Motherhood at a Turtle’s Pace
I know that many of those who read this post will wonder if I have any life at all. If I did, would I spend over an hour watching a turtle laying eggs? Yes, I would and did. In fact, this is the second time I have stood and watched this happen. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.
A year ago, I happened upon a Peninsula Cooter digging a hole in the wooded area behind our yard. I watched the turtle dig for over an hour, hoping to see her lay her eggs. Then, I realized that I had to go to the store for some things for dinner. I hoped that she would still be there by the time I returned. She was not. It was interesting to see that she had covered up her nest so well that it was hard to tell that she had dug a hole.
We knew that there was a possibility of a raccoon raiding the nest; those masked critters love eggs. It was too late in the evening for me to go to the hardware store to buy something to keep the coons out of the nest. I decided I would go the first thing the next morning. You can guess what happened; overnight a raccoon paid a visit and the eggs were gone!
I really thought I had missed a once in a lifetime opportunity, I figured that I would never have another chance to see a turtle lay eggs.
Yesterday I was in the back yard trying to photograph yellow rumped warblers. These are difficult birds to photograph; they are very fast, tiny birds. After a bit, I decided to walk around the yard to see what else might be around.
I noticed a rather large turtle in the yard next door. It is about 50 feet away from the wooded area behind our houses. This house is in foreclosure and has had no occupants for over two years. The lawn gets cut every other week, but other than that, it has not been cared for very well, so it looks a bit rough.
I turned my camera to the turtle and snapped a photo. I immediately noticed that there was disturbed dirt behind the turtle. I use a pretty long telephoto lens, so I was able to keep about a dozen feet away.
I slowly moved around so I could get a better view of her back side. I was amazed to see an egg starting to emerge from her.
Honestly, my interest in seeing what was happening took president over my photography. It was the last egg she laid; I was fortunate to get to see it.
What happened next was really fascinating. Momma turtle started filling in the hole where she laid the eggs. She never turned around to take a look, just used her back legs and feet to scoop the loose dirt over the eggs.
(Click on the photos for a larger view)
As she was filling in the hole, I could see her feeling that there was a pretty large depression under her left foot. The problem was, she didn’t have enough dirt on the left side to fill in the hole. Again, she never turned to look; this was all done by feel. She dug up some fresh dirt, to her left side, and scooped it over, to cover the hole.
She worked slow, very slow. It took about 45 minutes until the eggs were covered and she went on her way.
I immediately took off for the local hardware store and bought screen and stakes to keep the raccoons from raiding the nest. It takes about 90 days for the eggs to hatch. I will be keeping a close eye on it nest until the beginning of April.
There will be images posted here if any baby turtles appear.
It has been said, I often move at a turtle’s pace. Some turtles can live for 100 years. Seems like a good pace to me.