Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Today we're going to talk about turtles. I love turtles. Actually, so do most other people. For whatever reason turtles have been spared the negative reputation that most other reptiles must face. A turtle generally brings good feels and smiles while people tend to kill snakes out of fear and disgust. People only kill turtles to eat them. Or accidentally with their cars. But that's another story.

Then there are the sea turtles. Also known as the worst turtles. Everyone loves sea turtles, but there are only seven species of sea turtle out of the ~300 species of turtles that exist in the world today. The remaining ~293 species is where I think the real beauty lies, specifically within the freshwater turtles. But of course, these don't classify as charismatic megafauna so nobody will ever care and they will all die. That might be a slight overstatement, but again, that's another story.

Spring is here.
This picture was taken in the small parish of Boston. 

Anyway, let's get acquainted with our first turtle: the painted turtle, Chrysemys picta picta, which is the most abundant reptile I've seen by far. Seriously, I counted over 40 individuals in a single instance. If I had a dollar everytime I've seen a painted turtle, I'd have over 40 dollars.

Imagine if Monet painted turtles instead of lilypads. If only. 

I count twenty-two in this heavily cropped and edited picture of poor quality and this is only a portion of the whole picture so there are probably about fifty more, give or take a hundred. Which leads me to my next point. I've been trying to get a really nice closeup while they're basking, but so far success has been lacking. As any professional photographer would do, I'll blame it on my gear, or lack thereof. But seriously, I think I'll need a longer lens because these darn things are really wary and won't let me get close enough for a crisp head shot.

I'll be back!

So I've been visiting this pristine turtle haven, located within meters of a baseball field, at various times to study the routine of these lovely creatures. I've discovered that like myself, these guys are early risers starting to bask at 6:30 in the morning. Also like myself, they do not appear to enjoy junior league baseball as they seem to promptly disappear at 1:00 after the first kickoff or however it is baseball games are started.

I'll spare the exciting sports details for my sports blog, but there are events more thrilling than America's favorite pastime to write about. One day I was pleasantly surprised to find this monstrosity in place of the usual horde of painted turtles.

One of these things is not like the others.

A snapping turtle! A large one at that, but despite its gargantuan size it was still a scaredy cat and immediately plummeted into the muddy depths as soon as I inched closer for a better shot. I thought all these icky creatures were out to get humans and bite them, not run away from them. Last time I listen to the general public about the intricacies of reptile behavior and biology. Luckily the next day I came across a juvenile who so kindly let me take his portrait.

Smile! You've probably read way more about turtles than you expected to today!
Wasn't that enlightening/fun/painless/edifying?!

Alright, so I probably ruined its day by picking it up and putting it on a rock and shoving a camera in its face, but speaking of disturbing wildlife I did the same for another species of turtle: the highly famed musk turtle

If you've made it this far, I applaud you and hope I haven't bored you to death. 

Fine, you've probably never heard or even seen a musk turtle before. Actually, even I've never seen one in the wild, so as you might imagine I was as gleeful as a little schoolgirl when I found this guy. I did raise a hatchling of this species as a pet for five years until the turtle plague took away two of my dearest companions so tears were shed in remembrance. RIP, Turtle Durden. 

Why are they called "musk turtles?" I'm glad you asked! These turtles excrete a foul smelling substance to deter predators lending this turtle its species name, Sternotherus odoratus. I'm lucky to have taken a whiff of this odor once and it was not pleasant, but I think the garter snake from the other day takes the musky cake. The pictured individual was particularly shy and did not exude any musk at all. Or I've lost my sense of smell. Either way, I'm extremely happy to have seen this species in the wild.

Weird rock.
Thanks for reading!

So that makes three species of turtles from three different families all occurring in close proximity to one another. How cool! There are also box turtles, who share a family with the painted turtles, so stay tuned. Until next time. To be continued. Coming soon to a theater near you. 

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