Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Large snapper laying eggs on the Flowering Tree Walk

This fairly large female snapping-turtle laid eggs today under a magnolia just a few feet off the Bonsai parking area. She didn't seem to be shy, actually she was frightening as I lay on the ground a foot away from her jaws. If you enlarge the picture by clicking on it, you will be able to see her evil reptilian eye. Of course not evil but prehistoric; definitely unsettling. Jeanna describes living in a barn room and developing a working relationship with a wolf spider. As improbable as that seems it seems a lot more likely than developing a rapport with this monster. It isn't difficult to imagine her inhaling goslings or ducklings.

When my two boys were small, about 5 and 7 I think, they took a butterfly net to the small stream at the bottom of our block. They were looking for mudpuppies or hellbenders, large, peculiar, fringed, jellylike salamanders. Well they didn't find any salamanders, but an hour or so later they came trudging proudly up the hill, the butterfly net straining under the weight of a medium-sized snapping turtle. Scary. These reptiles can snap a broomstick with their bite and their necks are deceptively long. It was a cool day in early spring and that combined with a natural fear of being bitter by anything and a large dose of luck, kept their digits intact.

We have a good population of turtles here at the Arboretum. On a warm day in spring, summer, or fall, you can see sliders in Beech Spring Pond. Box turtles are not as visible, but they turn up regularly, some of them quite large. Someone, Rocky?, accidentally dug up a nest of hatching box turtles a couple of years ago, we reburied the nest and headed the hatchlings away from the road. We try to move at a slower pace here inside the Arboretum than the rest of the Metro area, at least when we are driving, so we're probably a relatively hospitable place for turtles to live, but they aren't quick, smart, or fast, and they are hit by cars regularly. It seems to me that there were a lot more turtles when I was a young boy, or maybe I was just closer to the ground, and so more able to see them.

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