Every once in a while you travel deep into the heart of the unknown, put yourself up against Mother Nature, and pray that you make it back alive.
This past weekend was exactly that for The Reptile Enthusiast Gang. Coyote Peterson, Chammp Swaggerty and Zoom LeFluer set off to explore The Rookery, a 562 acre expanse of glacial lake bed marshes and swamp forest.
Probably one of the most difficult environments and the most beautiful we have ever filmed in. It was almost like traveling back in time 65 million years to the Cretaceous Period...only thing missing was the dinosaurs.
We set off on this adventure hoping to have a banner day...we were making a go at actually filming the true test pilot for the series. We have been practicing segments, animal captures, camera work, etc. all summer and we had finally reached a point where we felt that our games were at their peak.
Only factor left to make this trip incredible...Mother Nature. The temperatures were hovering in the low 80's, overcast sky and the threat of rain all day long. A wishy washy forecast if you are hoping to find Reptiles and Amphibians...who thrive on the sunlight for energy.
Needless to say...the environment was trying...but we took it head on, fought through sink mud, razor grass, leeches, enormous spiders, mosquitoes and a personal least favorite...giant water beetles! Look at the size of those pincers!
We will let Zoom's amazing photography tell the rest of this story and you will see just how lucky Mother Nature made us feel this past weekend.
There might be an old saying that goes "Good things come in pairs"...this past weekend they did! First catch of the day was a beautiful female Bullfrog and during the filming of the educational sequence post catch we nabbed a Bullfrog tadpole that was morphing into a Frog. It was pretty cool to have both on camera at once.
At the end of the sequence we tried a little fairytale science experiment. Legend says that if you kiss a frog it turns into a prince...assuming that rings true if you kiss a male frog...so what happens if you kiss a female frog...does she turn into a princess? Lets just say that Scarlett Johanson didn't rise up from the muck.
Moments later we landed a good sized Northern Water Snake...filmed the sequence and shot some great pictures. These snakes are typically very aggressive...however this one was very calm and relaxed.
As we traveled deeper into The Rookery we found ourselves in a crazy sink mud bog. This was a great place for all sorts of creatures including the Green Frog...
And the Pickerel Frog.
After filming a really difficult tree climbing sequence...
Which we use to scout the lay of the land for turtles moving through the marsh...we found ourselves in a pocket of deep muck and plant life...we were pretty much surfing on floating plant matter when the moment we had been waiting for arrived.
Coyote was nearly chest deep in mud and plants when a 30lb Snapping Turtle bumped into his leg and began to dive deep into the mud. Immediately the cameras were rolling and the battle had begun.
Finally getting into shallower water and mud we breached the beast and got a good look at him.
Then the incredible happened...while trying to fight the turtle backward to get him out of the muck and landed on a large log...we ran into a second Snapping Turtle...this one was quite a bit smaller at 10 lbs...but now we had 40lbs worth of turtle fighting us...in incredibly thick mud and no good place to land the beasts. What you aren't seeing in still photos is that all 3 of us had to actually work as a team to move the equipment, cameras, and turtles nearly 30 yards to get to a fallen tree where Coyote could get them under control and we could begin the educational and scientific side of the segment. As you can see from this picture...Coyote totally had control of these two...yeah right!
A general rule of thumb is as such...every turtle has a certain weight, take that weight and multiply it by at least one for fight and one for difficulty of environment.
In this scenario we would be looking at two turtles equaling 40 lbs of weight...plus 40 lbs in fight...plus 40 lbs for the environment...and actually this was probably the toughest environment because of water depth, plant life and thick mud.
All in all...we were probably facing close to 150 lbs worth of struggle to make this scene happen...one of the most incredible encounters we have ever filmed. Here's to hoping it turns out amazing in post production!
With one week left to go in this summers shooting schedule we don't know if you could have asked for anything better then what happened this past weekend. In total 14 different species of Reptiles, Amphibians, Insects and Arachnids were encountered, captured, photographed and released. A banner outing, and one that will go down in the memory book of a lifetime.
If you would like to see all of the best pictures from Zoom's perspective of the adventure check out the pics on Facebook, there are some real gems!
A huge thanks to the Geauga Parks district for their help and support in this past weekends adventure, their advice, guidance, and permission for the locations we trekked into. You guys and gals are the best and we can't wait to show you what we shot.
Big ups to Chammp and Zoom for their 10 hour fight following Coyote into the thick of it all...if you think the things that Coyote does look impossible...think about doing it with camera and sound gear strapped, wrapped and gaff taped to your body. These guys are the real heart of The Reptile Show and the team that makes all this incredible adventure possible!
I'm Coyote Peterson...and this...is The Reptile Show!