Monday, September 12, 2016

Turtle traipsing time? #phenology

As is often the case, I'm not sure what's going on that has triggered road-crossing behavior in small (4" - 5" long) painted turtles, but I've noticed a few over the past week or so. Today I made the opportunity to move one across to the shoulder on the side of the wetland toward which s/he was headed, away from what appeared to be a similar and perfectly good to my eyes wetland that s/he was leaving. I'm more accustomed to seeing Snapping and Blanding's Turtles in the middle of a road in late Spring to mid-Summer.

Snapping Turtle crossing city road
Snapping Turtle crossing city road
Photo by J. Harrington

I might be seeing hatchlings headed from their "nest" toward what will become home grounds, but my impression is that the size of the road-crossers I've noticed recently look more like a turtle that's several years old. Perhaps they're starting to anticipate a need to head for their Wintering grounds and away from their feeding grounds? I suppose it could be that they're sunning themselves on a road instead of a log, and the middle of the road seems to be the warmest spot? There's some research that roads have a limited impact on painted turtle mortality, which makes me feel less guilty about the one's I didn't stop to help. In fact, if today's move out of harm's way was simply a case of shortening a warming session, this afternoon's clouds help me feel better about not leaving well enough alone.

Blanding's Turtle crossing township road
Blanding's Turtle crossing township road
Photo by J. Harrington


By Kay Ryan

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
a packing-case places, and almost any slope
defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
she's often stuck up to the axle on her way
to something edible. With everything optimal,
she skirts the ditch which would convert
her shell into a serving dish. She lives
below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
the sport of truly chastened things.

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