Last week I saw this turtle in the Creek. Usually we see snapping turtles (and have had some exciting family adventures with them!), but this one is different. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen one like this before. It’s a spiny soft shell turtle according to a friend who has done field surveys of amphibians and reptiles for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Their website says that the spiny soft shell turtle is not particularly rare and isn’t endangered, but it was a unique sighting for me along Kanaranzi Creek.
The turtle was actually in the main channel, but it was right next to a distinctive feature called an “oxbow”. An oxbow is a cut-off part of the main channel that usually supports a wetland or a pond during part of its existence. Ours formed in 2014 when part of the steep channel bank caved in and the Creek cut through the narrow part of a big meander bend. Our oxbow has both a wetland and a pond, depending on how much rain and flooding we’ve had. And, it has predators.
This heron didn’t fly away when I tried to get closer because it was fishing. I kept walking toward it and suddenly the head went down and it came up with a fish wiggling in its beak. The heron is standing right where the pond grades in to the wetland at the west side of the oxbow. I don’t know what kind of fish it came up with, but we know that there are Topeka Shiners in the oxbow because there have been two surveys that documented them in the last four years. There are also cricket frogs that probably also provide food for the predators. The blog post from April 13, 2019, has a picture of the frog and a description of the fish survey.
Here’s a nest of goose eggs that was along the shore of the oxbow last month. And, the nest looked a lot different last week. There aren’t any shells left in the scattered nest, so it’s hard to tell if they hatched or if a predator got them. It seems like the Canadian geese have not been around during the day for the last several weeks. Last month, they’d set up a racket whenever I was down there. Maybe they’ve moved up the Creek or maybe even flew on up farther north?
We’ve had a pair of eagles spending a lot of time this spring around the big cottonwood tree just to the north of our house. It would be really cool if they decided to build a nest and stay around all of the time instead of just visiting each spring and fall. As the leaves start to get bigger fill in the branches, it’s getting harder to spot eagles when they’re in the cottonwood. I don’t know if this big feather that I found at the oxbow is from an eagle or from a goose. Let’s just say that it is from an eagle….that would be more fun!
The wetland and pond water levels in the oxbow are the lowest that they’ve been in a couple of years. However, the heavy rain that we had this past weekend brought the Creek up more than two feet! The post next Wednesday will give some more details on that.