Top photo: Courtship display by male (foreground) yellow-bellied slider.
By this time of year I should have seen six, eight, even a dozen female turtles walking along the paths here at the Museum. Each spring, our aquatic turtles leave the water in search of safe places to dig a nest and lay eggs. I’ve only seen three turtles out and about this season. Two of those were relayed to me by Animal Keepers Autumn and Sarah. One was an eastern musk turtle, the other a common snapping turtle. The third turtle, a yellow-bellied slider, was seen by Patrick the Train Driver.
We’ve had many sightings of young sliders moving from their nests down to the water. Those juvenile turtles, though, are from late season nesters of last year. The eggs hatched too late in the season causing the nestlings to overwinter underground in the nest. We see many half dollar-sized juvenile turtles at the Museum in late March or April heading to the Wetlands for the first swims of their lives.
I did, however, discover a nest which had been dug up by a raccoon or fox. The nest was near the outdoor classrooms which has been a regular site for nesting turtles over the past four or five years.
Despite the nest above, our turtles are late getting out of the water this year. I’d have to go back and check the data, but I seem to remember cooler than usual nights back in April, nights in the fifties, keeping our turtles in the water.
I’ve seen many attempts at mating recently, so it shouldn’t be long before we start seeing more females out and about (the eggs have to be fertile to hatch).
Despite our male’s attempts, the female was more interested in food than mating, she swam off leaving the male behind.
Yesterday I received a report of a painted turtle eyeballing the shoreline of the Wetlands and just this morning (5/21) I got a report from Patrick (Train Conductor/Engineer) of a turtle near the Train Tunnel. Upon investigation, it was a turtle that I’m familiar with, a turtle that I witnessed laying eggs on May 24, 2013 in Catch the Wind. It was 00-80, a yellow-bellied slider that I marked two years ago.
Keep and eye out for turtles as you stroll along the pathways here at the Museum. When you see one, know that it’s more than likely on its way to lay eggs, or on its way back from doing the same.