Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The other morning, after a pleasant walk about Howarth Park, a city park in Santa Rosa CA, I was surprised to come across a turtle laying her eggs in a picnic area a bit of a distance on turtle legs from the lake that's the heart of this park. She had created a patch of mud by digging with her hind legs and, apparently, producing a lot of liquid. She blended well into her surroundings. When I stopped to make some sketches a crowd of humans gathered around, most wondering if she was my pet. I worked quickly and left so that she could go on about her business in private. I added the color later, at home.
If you had a pet turtle when you were a child you might recognize the Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), the most popular pet turtle in the world. The one I spotted was a bit bigger than the turtle I had when I was very young, with a shell that was about 10 inches ( 25.4cm) long. In northern California Red-eared sliders, natives of the American southeast, are easily spotted basking on logs and rocks in lakes and ponds, often alongside our only native freshwater turtle, the Western pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata).
If raccoons, rats, humans or other predators don’t disturb the nest which, by the way, is now nearly invisible, the eggs will hatch in 60 to 90 days and the hatchlings will try to make their way to the lake. If they make it that far birds, bullfrogs, fish and humans all threaten their survival.