On June 9th, 2022, South Wake Conservationists invited herpetologist Alvin Braswell to lead a Herp Walk at Harris Lake County Park. Alvin is retired from the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, where he spent over 40 years in various curatorial roles with reptiles, amphibians, and freshwater fishes before being the Research Lab Director, and later, assuming a Deputy Museum Director for Operations position. Alvin’s wife Jan, Head of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at the Museum, also joined to assist on the walk. Joanne St. Clair, Harris Lake Assistant Park Manager of Education, joined the group for part of the walk to see what we were finding so she could add to the park’s Natural Resources Inventory Database.
Alvin set baited turtle and minnow traps in three different areas of the park the day prior to our walk. On the day of the walk, the first two traps that Alvin pulled were from the Cyprus Pond that the Cyprus Tree Trail loops around. The group was able to see numerous Yellow-Bellied Sliders, several Common Snapping Turtles, Painted Turtles, and a Musk Turtle. The next area we walked to is the U-shaped or Horseshoe Pond, where SWC helped plant native button bushes several years ago. Alvin pulled multiple minnow traps and the group saw a Cricket Frog, Tadpole of some variety, multiple Amphiuma (an aquatic salamander with a snake like body and super tiny legs), Diving Beetle, Water Scorpion, and Mosquitofish. A few more turtle traps were also pulled with Yellow-Bellied Sliders and Eastern Mud Turtle. We finished off the walk at the pond along the Peninsula Trail where we found more Amphiuma along with several freshwater fish species: Bluegill, Warmouth, and Blue Spotted Sunfish. Alvin told us that Blue Spotted Sunfish are a coastal plain fish, however the park is within the far western edge of its range, so we were lucky to spot two of them. Overall, it was a great morning spent outdoors getting to see and learn about wildlife that we don’t normally get a chance to see up close in the wild!