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Archive for the ‘turtle’ Category

No matter how many times that I see an Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum), I am always shocked by the disproportionately large size of its head. When I spotted this one on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I remember wondering if it was physically possible for the turtle to withdraw its head into its shell. The turtle was standing in the middle of a wide trail, apparently in the process of crossing the trail. Although the mud turtle seemed to be fully aware of my presence, it appeared to be totally unfazed and merely gave me a sidewards glance as it waited for me to pass.

Given the circumstances in which we now live, I think we all could use some of the patience and imperturbability of this little creature.

 

 

Eastern Mud Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday I encountered this basking Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) at the appropriately named Painted Turtle Pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Although painted turtles are common in the area in which I live, I am always happy to see their bright colors. In this case, the fallen flowers from a nearby tree added a nice accent to my little portrait of this colorful turtle.

Painted Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On Friday I spotted this small turtle as it was crossing one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is not a species that I see very often, but I think it is an Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) Appropriately enough its back half appears to be covered in mud.

I generally think of turtles as being slow-moving, but this one was scrambling so quickly across the trail that it was a challenge to keep in within the camera’s viewfinder after I had zoomed in all the way with my telephoto lens. In case you are curious, Eastern Mud Turtles are only about four inches in length (10 cm).

 

Eastern Mud Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As our weather continues to warm up, more and more creatures are reappearing, like this Spotted Turtle (Clemmys guttata) that I spotted yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. As you can see from the photo, the turtle was on dry land, in a wooded area with pine trees, rather than in the water like most of the other turtles that I saw yesterday.

Spotted Turtles are relatively small, about 3.5 – 4.5 inches in length (9 – 11.5 cm), according to the Virginia Herpetological Society website. The website also notes that this species is seen primarily in the early spring, but seldom beyond the month of June. Spotted Turtles enter into a state of dormancy (technically it is “aestivation”) during the warmest months under vegetation and during the coldest months under mud. During those periods they are inactive and their metabolism rate is lower, but their physiological state can be rapidly reversed, and they can quickly return to a normal state.

Spotted Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I spotted this bird as I was walking along the Seine River yesterday morning, I knew immediately that it was some kind of cormorant. Unlike most water birds that float on the surface of the water, cormorants sit really low in the water with their bodies barely visible. Their long necks always make me think of a periscope coming out of a semi-submerged submarine.

Although this bird looks a lot like the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) that I am used to seeing at home, I have determined that it is most likely a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). This cormorant followed a familiar pattern of behavior—it would be swimming along when without warning it would dive deeply into the water and remain underwater for a long time. It was a fun challenge trying to figure out when and where the cormorant would reappear.

Most of the time the cormorant stayed far from the banks of the river, but on one occasion it popped up right in front of me and I was able to capture this image. It was nice to be able to capture some of the orange coloration around the cormorant’s mouth, but the real prize for me was getting a clear view of its spectacular blue eyes. It is definitely worthwhile to click on the image to get a closer look at that amazing shade of blue. If you look closely at the water, you will also notice some small concentric ripples created by the falling raindrops.

When I went walking in the rain yesterday, I knew there was a good chance that I would see ducks and gulls and maybe a swan or two. Who knew there were Great Cormorants on the Seine RIver? No matter where I am, I am always thrilled by the joy of the unexpected, by those little surprises that add so much texture to life. So I choose to live my life in hopeful expectation as I scan the world for marvelous subjects to photograph, confident that they will present themselves if I keep my eyes and my heart open,

Great Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this large Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) in the grassy vegetation at the edge of one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Monday. The turtle seemed to notice me as I bent down to take the shot, but made no attempt to move away (or to snap at me). Still. I decided to play it safe, kept a healthy distance from the turtle, and departed from the turtle without disturbing it from its comfortable resting spot.

In the past I have seen snapping turtles out of the water only in the spring, when they emerge from the muddy pond bottoms where they spend their winters, and when they are laying their eggs. I am not at all sure why this one decided to spend some time on dry land.

snapping turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What is your first thought when you see these three turtles together? Are they just friends or more than friends? The turtles seem to be pretty comfortable sharing a confined space and there is plenty of space in our minds for varied interpretations on the nature of their relationship. According to the old saying, “two’s a couple and three’s a crowd”—is that always true?

Whatever the case, the turtles at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge have been definitely been enjoying our recent sunny days. My turtle identification skills are not very good, but I think these all may be Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta picta), though there is a chance that they might be Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans).

I love images like this one that allow viewers to use their creativity to interpret what they see and to generate in their minds their own mini-narrative of what is going on. Ménage à trois or just friends—you make the call.

red-eared sliders

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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