Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Turtle Trek

Okay, my armchair naturalists, rather than post a reply to your comments, I thought I'd just post another entry to the blog. Just for you, I grabbed the camera and went back to the spot where our intrepid turtles were last spotted, but alas, they were no longer there. I suppose if you're a turtle and you beat feet, you can go pretty far in a couple of hours. Not being one to give up easily, I circled around through the woods on both sides of the path and even crossed the little meadow (in a zig zag pattern, natch) to see if they had made it across to the other woods. I saw neither hide nor hair of my pair of turtles. Not to disappoint anyone with a lack of photos, I decided to show you this mushroom (heck, I don't know if it's truly a mushroom or some other form of fungus) that catches my eye every time the dogs and I go walking. If you're wondering why it catches my eye, just remember that I live for food, and everytime I see these, I think of apple slices lying on the woodland floor. Red Delicious, anyone?



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:


7 comments:

1sheepdoggal said...

Arm chair indeed!
Now lets see, the first pic is a pic of the infamous N.Carolina Apple Red Mushroom, grown only in the darkened woodlands of over the river and through the woods on a sheep farm some where in the vicinity of Liberty NC and can only grow where the poop of 9 Border collies ripens in the soil to produce that rich red color. However, caution should be used when thinking of eating them, it is said they taste like sh*t. The second pic, a wild onion, which grows obviously and primarily only in my yard, and Im wondering how that got there! And the third, thats a blk and tan 4 legged (yea! all 4 legs!) mushroom fertilizer!
Great info on the turtles, what you saw was probably a m/f courting. Did one have orange or red on/under its shell? If you look at the lengths of their tails, it will tell you what sex they are. Males, long, females short if Im remembering correctly. We have a big,( measures about 3 foot across the shell) alligator snapper living in/between our ponds, I seen him numerous times over the last 2 yrs now. He's awesome, and fearless and even attacked the tractor once!

carson-crazies said...

Who needs porn when one can read about turtle sex? lol

Actually, that's pretty fascinating stuff. Evidently turtles do everything slow, eh?

After looking at that pretty red mushroom I think I'll eat my tomato at lunch today. YUM!

Julie said...

Darci,
Do you think the turtles left their multiple appendages exposed for my perusal when there were nine border collies circling around? LOL! Apparently males have redder eyes, too, but all I got to view was the shells, once the plastron snapped shut.

Laura,
I'm sure the tomato will taste better than that 'shroom!

1sheepdoggal said...

Ah yes well, Id have picked it up and examined it/them, but thats just my couriosity at work with all things turtle. I did however forget to mention how much I appreciated your efforts in trying to locate and photograph the loving couple, probably felt they needed a little more privacy though. Yep, mature males on the northeastern box have red eyes. That is another way to sex them, but its easier to check the tail at any age. I just think turtles are so cool!

Julie said...

Hmmmm...I don't see how picking up turtles that have closed themselves firmly into their shells (thanks to a bunch o' dogs milling around) would have enabled me to examine the color of their legs or eyes, or the lengths of their tales. I like to observe nature, but I won't go so far as to pry a turtle shell open to do so! :)

1sheepdoggal said...

flat belly=female
Concave=male
Some are so fat this time of the year as they are putting on lbs for hibernation that they cant close their tails up completly into the shell. Rather,they simply wrap them in close to the body. Did these two have the front and back of their shells that can clamp shut or did they just pull in their appendages? Depending on the species, some do and some dont. I wouldnt pry one open either, but if ya set them in shallow water they will open up. (eventually) But! If Steve Irwin taught us anything, it was to leave nature alone, and look but dont touch eh? :)

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

Facinating stuff Julie! I used to live in Georgia, the absolutely most interesting (and almost the scariest) thing I saw while there was a snapper turtle! 1sheepdoggal, I can attest to the fact that they are completly fearless! I was trying to get him out of the road but all he wanted to do was hiss at me. After looking at him a bit closer, I realized that any car/truck that hit him would find that it had gotten the worse end of the deal anyway. He was beautiful though :)