This is one Mean Old Lady!

This is one Mean Old Lady!
Self-portrait: 'Quilter on Fire'

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Turtle Season

Springtime!  If you are near a lake, you are especially reminded daily that it's breeding season.  Ducks and geese usher their broods to the shore; birds are hustling to find food for nestlings.....and the turtles are on the move.  The female water turtles come ashore to dig holes in which to deposit their eggs, and the evidence is everywhere. 
Abandoned site--and no wonder!

The turtles are strong and equipped with  sharp claws, and they dig surprisingly narrow, deep holes.  This was a poorly-chosen spot (on our gravel drive) and the turtle obviously gave up on it and moved on.  

Flowerbeds, fence lines, even wildly inappropriate spots show evidence of digging.  Under some of the huge oaks, hickories, and sweet-gums I've spotted numerous abandoned starts.  

This female did not appreciate my benign attentions; only the tip of her nose is showing.  She is depositing eggs in her nest dug in the soft ground near our new chain link fencing.  A few of the cleomes were destroyed, but this site was nicely hidden.  You can see that her shell is damaged--probably by a boat propeller.  
When she was finished depositing her eggs, she filled the hole completely and moved on.  

The predators move in at once.  Crows are active all day, and raccoons, possums, skunks, armadillos, and who knows what else spend each night scouting out sites and digging up the leathery oval eggs and devouring the contents of the shells.  The number of turtles that survive to hatch must be quite low, because we see ravaged nesting sites everywhere.  

Next to this walkway a nest was dug out and only the empty hole and dried-up shells are left.  Ants clean up any remaining yolk in the shells.  I spend time on each trip to the lake walking around and filling in the holes.

I made the mistake of planting daylilies and irises along the new fence line a couple of weeks ago; the disturbed soil said 'turtle nest' to predators, who promptly dug out each spot.  I've replanted some of the little starts four times.  (I won't make this mistake again.)  

There are turtles everywhere--on the roadways, stubbornly trying to get under or through fences.  The water-dwelling turtles (painted, red-ear, snappers) are very numerous, but we are seeing box turtles as well.  
          After the turtle above departed, I put a stepping stone atop her nesting site and added some distracting scent to the area.  So far it has remained unmolested.  I will remove the stone before the hatching season (in a few months.)   The chance of witnessing the young turtles emerging and heading for the water is low, but I hope they make it.

Update 5/25:
          The nest was opened (scent suggests a skunk was the predator) and the eggs are gone.  I felt sad as I filled in the hole and carried the stone back to its site.  On the way I passed another turtle depositing eggs.  Hope springs eternal.

1 comment:

  1. Poor Lady Turtle looks like she has definitely had a hard life. I hope her little guys make it!


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