While I was busy taking pictures of the above, I saw this interesting piece of bark, so had to get a picture of it too. It looks like it has scales. In fact it looks like the tree version of a stalk of asparagus. It's on the right in this photo, which also includes a couple of my "apple mushrooms."
But back to my turtle troubles. Since you ladies have your minds in the gutter, er, bedroom, I decided to look up some information on box turtles, aka Terrapene carolina carolina. How cool is it that scientific name? The extent of my knowledge of box turtles is that if you save them from sure destruction on the highway, you shouldn't toss them in the floorboard and release them elsewhere, but instead should just help them across the road in whichever direction they were originally headed. Anyway, the Eastern box turtle is the state reptile of North Carolina. They generally stay within something like a 5-12-acre territory their entire lives, which can be as long as 30 or 40 years in the wild (with some believed to have survived as long as 100 years--wow!), if they don't get run over by a car or bush hog or some other awful thing like that. Older turtles generally have much more muted colors, so I may have been looking at an oldster and a youngster. And the answer to the question you have all been waiting for with bated breath: yes, turtles might mate in the fall, although eggs are usually laid in early summer. Here's information on turtle courtship (from this website: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/bfg_eastern_box_turtle.aspx?menuitem=14460):
Box turtles reach maturity at 4 or 5 years old. In spring, after coming out from hibernation, the turtles begin their courtship and mating rituals.
- Mating takes place after a complicated series of courtship steps.
- Before laying her eggs, the female digs a shallow nest in loose soil. She lays three to eight eggs into the nest, then fills it with leaf litter. Females may lay several clutches of eggs per year.
- Eggs are incubated for 75 to 90 days, depending on the weather.
- Hatchlings are tiny and grayish-colored, and stay out of sight as much as possible to avoid predators.
I read on another site, that if the baby turtles hatch late in the season that they will often overwinter in the nest and come out in the spring.
So maybe these two were getting all romantic (definitely a May-December romance if you can judge by shell color) or maybe they just happened to be traveling in the same direction. We'll never know. And that's your turtle teaching for the day. (Did you notice how I managed all sorts of alliteration with turtle?)
Now, since I went to the trouble of going turtle hunting, I took Willow along with me, but she declined to go past the creek, where she happily worked on "her" tree root while I did my exploration. I leave you with a picture of Willow (I even used the flash, but I guess it's just too dark in the woods for a decent photo). Notice that she is putting weight on her bad leg--the joys of NSAIDs: