- but not fish.  However, these were definitely eating fish.

I enjoy going out with groups of people; with many eyes looking for detail in the environment, I discover so much that my own eyes would miss.  Like that little brown damselfly we saw earlier today.  I've no idea what that one is -- something to look up another time.

It occurred to me that one other reason that documenting biodiversity of a site (and what appears when and where) is for teaching purposes.  You can't teach a good lesson about frogs (for instance) if you don't have a clear idea of where they are and when they're active.

Which reminds me... tomorrow is the Amphibian Watch program where I learn to go count amphibians in the dark.  I'm hoping we'll find fireflies on the property -- so far, we haven't seen any though they're active in other parts of Dallas.