If I Was A Turtle…

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.

Oh, here you are. Your name shall be Spotted Stocking.

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.

Click here to find out how you can create a wildlife friendly habitat and be certified by the National Wildlife Federation.


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24 Responses to If I Was A Turtle…

  1. Layanee says:

    They have a good home in your beautiful garden. I now have a new term ‘bale’. Never heard that before. I hope you are nearby when the eggs hatch. You need a webcam!

    Thanks Layanee. That term was new to me as well. The things we learn from Mr. Google! I already check on the eggs several times a day. I really hope they wait until spring. I don’t want the babies to be cold!

  2. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, If I was a turtle I would travel across roads to get to fairegarden. It’s a haven for critters and the gardener is respectful and caring. Wonderful photos and I agree with Layanee~you need a webcam or critter camera! xxoogail

    Thanks Gail. We are very lucky that the turtles seem happy here and do everything within reach to make it a safe place for all critters.

  3. If I were a turtle, I’d make a bee line for the Fairegarden. What a marvelous habitat you’ve created for them. There are no turtles here, so I really enjoy reading about the bale (I never knew that) in your garden. I hope you’re able to get photos of the wee turtles when they hatch.

    Thanks MMD. Bale is a unique term, isn’t it, never heard it before. It is thrilling to be surprised by the turtle inhabitants here. I think they are climbing the hill to find a place to hibernate for winter, several have been seen doing just that. If we can get a photo of the newly hatched turtles, it will be the icing on the cake of photography!

  4. As a women with a turtle heart, I’m coming your way! H.

    Hey Helen, come on over!

  5. What an enjoyable post. It’s always exciting to see turtles in any location, but to have them in your own garden and obviously so happy there – lucky girl. Can’t wait to hear more about the progress of the eggs.

    Thanks Heather. We are super lucky to have the turtles, and even more blessed to know where the eggs are. It is so late in the season, the odds are against successful hatching, but it is still a wonder of nature. Hopefully the happy bale will continue to reproduce in the future, whether we see it or not, it is a miracle of life and we are ever so thankful.

  6. Carolyn♥ says:

    Ohhhhh… Turtles! If I dream about them will they appear in my gardens? Silly me. That seemed to work for Monarch Butterflies. What a wonderful journey you are on with these curious little creatures. I’ll wait patiently to learn more from you.

    Thanks Carolyn. Keep dreaming about them, if it worked for Monarchs, there is hope!

  7. Lola says:

    intrigued by those lovely creatures. I so hope the eggs will wait for Spring too. I thought the one was doing it’s stretching exercises. Thanks, I did learn something.

    Thanks Lola. They stretch way out of their shells because it is so hilly here. They have to be climbing turtle hillbillies!

  8. 7aces/Darla says:

    If I may respectfully say I think you have Tortoises here. My only grandchild is a Red-Footed Tortoise, lol. My daughter and son in law’s pet. I believe turtles live primarly in water and have webbed front feet or flipper like fins to swim. Tortoises live almost exclusively on land and do not have flippers but normal feet without webbing and sharp claws. There is a distinction in their shells as well, Turtles have flatter shells and Tortioses have a more domed shell. Also Tortoises seemed to stay in one area where Turtles can migrate….Now more importantly, I am so excited to see the eggs and I do hope you get to see them hatch!

    I appreciate your respectful input, Darla! The one I have named Spotted Stockings has moved into the pond, staying in and under water much of the day and night. You can see in the last photo of her that she is resting on the stones at the edge of the pond. They were identified earlier as Eastern Box Turtles, but maybe there are more than one kind here. The photos on all of the Eastern Box sites look just like mine, but I am certainly no expert.

  9. Leslie says:

    You are so very fortunate and talented to have made such a wonderful habitat for these turtles!

    Thanks Leslie. We are really really lucky to have them and all the creatures who live here. I encourage everyone to join the National Wildlife Federation to find out how to create a certified wildlife habitat as I have. Click here to see how.

  10. 7aces/Darla says:

    I’m gonna have to re-examine my grand-tortoise-turtle-hare….lol, I do see her resting next to the pond! One of the things I love about blogging is, it’s so educational and people like you take the time to converse and teach. Thanks Ms. Frances. Looking forward to seeing the off-spring.

    You are a delight, Darla! I have no idea what anything is, butterflies, birds, turtles, caterpillars, plants, etc. I go with the best guess, tag, what others have told me, google! I can always be wrong, and often am!

  11. JWLW says:

    We do not see the turtles very often, they are around but not in our gardens. Lots of natural environment for them in the neighborhood. Over the years we have seen many different ones, Blandings, Eastern Painted, Wood, Box, Snappers to name a few. In the back 40 or 4000 acres there is Woods, Water, Marsh, Brush, Meadows, a small river, ponds all the things they like. If you go looking you will find them.

    Have a wonderful Day,

    Thanks John. Your property sounds divine, for humans and for critters. We go months without seeing any turtles, but recently stumble upon one or more every day. They are showing themselves here for some reason.

  12. Robin Ripley says:

    Wonderful photos! You are fortunate to have them in your garden. And they are fortunate that you are protecting their eggs. Good for you.

    Thanks Robin. We are very fortunate to have the turtles. I have seen them eat slugs, too. Almost as good as chickens. Not quite the same, but welcome still. I will worry over those eggs all winter if they don’t hatch before then.

  13. I love this post! We have a lot of wildlife that calls this farm home, but no turtles! That’s almost seems rather sad. How fun for you though, and eggs too! I love it, and clearly the turtles love the Faire Garden too!

    Thanks CV, you are sweet to say such kind things. I wonder if you really have turtles but just don’t see them. We knew the turtles were around here, but would go long periods without ever seeing them. Now, they are coming out of the woodwork for some reason.

  14. How incredibly exciting! I will anxiously be waiting to see a post on the baby turtles! What a great steward you are for all the wildlife! And I like how the turtles each have their own personalities and love the names!

    Thanks Karin. I do hope we get baby turtles, but if not, perhaps there will be more activity and egg laying in spring, a better time for it. They really do seem to have personalities!

  15. Marcia says:

    I loved reading this post especially because this summer for the first time in many years I have seen box turtles in my area. Of course it may have been the same one both times. I did handle them because they were in the middle of the driveway both times and I would have hated for them to be road kill. I live on 8 wooded acres surrounded by more woods so wonder how many years before I see them again. Thanks for a lovely story.

    Thanks Marcia. Lucky you, to see these fascinating creatures. I never knew if it was always the same one we saw until I started taking photos of their faces. It seems the markings on their heads are easier to tell apart than the markings on the shells. Eight wooded acres, what a paradise!

  16. Ellada says:

    I always dream to have a turtles in my garden, maybe one day…….you never know.
    Your turtles is so cute, I love her colors. Great post.

    Thanks Ellada. I hope you get your wish for turtles in your garden, they are very pleasant company!

  17. Very beautiful and colourful creatures.

    Hi Esther, thanks for dropping by. They are beautiful to my eyes, as well.

  18. cheryl says:

    He’s gorgeous Frances! What colour he has. We are certainly blessed when they find their way into our gardens. One year I found a young snapper enjoying herself in The Pond. Just the thought of her making her way from the river, crossing streets, fending off neighbourhood cats and dogs then finally making herself into my retreat was humbling. I netted her but not before naming her Torrance after a good friend, and took her back to the river where she belonged. There is rarely a time I drive by and don’t think of Torrance. A beautiful post Frances.

    Thanks Cheryl. I assume you are talking about that handsome brute, Golden Head? He is very flashy! Your Torrance sounds wonderful. It is amazing to think the distances they travel. They do always seem to be on the move except for Spotted Stockings who has moved into the pond.

  19. You are wonderful to be protecting the turtles and their eggs. Nice photos too, and hope you see them hatch.

    Thanks Donna, you are too sweet. I am sure all my readers would do the same, try to protect those eggs. I hope they hatch, but have forced myself to accept it if they don’t. It is really much too late in the season for babies.

  20. Hi Frances – what an amazing post and what wonderful photographs! I look forward to news of a hatchling! What a wondeful event that will be, I hope you get something on camera for us to see. And what a wonderful garden you have created – no wonder they live there 🙂

    PS: Here in South Africa we call them Tortoises. I know in the USA they are called Turtles.

    Hi Christine, thanks for visiting. I hope there will be babies from these eggs, but the time of year is not ideal. It will be below freezing when the proper time for hatching occurs. Maybe they will wait until spring, it is a possibility. There are tortoises and turtles here, some live in water, some on land and some in both. I only know about the Eastern Box Turtles since that is what we seem to have living here.

  21. Cathy says:

    If I were a turtle, I’d want to live with you as well. Your garden is its own little faerie world and I am totally entranced by it, and by your little family!

    Thanks, Cathy for those kind words! I love the garden and spend many an hour working outside in it. It is a joy and the turtles add to that happy feeling.

  22. I love turtles, how exciting to have the eggs…and babies!!!!

    Hi Janet, thanks for visiting. I hope there will be babies someday, from these eggs or others. This is not a good time of year for them, but what do I know?

  23. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You have a turtle haven, or maybe what should be said a turtle heaven. My you are blessed. I would swoon if I found a box turtle in my garden let alone get to watch them mate and lay eggs. I have never seen such things. I am so glad you share them with us Frances.

    Thanks Lisa. We are so lucky to have these sweet and gentle creatures. I have been watching Lady Spot going after and eating slugs. It warms my heart to see that. I felt as you do, just lucky to even SEE a turtle at all. The rest is beyond the pale.

  24. If I were a turtle I couldn’t possibly imagine wanting to be anywhere else. Having said that, however, I’m not a turtle and I would still enjoy those kinds of surroundings.

    After all, this is what the Garden of Eden must have looked like.

    Thank so much, Hannah, for those kind words. My garden is a bit of heaven for me.

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