If I was a turtle, where would I go? What would I do? This supposition is based on the bale (name for a group of turtles) of Eastern Box Turtles found living here in the Fairegarden.
The first time one of these precious reptiles was spotted, after the gift of the digital camera bestowed by The Financier allowed the recording of such an event, there was nothing to capture but a tightly closed shell. Beautiful still, but not that exciting. Years passed and on occasion a turtle would be spotted while we were on hands and knees, crawling around the garden beds pulling weeds and having a general look see. Then the blogging began and the finding of a turtle was cause for a mad dash to get the camera. Posts were written, images posted. More turtles were seen, with more posts and finally a page created to hold the lot. Click here to view it, or find it on the list of pages on the sidebar. Links to all the turtle posts are listed at the bottom of that page, Eastern Box Turtles of Fairegarden. Identification and naming came next, to take a census and understand who it was we were seeing whilst gardening chores and lazy perusals occurred.
On September 9, 2011 something new was observed. Something really exciting. Keeping a respectful distance, no sticking the camera near faces so as not to disturb the goings on, this act of love was recorded for posterity.
The male known as Golden Head was in charge of the operation, but it was the largest turtle on record, Lady of Spots, seen often out and about that was the recipient of his affection. It has been noticed that this female is quite shy near the human gardener, pulling inside her shell when I am near and within her sight. The males, especially Striped Jaw, seen in the first two photos of this post, doesn’t pull in at all, but is always in a hurry to get wherever he is going. Our Lady Spot was spotted on September 15, 2011 in an unusual place in the garden. She has always been noticed in the far Eastern portion of the backyard, going from the lower area in front, by the garage side, to the area of the old maple tree, RIP, Ferngully. That is where the tryst happened.
Mister Know It All, Google, had been searched to find out what would happen next in the path to reproduction. On the above mentioned date, Lady Spot was seen in the Heather Bed, which is located quite close to the deck. The lower part of the bed had recently been cleaned up, with foliage cut to the ground in time to be able to regrow before frost, and well mulched with composted manure. Lady Spot was seen making odd movements with her hind legs, pushing the compost around. Finally she extended one leg straight out behind her and held that position for some time. When I got closer with the camera, she would pull inside her shell, so I left her alone in privacy, going to do some weeding. I knew that the leg extension meant she was close to releasing eggs. Checking again, there were the eggs, in a hole she had dug and sort of covered, oval in shape and about the size of a quarter.
As suggested by various turtle sites, a cage of chickenwire was fashioned and placed over the eggs to protect against predators, raccoons and skunks. The timing of gestation can vary, especially with eggs laid so late in the season. Fifty days is normal to hatching, but that will be at about the time of first frost here, the end of October. Sometimes the hatching will not happen until the following spring. We will not interfere beyond the wire cage and daily checking. We NEVER touch the turtles, ever, and will not touch the eggs, either. Should anything develop, it will be added to this post. But while we are waiting…
While we are waiting…back to the title of this story, if I was a turtle. This is where I would live, in the wild miasma along the back property line, the brush pile. There is a very old, falling down wire fence that runs the length of the line, perpendicular to the silver chain link fence. Prunings, weeds and other detrius that is not fit for the compost pile have been thrown along the fenceline for more than eleven years. The soil is mighty fine under the woody mess and seeds have germinated from the Salvia coccinea that are tossed there at the end of each season. Last year there were tomatoes planted in the sunny spot and this year peppers. So there is food and habitat to keep the turtles happy. This is where I figured the turtle eggs would be laid and may have been in the past, for there have been small turtles seen nearby.
This young female, you can tell by the eye color, males have red eyes, was struggling in the blue fescue. Her shell is small and still shows ridges down the center. Her head is spotted, as are her legs.
She managed to cross the concrete step stone path into the Veronica ‘Georgie Blue’ groundcover on the other side. Where is she going, I wondered. She was not that pleased with the camera and human so close by so garden piddling was done to allow her to travel in peace.
Ah, there she is. Just a few feet from the last sighting, under a flowering quince whose fruit had been offered her as a treat, but wait a minute… something is different. The markings on the shell are not the same and there are no spots on her head. To be honest, I had stopped taking photos because there were already enough good ones on the card of this turtle for this day. This little one, the same size as the one in the blue fescue, had no spots at all on the head. Can the spots come and go? No, this is a different turtle. So where is the other one? Not to be found when one is looking for them, ever. They always surprise us.
And there is the other one, they must be siblings, for the size is exactly the same and those legs are telling. Your name shall be Orange Stocking, for the left front leg shades to that color. Note the spotless head, too. Will wonders never cease.
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