Recently in Wildlife - Turtles & Lizards Category

TurtleMLB and I were walking to the mailbox this morning when we spotted a big turtle in the shade of a tree about 25 feet from the street (and about that same distance from the creek that I presume is its home).
It wasn't moving, which was odd, so we walked over to investigate. It withdrew partway into its shell, but made no attempt to get back to the water.

We're not turtle experts, but the way the back half of the turtle was positioned in a shallow muddy depression seemed to indicate some nesting behavior.

Turtle

We watched it for a couple of minutes, and not observing anything of apparent consequence, we continued our stroll to the mailbox and then back home.

After about an hour, we decided to check on la tortuga -- which we tentatively identified as a red-eared slider --  to see if we could make any more sense out of its behavior. I took a video camera just in case there was anything worth recording, and we were rewarded with this:



In case you're wondering, I did indeed feel a [admittedly illogical] twinge of privacy-violating guilt in videoing at such close quarters.

If you watched carefully, you saw two eggs being deposited into the muddy hole that passes for a turtle nest. According to the Wikipedia article linked above, this species will lay 2-30 eggs at one time (which is quite a span). The eggs take between two and four months to hatch, and the youngsters will not enter the water until almost three weeks after hatching. That would seem to be when they are most vulnerable to predators.

We debated putting up some kind of cage around the nest to prevent any disturbance but ultimately decided to let nature take its course. We're not lacking for turtles in the creek, and I'm not really interested in monitoring a nest until next fall to make sure that any hatchlings can get out of whatever cage we might build to keep predators from getting in.

In addition, when we returned for one last check, the turtle was gone and so was the "nest." Well, not gone gone, but good luck figuring out where it is. That mama turtle is a camouflage master.

Turtle Nest
Can you spot the nest?

As I've often observed on these pages, the world of nature never ceases to astonish and amaze.

Baby Horny Toad
August 7, 2010 9:05 PM | Posted in: ,

As I've noted before, horny toads seem to be making a comeback, at least in our neck of the woods. Here's further evidence - a baby lizard, one of the smallest I've ever seen. I didn't actually see this one, though, as Debbie came across it while walking this evening with a friend. That's Debbie's finger in the photo. This little guy is barely bigger than the ants it lives on!

Photo - Tiny horned lizard

Debbie and I went for a walk around the ponds this morning after breakfast, and as usual, encountered some interesting animals.

The geese are still hanging around. They were inexplicably strolling through the vacant lot across from our house (I saw one of them nip at some of the weed seed heads), and when they saw us walking down the street, headed our way and paralleled our course. Here's a short snippet of video I took with my phone.



They continued to walk in roughly the same direction we were headed, but they crossed the street, back and forth, inspecting who-knows-what. Some of our neighbors had congregated on a front porch and they watching the geese with great interest. One of them had a chihuahua on a long leash, and he was quite attentive, straining at the leash to get a closer look...until, that is, the geese turned toward him, at which point he quickly retreated to his master, content to switch to remote monitoring mode. We had a laugh at his expense, but I observed that it would be like us confronting a T-Rex, given the size difference between the small dog and the large goose. I didn't blame him a bit.

It took us about ten minutes to round the south pond - pausing to speak to a cottontail rabbit who thought he was hiding in plain sight just off the sidewalk - and by the time we got to the opposite side, the geese had made their way along the pond and we watched them waddle down the bank and back into the water. I suppose they were getting in their morning constitutional, as were we.

Heading toward the north pond, we spotted something in the middle of the sidewalk about 20 feet ahead. It was a horny toad. I wondered why we always seemed to see them on the walkway, and we soon got our answer. He was resting in the path where an abundance of ants were busily crossing the concrete, and it was a veritable movable feast from his perspective. We watched as he pounced on several ants who had the bad judgment to wander into his sphere of ingestion. He didn't seem to be willing to chase any of them down, content to let them come to him, but we did see him miss one ant, eat another that was close behind, then whirl around and consume the one that almost got away. Unfortunately, the scene took place too far away to capture on my phone's camera.

Rounding the north pond and heading home, we roused the usual jackrabbit contingent. They like the tall grass brought out by the summer's rainfall, but you can usually spot the black tips of their ears sticking up over the ground cover. Those guys are built for speed, and they're as shy as the geese are bold.
Several people have asked whether we've spotted any horned lizards this year, and we're happy to reply with an emphatic "yes." We've sighted them on almost every walk or bike ride, and seen them from the car driving through the neighborhood. I wouldn't say that we're overrun with the little rascals, but they definitely seem more numerous than in seasons past.

Yesterday, I glanced out my office window and spotted this one on our flowerbed's brick border. By the time I grabbed the camera and got outside, he was lounging against a stand of Mexican feathergrass, apparently striking an intentional pose.

Photo - Horned lizard or horny toad

I understand that the lizard's dwindling numbers is attributed to increased use of pesticides, encroachment on habitat by human development, and the severe drought conditions that have thankfully eased this year. It's good to see them back.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Wildlife - Turtles & Lizards category.

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