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.

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May 21, 2015 turtle 003

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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.

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May 21, 2015 turtle 004

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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.

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May 21, 2015 turtle finishing 015

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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.

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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.

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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.

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May 21, 2015 turtle finishing 010

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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.

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August 28, 2014 turtles 061

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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.

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

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

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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.

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July 4, 2014 After Arthur 073

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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. 

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May 21, 2015 turtle 009

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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.

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Columbine bathed in yesterday's rain.

Columbine bathed in yesterday’s rain.

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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.

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The finished nest, as the mother turtle left it.

The finished nest, as the mother turtle left it.

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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

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