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Archive for the ‘turtle’ Category

Most of the time Red-eared Slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) slide into the water as soon as they detect my presence. Yesterday, however, this turtle seemed to be in such a deep meditative state that it remained in place when I approached it at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. The turtle was even impassive to repeated buzzings by several Eastern Amberwing dragonflies, some of which flew within inches of its face.

I was hoping to get some a shot of a dragonfly landing on the turtle’s shell, but was content to capture this image with both the turtle and a passing dragonfly.

Red-eared Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I featured an actual mud turtle, but today’s muddy turtles  are actually Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) that appear to have been painted with a coating of mud. The last few months we have had a lot of unusually cool weather, and I think the turtles have been spending a lot of time in the mud at the bottom of the ponds. Last week the weather improve  and there were turtles in all kinds of places at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge trying to absorb the warmth of the sun.

The pose of the first two turtles brings to mind a well-known scene from the movie Titanic in which Jack and Rose (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) were standing at the railing at the prow of the ship. I must confess that I spent 4+ hours watching the movie on television last Sunday night, which may be why the scene is so fresh in my mind. Yeah, I’m a bit of a romantic.

I encountered the second Painted Turtle as it was slowly making its way across a trail at the wildlife refuge. In addition to noting the large amount of fresh mud still on its shell, I was delighted by the way the two little leaf fragments on its shell matched the yellow markings on its neck.
Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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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Why did the Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) cross the road? It sounds like the opening line of a joke, but I asked myself that question yesterday when I spotted a snapping turtle lumbering its way across one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The turtle’s back was covered with mud, suggesting it had only recently emerged from its winter sleep. In the past I have sometimes seen snapping turtles out of the water when they were getting ready to lay eggs, though it seems a little early for that to be taking place.

I have always thought that snapping turtle look like dinosaurs. What do you think?

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The temperature today feels so frigid—right about the freezing level—that it is hard to remember that only this past Monday it was sunny and 60 degrees (16 degrees C). While I was enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I photographed these sunning turtles, a relatively rare sight in December.

I did not get a good enough view of the turtles to be able to identify them with any confidence, but I think they may be Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta picta) or possibly Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans).

Turtles in December

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week, I stumbled upon this cute little Southeastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum). It looks like the little turtle had attempted to withdraw its head into its shell, but it does not quite fit.

I’ve only spotted this species of turtle, also known an Eastern Mud Turtle, a few times, so I decided to do a little research. Among other things, I learned on the website of the Virginia Herpetological Society that Southeastern Mud Turtles are ominvores, eating, among other things, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, carrion, and aquatic vegetation.

Here are a few more fun facts about these turtles from the same website: “Southeastern Mud Turtles are bottom walkers, spending most of their active time in water on the bottom. A substantial but unknown portion of their annual activity period is terrestrial. They seldom bask. Southeastern mud turtles are pugnacious when caught and many will try to bite, causing a minor wound from the curved beak.”

I am glad that I felt no desire to pick up the turtle.

Southeastern Mud Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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