Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

May 21, 2015 turtle 005~

My partner spotted her first.  It was pouring rain, keeping us both indoors yesterday afternoon.  I was at my desk and on the phone when he summoned me to join him at the front windows.

And there, in the middle of what little ‘lawn’ we tend, a large turtle squatted over the hole she had just dug and filled with pond water, laying her eggs.


May 21, 2015 turtle 003


My partner’s first response was not one of joy and wonder at the workings of nature.  The lawn is his, and only steady rain had kept him from his plans to mow yesterday.

But I was mesmerized by her intelligence and her determination.  Intelligence, because she somehow knew we would help to protect her nest from the predators who would be searching for it; and determination to dig a large hole out in the open, and then stay there for the hours it took to lay her whole clutch of eggs.


May 21, 2015 turtle 004


I slipped out into the rain, camera in hand, to get a closer look.  I stayed a good distance back, but her only notice of me was to pull her head back into her shell, watching me warily from this perceived safety.

We both kept watch from the front windows as the afternoon wore on.  She laid an egg every few minutes, resting in between.   We wondered how she knew how large a hole to dig to safely accommodate all of her eggs.  We also wondered how she had managed with so many eggs inside her non-expanding shell!

We watched both to share the process, but also to know when she left.  I wanted to capture another photo of her after she left her nest.

My partner wanted to make sure the nest was properly covered and filled back in.


May 21, 2015 turtle finishing 015


We had seen another, similiar turtle, laying her eggs in the side yard two weeks ago.  Much smaller and younger, she didn’t fill the hole back in.  My partner came behind her later and pushed the soil she had removed back in on top of the eggs.


A different turtle, who left her eggs in our side garden on May 7, 2015.

A different turtle, who left her eggs in our side garden on May 7, 2015.


This is our fourth turtle in two weeks.   I also found a box turtle last week, hanging out in some tall grass and weeds as I was cutting back one of our banks.  We recognized her from last summer.

Our area of coastal Virginia serves as habitat for many species of turtles.  Our state has strict guidelines about handling any turtles which wander onto one’s property, too.  Native and naturalized turtles may not be bought or sold in Virgina, and the state’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries asks that we leave turtles and their nests alone.  Trying to move or relocate them is never wise.


May 21, 2015 turtle finishing 010


We know this turtle likely lives around the pond and creek behind our property.  Yet we are still a little surprised to see these gentle giant reptiles visiting our garden, out in the open.  Last summer, we found a nest of turtles as they were hatching.  We watches as many tiny turtles crawled up out of their underground nest, and immediately headed for the water nearby.

Tomorrow, May 23, is World Turtle Day.  It is a day to bring attention to tortoises and turtles, and increase our knowledge about them, and respect for them.  American Tortoise Rescue has sponsored World Turtle Day annually since 2000. You may learn more about how to participate in World Turtle Day here.


August 28, 2014 turtles 061


Soon after our turtle left yesterday afternoon, my partner noticed a large crow land near her nest.  Taking no chances, he immediately went outside and covered the nest with a large grill basket to protect it.  The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ website suggests making a round cage from chicken wire to protect such nests from predators, anchoring the edges of the wire in the ground around it.  The wire  cage should have openings large enough to allow the baby turtles to crawl through once they hatch.

Incubation time depends on the species, but we expect these will need until late July, at least.  By then the grass will have grown back over the nest and it will be invisible to predator species.


One of our tiny turtles who hatched in the garden last August.

One of our tiny turtles who hatched in the garden last August.


Please be aware that this is the season when turtles may be moving across the roads you frequent, and watch for them.  If you do see a turtle crossing the road, pull off safely, and then move the turtle only in the direction it was already heading when you can do so safely.

If you find turtles in your garden, please leave them in peace if you possibly can.  They are ancient and important parts of our web of life.


July 4, 2014 After Arthur 073


Development has destroyed much of their native habitat, and now like so many other animals, they are trying to adapt to life in a very changed environment.  These are extremely gentle creatures.  They are clean and silent, asking only for a quiet place to rest.  With long lifespans, the turtles found in the garden may reappear from year to year, like our Box Turtle.    We appreciate her efforts to reduce the insect population in the garden, and are always happy to see her.

Now we have two nests to watch, as well. 


May 21, 2015 turtle 009


Barbara, at  Silver in the Barn, invited me to join the Five Photos Five Stories Challenge, and this is my fourth post in the series.

This is a simple challenge:  To participate, you simply post a photo each day for five consecutive days, and tell a story about each photo.  The story can be truth or fiction, poetry or prose.

Each day one must also nominate a fellow blogger to participate in the challenge.


Columbine bathed in yesterday's rain.

Columbine bathed in yesterday’s rain.


And today, I am inviting Yvette, at Priorhouse Blog, to join the challenge.  Yvette documents her life in and around Richmond, Virginia.  She has a keen eye for observing and an interesting perspective on life.  I hope you will enjoy visiting her site, and that she will accept the challenge!

Dor, at Virginia Views, published her first Five Photos Five Stories Challenge post yesterday.  She had me in stitches laughing, and agreeing with her at the same time!

If you would like to participate in the challenge, and have not yet been asked, please consider yourself invited by me today!  Allan, at Ohm Sweet Ohm,  let me know yesterday that he can’t accept the challenge right away.  Please leave me a comment that you want to play along, and I’ll include a link to your blog in my final challenge post tomorrow.


The finished nest, as the mother turtle left it.

The finished nest, as the mother turtle left it.


Woodland Gnome 2015


*   *   *

Five Photos, Five Stories: Dormant Isn’t Dead

Five Photos, Five Stories: Perspective

Five Photos, Five Stories: Hot

Five Photos, Five Stories: Chocolate Cake

About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

25 responses to “Five Photos, Five Stories: Turtle Mama

  1. Hi WG, that is quite a story. That’s one thing I don’t see in my parts is turtles. Must not be wet enough for them, I guess. Did you see my story about the sea turtles being released into the Atlantic? In reading about that I learned that sea turtles cannot retract their heads like your little visitor did. I am worried about the crows. I read they are as intelligent as primates and recognize human faces. I saw Eliza mentioned a sturdier cage. Yikes, what a responsibility.

    • Hi Barbara, I will check on your sea turtle story with pleasure, as we turtle watched along the North Carolina coast for years. They go to great lengths to protect the nests and hatchlings each summer. Right now, the grill pan is working well. It is too heavy for the crows to move. We will need a different cage closer to when they hatch, so they can get out if we aren’t around. I hope we are around, though, to enjoy watching them and photograph their progress. I’m sorry you don’t have many turtles around your area. There are several species native to Central VA who do fine on land- like box turtles 😉 How is your St. Swithum’s doing?

  2. What a fascinating post. You are so lucky to have these amazing creatures breeding in your garden. I look forward to seeing the babies.

  3. Loved this post! I have such a soft spot for turtles. I read somewhere that very few hatchlings make it through their first year – many eaten as eggs. I’m glad you are watching over your brood! The box is gorgeous!

    • Yes, we are watching, but my husband moved the metal grill pan when he mowed the grass. Crows did find the nest, and he fought them off this AM. Now the pan is back in place to stay until we come up with something better…. We will be more vigilant knowing that the crows are watching now! WG

      • S. is the Man! Since they are regulars laying in your garden maybe make a couple of sturdy cages that have spikes that can be put in the ground and moved for mowing? The crows won’t forget the location of the nest, nor will the raccoons and foxes!

        • That is a project for the week coming. We have a heavy metal grill basket, but it is less than ornamental….. and nothing on the second nest….. so we need to pull something more sturdy together.

  4. Pingback: Gift #829: Turtles (we’re happy together) | anordinarymiracleday

  5. Happy World Turtle Day! Your turtle images are beautiful. We’ve had a few terrapins lay eggs in spots that we noticed, particularly in the woods. We missed a spot last year (and likely miss many spots). We have a large sand pile left from when the pool was installed, and my husband was removing sand to fill in potholes in the driveway when he noticed some egg shells. He put down the shovel, used his hands, and found a big clutch of baby turtles who had just hatched. It was exciting to watch the little ones walk out of there and into the marsh.

    • The turtles make use of whatever they can, don’t they? I’m so glad he noticed the shells and was able to stop work before any were injured! What fun to watch the little ones come out of the nest and into the world. Happy World Turtle Day to you both, and thank you for the kind words<3 WG

  6. What a beautiful experience! And how special it must make you feel that she felt safe and chose your garden as a nesting site. The ultimate compliment! I hope you see many baby turtles later this summer. Blessings, Sarah

    • Thank you, Sarah ❤ We're always happy to find the turtles, but my partner is hoping he won't find any more holes dug in the lawn this season…. We hope the little ones choose another rainy day to hatch. That area gets very hot in summer. Best wishes to you for a great weekend! WG

  7. well your writing flows so well that I found I had to go back and soak up the photos – it is usually the other way around – where the photos trump the words – but your photos are awesome too – really nice highlight of these turtles and good to know that it is national turtle day tomorrow
    oh and two highlights from the photos – the wet shell that glistens – and the color in the baby from last August has that hint of blue- so nice.

    and good point to wonder how “so many eggs inside her non-expanding shell” 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Yvette, for this very generous comment! I’m glad you enjoyed seeing our turtles. I love those glistening shell photos, too. She looks so clean, healthy, and sleek 😉 Am looking forward to reading your posts for the challenge; will check in with you on Sunday. Ended my day in your area today with a visit to the Great Big Greenhouse. What a treasure! Best wishes, WG

      • Oh wow – you were in town today? my son and I actually left town (not too far – but he had to get some stuff for school) anyhow, as noted before – one of these times we will have to hook up with the other wp area bloggers – 🙂
        anyhow, thanks again for the nom, and now I have no idea of where to start – but it sure has been fun thinking – see you Sunday

      • hey again – I might not start the 5 day post til next week – but I will link you when I do so you know – I hope you have a nice holiday- with all your garden friends – ha! xxoo

  8. I’m amazed that a turtle would create its nest in a suburban yard, thanks for sharing your great photos and story.

  9. suzicate

    You got some gorgeous photographs of our shell-back friends!

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