All text copyright  Eitan Grunwald.  All photographs copyright  Eitan or Ron Grunwald  except photographs by others are copyright per photo credits.  All rights reserved.  Terms
NEW JERSEY
Pine Barrens
 1 of 4
NEW JERSEY
Pine Barrens
 1 of 4
 Travel half an hour from my house and you enter the Pine Barrens, a million acres of forest, swamps, and  sandy  terrain, the largest stretch of open space along the eastern seaboard between Washington, D.C. and Boston. Most frequently-seen herps are Fence Lizards, frogs, toads, and an assortment of turtles.            This Painted had unusually serrated scutes at the front of its carapace (top shell) and plastron (bottom shell).  Compare to the more normal scutes of the turtle above. . In early summer it’s not unusual to find pond turtles along the sandy roads.   Females emerge from the water searching for a dry, open spot to lay their eggs, a place with soft soil warmed by the sun.   Such chance encounters on land provide a rare opportunity for close-ups of shy aquatic turtles, typically seen only from a distance before they dive and disappear.   Red-bellied Turtles frequently lay their eggs on the levees of abandoned cranberry bogs that have turned to lakes, providing the deeper water these turtles prefer.          Baby Red-bellieds look nothing like the adults.  They have a light green carapace laced with intricate yellow lines, similar to other members of their genus, the closely related Cooters.   Red-bellieds, however, lose those patterns as adults, the top shell becoming solid black, like this juvenile that still has yellow pinstripes on its neck, but no more lines on its back.   Multiple turtles climbed this berm to dig their nests.  Most of the tracks are probably from Red-bellieds, but one on the left shows a clear drag mark from a heavy tail, the distinct signature of a Snapping Turtle. Painted Turtles also lay their eggs wherever they find sand near the bogs, as do the non-native Red-eared Sliders.    
Eastern Fence Lizard Sceloporus undulatus
Gray Tree Frog Hyla versicolor
Fowler’s Toad Bufo fowleri
Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene carolina carolina
 Danny Mendez
© Harvey Bird
Eastern Painted Turtle Chrysemys picta
Red-bellied Turtle Psuedemys rubriventris
Red-Eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans