Monday, May 30, 2016

When does a reptile cross the road? #phenology

I've read that one of the hardest things to notice is what's missing from a picture. Often, I've experienced that myself. This year, reptiles have been missing from the picture more than they have been other years.

road-crossing snapping turtle (5/30/14)
road-crossing snapping turtle (5/30/14)
Photo by J. Harrington

So far, I've seen only a few small turtles, most likely painted, crossing the local roads. I've yet to see, or receive a report of, any snakes active in the area. I don't mean to suggest that all the snakes and turtles left town, only that by this time of year I've usually seen a hognose or bull snake along the gravel road and one or more snapping turtles on her way to lay eggs. I'm not pleased that they seem to be missing, but am grateful that I've noticed their absence.

The Adventures of a Turtle

By Russell Edson

The turtle carries his house on his back. He is both the house and the person of that house.
         But actually, under the shell is a little room where the true turtle, wearing long underwear, sits at a little table. At one end of the room a series of levers sticks out of slots in the floor, like the controls of a steam shovel. It is with these that the turtle controls the legs of his house.
         Most of the time the turtle sits under the sloping ceiling of his turtle room reading catalogues at the little table where a candle burns. He leans on one elbow, and then the other. He crosses one leg, and then the other. Finally he yawns and buries his head in his arms and sleeps.
         If he feels a child picking up his house he quickly douses the candle and runs to the control levers and activates the legs of his house and tries to escape.
         If he cannot escape he retracts the legs and withdraws the so-called head and waits. He knows that children are careless, and that there will come a time when he will be free to move his house to some secluded place, where he will relight his candle, take out his catalogues and read until at last he yawns. Then he’ll bury his head in his arms and sleep....That is, until another child picks up his house....

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