Earthshine Mountain Lodge

Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Newsletter

Issue 3, Spring 2009

A Newsletter All About Nature From Earthshine Mountain Lodge

The Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Newsletter is a new way for you to connect with your favorite outdoor education and adventure vacation destination: Earthshine Mountain Lodge. Within the pages of this periodic email newsletter, you will learn about the current nature related events from Earthshine Lodge and be updated on interesting happenings from the Turtle Tracks program and wildlife related news from around the world. This newsletter will also feature photos from around Earthshine taken by the staff and you, the guests of Earthshine, as well as nature and outdoor education related trivia, games and puzzles. We will also keep you up-to-date on new things happening at Earthshine that we think you may be interested in.

NOTE: This newsletter may load slowly on some computers so please be patient because it is worth the wait. If the videos do not load or act strange you may need to update to the latest flash player here.

Springtime at Earthshine

The Dogwoods and Trillium are in full bloom, new leaves are busting out all over the forest, frogs are calling at the pond and the turtles are creeping out of their winter dens to greet the sunshine of springtime--so come visit with us soon.


We are beginning to convert some unused space in the barn into the new Earthshine Nature Education Facility! Soon, guests of Earthshine Mountain Lodge will be able to visit our new nature education center and learn all about the native animals we share habitat with here on the mountain, but also interesting critters from all over the world!

Naturalist Steve has already started construction on habitats and facilities as well as getting some critters together for the education center and the list so far includes but is not limited to:

Lizzie the Snapping Turtle!

Lizzie is a 10+ year old Common Snapping Turtle from Miami Florida. She has spent her entire life in captivity so she will not be able to be released into the wild. She now lives in a large water trough but we are in search of a 75-100 gallon aquarium for her to live in. If you know of where we may find a tank such as this please contact Steve.

Scar the Ratsnake!

A friend of Gene's--our jack of all trades maintenance guru--found this huge old ratsnake cruising around in his yard.

He didn't want the snake in his yard so knowing how much Steve likes snakes he brought it to him at Earthshine. Steve checked out the snake and discovered that it was quite old and had many old injuries and scars all over its body--this is why Steve named the snake Scar.

Steve discovered that Scar is a very docile and friendly snake--possibly due to his advanced age. It may be that all of his scars are due to his aged condition and he is just not as fast as he used to be so he gets attacked by his food items more often. Earthshine is providing Scar with a good home for his retirement where he does not have to worry about being attacked by his food. Steve is now building a large enclosure for Scar where he will be able to spend the remainder of his life at Earthshine free from harm. Next time you visit with us just ask to meet Scar and we will be happy to introduce you to him.

Check out this video of Steve and Scar.

Rainy the Rainbow Boa!

Rainy is a very nice female rainbow Boa who was donated to us by a friend of Steve's. She is a very nice snake that really enjoys being held. Steve is building her a custom tropical enclosure with plenty of limbs to hang out on. Steve's wife Marian just loves Rainy the Rainbow Boa. *If you are interested in where Marian acquired the Shark necklace you can read more about it at Save The Blue

Leonardo the Three-toed Box Turtle

Leo was donated to Earthshine by some really nice folks who had kept him for many years in a pet shop. His origins are unknown and as he is not native to this area he will live with us at Earthshine for the rest of his years teaching folks like you about the wonderful box turtle.

Fluffy the Emperor Scorpion

Fluffy is an adult Emperor Scorpion who is very, well...scorpion-like and not at all fluffy. Come watch him eat crickets and such and learn all about the amazing scorpion (he very seldom stings and if he does his sting is no worse than a bee sting).

New Nature Discoverys!

Ichneumon wasps are sting-less, solitary wasps that are predators on other insects. The female Ichneumon--like this one--have a very long ovipositor--the stinger-like appendage at the end of her abdomen. She uses it to drill into plant fibers searching for insects that live inside the plant. Once she finds an insect she lays an egg or eggs on it. The egg hatches and the larva eats the unlucky insect, pupates and then starts the cycle all over again. What a way cool, harmless and very beneficial insect!

Spring is here and with spring comes babies of all kinds! Gene has had to temporarily stop using one of the shelves in his shop because a Carolina Wren has built a nest and is raising her chicks there. Take a look!

Just outside the barn a pair of Bluebirds are nesting in the birdhouse on the big maple tree.

--take a look! Steve slipped up and took this photo while the parents were out...way to go Steve!

Mother wolf spiders tote their egg case around under their abdomen until the babies hatch. After hatching the tiny babies will crawl up onto her back (sort of like an Opossum) and ride along until they are able to fend for themselves--amazing!

If you have ever wondered what a Black Bear's den is like--check out this video. Steve and naturalist Kat Dunham, from the Mountain Air community near Burnesville, NC visited an actual den where a mother bear spent the winter and gave birth to a cub--very cool!

The chickens out for a stroll.

Check out the Earthshine Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Kid Zone for fun and interactive puzzles and games, links and more!


By Earthshine Naturalist Steve O'Neil

Rose was the first turtle out of hibernation this year. She was out wandering about the habitat eating earthworms on Easter weekend--maybe you saw her if you were visiting. After she came up for a couple of days she dug back in as if to say--"I'm waiting for the warm weather of May." Well, the warm weather of May has now arrived! It was close to 80 over the last weekend with not a cloud in the sky! It will not be long and all the turtles will be out and about. Mojo came out of hibernation shortly after Rose and has had his transmitter replaced with a new unit since its batteries are almost exhausted. Check out the first video of Mojo for 2009 here...

Here is a photo of Mojo but you will have to work to see him. He is in plain view somewhere in this photo so see if you can find him--good luck. When you think you know where he is, click the picture to reveal his location.

Just after the last newsletter was published three of the six transmitters that were attached to the turtles in the field malfunctioned. Fortunately this happened while the turtles were in hibernation so we did not loose track of any of these turtles. After consulting with the transmitter manufacturer we decided to remove all but one of the six transmitters and send them back to the shop to be examined and rebuilt. Unfortunately we had to remove the turtles from the wild, remove their transmitters and place them in temporary holding pens nearby with some of the leaves and soil from their hibernation spots until new transmitters could be built and shipped. The new transmitters arrived during the third week of April and have been attached as you can see on Jimmy Irwin in the photo below.

All of the turtles have had their new transmitters attached and have been released back at their hibernation sites in the exact locations as they were found.

Even with these unfortunate malfunctions I plan to continue to use this same transmitter supply company in the future because they have been very cooperative to work with and have replaced all 5 transmitters at no cost to the Turtle Tracks project. Although these components malfunctioned, the original transmitter that I attached to Mojo in the fall of 2007 worked perfectly up until I removed it for battery replacement. This transmitter was manufactured with a different method than the ones that malfunctioned and it has worked flawlessly, so I am confident that the replacement transmitters, that have been built in the same method as Mojo's transmitter, will function without issue. Below is a photo of one of the new transmitters.

Check out the newest video from Mojo!

The newest addition to the R & R box turtle rehabilitation enclosure is "Chewy."

Chewy is a very timid male box turtle that was chewed on by someones pet dog and then possibly hit by a car or mower late in the fall of 2008. His carapace (upper shell) was cracked near his spine and several of his scutes--the colored external plates that protect the bone underneath--were damaged exposing the cracked bone underneath. I took him to our wonderful veterinarian Dr. Coleman who prescribed a course of injectible antibiotics and ointment. After the treatment he then spent the winter at Steve's house and is now enjoying the spring sunshine in the turtle rehabilitation enclosure at Earthshine. After his injury heals he will be released at his capture location but for the next few months you will be able to meet Chewy and the other turtles when you visit us here on the mountaintop.

New Science Projects at Earthshine

Box Turtle DNA Sampling

Earthshine is soon going to be participating in a very important study of box turtle DNA! Around the end of May we will begin collecting toenail clippings from all box turtles we encounter here on the mountain and elsewhere. These will be sent to a researcher at the University of Texas at Tyler where they will be analyzed and compared to the DNA from other turtles from all over the USA! The results of this project will greatly help researchers better understand the amazing box turtle--very cool!!

Be sure to ask us about this ground breaking research and we will be sure to fill you in on all the details. If you are interested, you may even join Steve on a turtle tracking hike and help locate a turtle and then collect some of its DNA! I'll bet you a bushel of Marney's big cookies that this is something you don't do everyday:-)

Amphibian Chytrid Fungus Sampling

Beginning in May we have started taking samples of amphibian "slime" form the bellies of salamanders, frogs and toads from all over the mountain. The purpose of this slimy project is to determine if the deadly Amphibian Chytrid fungus is present here at Earthshine. This fungus is harmless to humans but is killing amphibians all over the world and has already caused the extinction of many species of amphibians. It has been detected in North Carolina but so far not in Transylvania County where Earthshine is located. The next time you come to Earthshine just ask Steve to take you on an amphibian slime collecting trip and I am sure he will be glad to oblige.

Check out the below videos of our first two days of Chytrid sampling from salamanders (day1) and frogs (day2).

This video is of the first sampling day at Earthshine when salamander expert Alan Cameron came to Earthshine to sample salamanders.

This next video is from the second day of sampling with frogs!

The Turtle Tracks Project is now global--well, sort of...

Steve is not only a naturalist, outdoor educator, caver, diver and didgeridoo player but he also is a geocacher. You may be asking "what the heck is a geocacher?" simple--a geocacher is a person who participates in Geocaching--a family oriented, internet based, world-wide, GPS scavenger hunt searching for "hidden treasure." A geocacher uses a GPS to search for this hidden treasure in unique places such as remote forests, seashores tunnels, caves back yards and more. Once a geocacher finds a geocache they will be rewarded with a unique location, nice view or other interesting corner of the earth that they may have otherwise missed. They also get to sign the geocache's logbook and take an item from the cache as a memento of their visit. However, they must also leave an item in return in place of the one they removed. Sometimes geocachers may find Travel Bugs or Geocoins in a geocache. Travel bugs and Geocoins are traveling items that move from geocache to geocache in the hands of geocachers. The Turtle Tracks project now has several travel bugs out there traveling our world and spreading wildlife and nature conservation message to the planet.

Maybe you will find one of these traveling turtles like this one who is named after, and pictured here with Catherine, near you and you can give it a lift! Check out Catherine the Travel Turtle here. If you are interested in learning more about Geocaching check it out at

Turtle Tracks Fundraiser

Many of you may have talked with Naturalist Steve about box turtles and other reptiles at Earthshine Lodge. Some of you may have even attended a turtle tracking expedition searching for one of the turtles that have tiny radio transmitters attached to their shells. These turtles are all part of the Earthshine Turtle Tracks Eastern Box Turtle conservation, rehabilitation and education program which is primarily donation-funded by folks just like you. Several times per year the Turtle Tracks staff (Steve and Meredith) put together fundraisers to raise money to cover the operational costs of the Turtle Tracks program. Without your generous support, donations and turtle adoptions this wonderful wildlife conservation project would not be possible. Thank you all!

Spring 2009 Fundraiser Update: The newest Turtle Tracks fundraiser is a unique collectible geocoin that was designed by Steve. This geocoin will be a primary fundraiser for the Turtle Tracks project for 2009. This coin sold out just before this issue of the newsletter was published and if you are a lucky holder of the Turtle Tracks coin--THANK YOU! Steve is planning to do another minting of this special geocoin in the near future and he will be sure to post related updates in future newsletters.

The coin is reptile-themed with an Eastern Box Turtle on one side and an Eastern Diamondback Rattler (Steve's other favorite reptile) on the other--and believe it or not this coin rattles like a rattlesnake when you shake it!! You can learn more about the new coin now by checking out its website HERE.

All proceeds from the sale of each of these coins will be used to directly provide funds for the:

Earthshine Turtle Tracks Eastern Box Turtle conservation, rehabilitation and education program based at at Earthshine Mountain Lodge in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina USA.

If you are a Geocacher check out the Turtle Tracks geocoin on its website and read about why Steve created it and how its other goal is spreading the message of wildlife and habitat conservation to the world through the outdoor and family oriented scavenger hunt game known as Geocaching.

Check out the Turtle Tracks Project home page here.

You may also help Earthshine's box turtles by sponsoring them with a monetary donation or a donation of supplies. If you would like to learn how you can become a part of the Turtle Tracks program please click the photo-link below.


Some of you may remember Frankie the Opossum that we rehabilitated here at Earthshine last May. Hopefully Frankie is doing fine in the forest surrounding Earthshine. Here are some interesting facts about our only native Marsupial--the Virginia Opossum!

Opossums are North Americas only native marsupial and the females have a rearward facing pouch. They give birth only 13 days after mating and the female then carries and nurses the tiny babies in her marsupium (pouch) until they are about 2 to 3 months old. The babies then climb up onto their back for another 1 to 2 months when the mother is out foraging.

Opossums have been around since the age of the dinosaurs--almost 70 million years ago.

Opossums will eat almost anything including but not limited to: insects of all types, snails and slugs, rodents of all kinds such as mice and rats, carrion, fruits such as grapes and they will also eats your cat and dog food if you leave it out overnight.

We have nothing to fear from Opossums. They are more resistant to rabies than any other mammal and they also have a resistance to the bite of rattlesnakes and copperheads which they will also eat if given the chance!

Opossums have opposable thumbs on their hind feet!

Opossums have more teeth than any other North American Land Mammal--52!

Opossums do not hang by their prehensile tails--they use them to help stabilize themselves when climbing around in the trees.

Opossums, for their size, are one of the shortest lived animals for their size--usually only 2-4 years. They are often killed by larger predators such as Bobcats, Coyotes, cats and dogs and unfortunately automobiles.

They are very quiet but can make some sounds such as hisses, growls and sneezes.

Opossums may seem slow but in the intelligence area but in learning and discrimination tests they rank above dogs and closer to pigs.

Opossums are not territorial and they are always on the move foraging for food items, however, females will stay in a smaller area while they care for their young.

If threatened an Opossum will put on a show that gives the appearance of being really mean and good at defending itself however, they are not very good at defense.

If an Opossum is unable to escape from danger it will collapse and appear to be dead! After the danger has passed, the Opossum--although in a comatose state--somehow knows that the danger has passed and will awaken as if nothing has happened and go on about its business.

For more information on Opossums or if you have found an orphaned baby check out the

National Opossum Society.

Quote of the Issue

"A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: 'What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.' The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, 'What is the turtle standing on?' 'You're very clever, young man, very clever,' said the little old lady. 'But it's turtles all the way down.' ~ Stephen William Hawking (b. 1942), British theoretical physicist"

A tasty treat from From Nick and Marney's kitchen.

Here's a new recipe for chocolate truffles from Marney--enjoy:-)

2 3/4 cups of chocolate chips: 1/2 dark + 1/2 semi-sweet.

3/4 cup cream

1 TBSP mint extract

Heat cream to a soft boil and pour over chips. Stir to melt 12 of the chips then add mint extract and stir. Refrigerate until firm then roll into balls. Roll in powdered sugar and then roll in coco powder and refrigerate. Enjoy!

News from the office

June Zipline Special!

Fly Thru the Treetops at Earthshine!

10% Discount for Cash!

Available by reservation only, please email or call for more information (828) 862-4207

Check out this video of The Flight Thru the Treetops Zipline!

Easter was beautiful at Earthshine!

It was a wonderful Easter Holiday at Earthshine. The Easter Bunny made a surprise appearance so if you missed it take a look at these great pictures of a wonderful morning of Easter Egg hunting on the mountaintop.

There is nothing quite like Spring at Earthshine!

Local Musicians team up with Earthshine for education!

Naturalist Steve has some amazing local musical connections and has been able to arrange for two local musical talents to provide the use of their music to Earthshine's Nature program! Now, along with the wonderful old-time sounds of Benny and Shawn and The Weasel Creek String Band, Earthshine will also be featuring music from The Steep Canyon Rangers and John Mason on future wildlife and nature and high adventure videos produced by Earthshine Naturalist Steve O'Neil.

For more about the bluegrass band The Steep Canyon Rangers take a look at this video of this incredible group that is as local as Earthshine Lodge.

John Mason is a wonderful musician from Shelby, NC. John plays the hammered dulcimer and many other instruments and is a great person who brightens the world with his talent, stories and humor. Take a look at this video Steve made when he worked for Chimney Rock Park as a Trail Walker in the late 1990's. You can view a sample of John's music in the second half of the video.

An Earthshine Wedding

If you are looking for a great place to host your wedding--think no further than Earthshine--check out this latest video of what we have to offer you for your most special day.

Benny and the crew have been hard at work getting Earthshine in shape for the summer season. We still have some rooms available so give us a call today at (828) 862-4207.

In closing here's a great video of Benny and Shawn playing music on the back porch--enjoy!

Sign up for the Earthshine Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Newsletter and receive regular email updates on all of the nature related events at Earthshine, updates on the status of the Turtle Tracks conservation project and turtle and wildlife news and trivia from around the world! Newsletters will be in the form of a periodic email with a link to this web based newsletter so sign up now it's fun, free and educational--what more could you ask for!

NATURE NOTE: This newsletter is GREEN! The Earthshine Nature Department chose to produce this newsletter in a website based format for several reasons: 1-It saves trees! Paper newsletters are made from paper and paper is made from trees so making it an e-newsletter saves trees! 2-It saves energy. Making a paper newsletter uses loads of electricity during the editing, printing and delivery phase. 3-It saves resources such as printer ink, staples, tape, envelopes, stamps and the fuel the postman would use to deliver it to your mailbox. 4-It saves money! It costs far less to produce than a paper newsletter. 5-It has full color, snappy graphics and interactive features that you just can't find in a paper newsletter. 6-All back issues will always be available in the newsletter archive if you would like to read it again one day. The only bad thing about an e-newsletter is that you can't use it to line your birdcage when you have finished reading it;-) Enjoy!

Questions or comments or to add or remove your name from our mailing list, please CLICK HERE Thank You!

Please sign the guestbook--thanks!

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Check out the Earthshine Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Kid Zone Page for fun and interactive puzzles and games and more!

Check out the Earthshine Nature Notes and Turtle TracksWorld Wildlife News for wildlife news from all over the planet.

Check out The Steep Canyon Rangers and listen to some of their wonderful music online.

Take a shot at Earthshine's own "Tadpole" on his website NO MORE PAIN!

Check out my friend Sean Jones' site Blue Ridge Rover Works and you may drive away in the World's Best 4X4XFar--a vintage Land Rover!

Check out Naturalist Steve's personal website The Snake Game where you can take a cool quiz and learn about some of our native reptiles and amphibians.

Check out Naturalist Steve's Reptile Lore and Links Page and learn the TRUTH about reptiles as well as some other great websites that Steve supports.

Please consider signing the below petition to help save The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve. This special place in remote North Eastern Australia is a memorial to Steve Irwin "The Crocodile Hunter" and it is threatened with strip mining! Please sign the petition and pass it on to all your friends and contacts.

Check out the Bob Irwin Wildlife Fund and learn more about how Steve's father Bob Irwin is working to conserve and protect some of Australia's unique and endangered wildlife at Camp Chili.

Wildlife Warriors Worldwide and consider helping to conserve and protect wildlife and out beautiful home--Earth.


Check out the Tapir Preservation Fund and please help to save one of the planet's the most unique animals from extinction.

Take a look at Save The Blue who are working to protect sharks and other marine life.

Please visitCarribean Conservation Corporation. A group working to save one of my favorite creatures--Sea Turtles! On their site you can follow the tracks of several sea turtles that have satellite tags attached to their shells--very cool!

Check out Sea Shepherd! Defending Ocean Wildlife and Habitats Worldwide.

What is the weather like at Earthshine Lodge right now? NOTE: During the warmer months of the year, after the hours of 11:00am, subtract 10 degrees from the outdoor temperature to get an accurate outdoor temperature. This is due to the fact that the temperature sensor is on the west side of the building and receives direct sun from noon until sunset.