July 3rd, 2012 permalink
If you throw it, they will come. Yeah, it’s a bastardization of the famous line from “Field of Dreams,” but it fits for the Brighton millpond turtles. The “it” is bread! All you have to do is arrive on the boardwalk south of Stillwater Grill and toss some small pieces of bread into the water. Within a couple of minutes, you’ll see a turtle circus with up to three species. The first to arrive are the Midland Painted Turtles. There are several large Common Snapping Turtles in the area. They’ll probably show up, too. If you’re lucky, you might also see a Red Eared Slider. There aren’t as plentiful, but they aren’t shy either.
During a recent feeding, these two medium-sized snappers (shells about 12-14″ head-to-tail) arrived. They weren’t happy to see each other OR they were so happy feasting their eyes on each other that they held a stare-down position for about ten minutes! Neither moved. A fellow turtle watcher suggested it was Turtle Love, but I think it was a territorial dispute over food — the first one to move or turn away loses. One finally got bored, I think, and pivoted around. The other went in hot pursuit (for a turtle). Then pond life returned to normal.
June 5th, 2012 permalink
It’s easy to loathe snapping turtles, the prehistoric predators living in the Brighton millpond. The oldest ones (pushing 30, probably) have 14″- 20″ shells (head-to-tail) and flesh-ripping claws more than a half-inch long. From when they emerge in early May until they sink down into the mud to hibernate (actually, reptiles brumate) in late October, the large snapping turtles take a heavy toll on the waterfowl.
During this past week, all three of the mute swan cygnets (below) have been lost. Turtles are probably the scoundrels although other predators (foxes, raccoons, opossums, hawks, owls) are capable of the carnage. Faith, a seasoned millpond duck observer, reports she and her husband witnessed the death of one cygnet on a recent afternoon. After hearing a distress call and seeing a cygnet go under, they witnessed both swan parents take turns standing on what they believe was the shell of the submerged turtle and rocking it back and forth to force it to release its prey. It was too late. A large, clean-edged wound in the side of the young bird disemboweled it.
Can anything positive be said about these ruthless predators and the grim toll they take? To begin: They are an integral part of the natural world’s balancing mechanism. While they kill, they also clean the pond of dead things and devour submerged vegetation. Without them, the overproduction of wildfowl would eventually lead to even more painful deaths by the transmission of disease in the crowded environment and the starvation of many young birds as food resources are depleted. While they’ll never elicit the warm feelings people have toward cute little ducklings, their brute efficiency is reason enough to admire them. See past snapping turtle photos at Words4It.
September 5th, 2011 permalink
When large Common Snapping Turtles journey into the southern region of the Brighton millpond during the day, a crowd of people will be standing on the Tridge watching them. Beyond comments about their size, the most frequent comment is how primitive they look; how they look like dinosaurs.
This one is the medium sized visitor with its 14″ shell (head to tail). There’s a larger one with an 18-20″ shell that shows up on occasion, too. While I haven’t compared photos, I think there are only two large snapping turtles at this end of the pond this year. There were more in 2010. Midland Painted Turtles are abundant.
They take a heavy toll on the ducks and ducklings during their active months, but I’m happy to report the white Pekin who suffered a vicious bite and clawing on August 10th has regained full use of its leg and foot. The deepest wound is completely healed now, but a couple of toes still appear to have unhealed areas (left). Its left-most toe is only half there from a previous incident, probably another turtle attack last year. She proudly posed to show me the healing progress (below).
August 16th, 2011 permalink
I could tell something was wrong by the posture of this Pekin as it swam (above). It paddled with only one foot and its body was tilted to keep the other one out of the water. When it stood at the edge of the pond, it was visibly shaking and kept one foot hidden in its side feathers.
Later, it let me move closer (below). When it revealed its foot, I could see deep lacerations (close up at left). It attempted to walk but stumbled repeatedly. It’s a large Pekin, a domestic breed. It arrived with two companions when they were still ducklings a month after Easter three or four years ago. This trio has done well, but domestic ducks usually fare poorly when introduced to wild populations. Their size probably helps these guys.
Four days later, the duck could put weight on the injured foot (below left). It walks with effort and the wounds haven’t become infected. I’m not skilled in diagnosing such injuries, but the major slash appears to be a snapping turtle bite (below right). The toes and webbing seem to have claw marks. Turtle claws are capable of inflicting these (see my June 24th post). Also note the outer toe on the other foot. It is damaged (but healed) from a previous injury. The millpond is no place for domestic and hand-raised wild ducks. Their life span is considerably shortened when they contend with living in the wild.
July 31st, 2011 permalink
After the public leaves the millpond park at night, the wildlife begin their task of cleaning up the place. A snapping turtle with a 14″ shell (head to tail) approaches the floating body of a duck (above) to take another bite while the largest carp I’ve ever seen (no fish story: 30-36″ long and FAT!) swam along the shore to find morsels the ducks and smaller fish refused to eat or failed to find (below). The green confetti in the photo is duckweed floating above him.
June 24th, 2011 permalink
With a shell about 18″ from head to tail, this Common Snapping Turtle has been hanging out in the millpond area where Gramps was killed two weeks ago. Since his head is larger than an adult fist, he’s capable of inflicting Gramps’ fatal wound. While he’s probably the perpetrator, he shouldn’t be punished. His deed is part of the natural cycle of predator and prey. Watching him slowly move through the pond weeds is like watching something out of prehistory. His claws are nearly an inch long and his shell is covered with moss which helps conceal him as remains still while waiting for another meal to swim by. Much of his food, however, is probably already dead when he finds it. Turtles help keep the pond clean by scavenging carrion. They also balance their diets by eating plants. Turtles like this one can live 30 years in the wild.
September 5th, 2010 permalink
The best way to spot the largest turtles is to visit the pond at night and wait. And wait. I was actually trying to locate an extremely large carp I spotted a few yards away when this snapping turtle with an 18″ (front to back) shell lumbered into the scene. He moved in slow motion scavenging for midnight snacks. Then he buried himself in the weeds and I waited for him to surface for a breath. And waited. He didn’t come up for almost 15 minutes but he moved far from my camera’s flash range so I couldn’t get another picture of him. The light-colored area on its neck appears to be a scar. It will help me identify him again. None of the other snappers I’ve photographed have that marking.
August 15th, 2010 permalink
This one is easy, but the time it takes you to answer is more important. There’s an animal in this scene of submerged weeds in the Brighton millpond. How long does it take you to spot it? Long enough to become its lunch on this sunny afternoon? You might want to see the larger version then, once you spot it, visit the answer page to see another photo taken minutes later.
August 14th, 2010 permalink
Another large turtle combs the bottom of the pond looking for something to nibble on. Snapping turtles often lie in wait for their prey to swim by, but they also are good at doing maintenance work. They clean up the pond by eating dead things they find in their vicinity through their vision and excellent sense of smell.
August 12th, 2010 permalink
It’s difficult to spot a large Snapping Turtle at night because their coloring blends so well with the murky water. Sometimes, the only thing above the surface is the tip of their nose and they’re very careful not to cause ripples in the water around them. But when they extend their legs, you can see lighter skin. When they are lying in wait for their prey, their legs are tucked into their shells or buried in the weeds at the bottom of the pond.
August 9th, 2010 permalink
When a large Common Snapping Turtle lumbers into the heavily visited part of the millpond, the visitors gather on the Tridge to watch it. Saturday evening was a good time to amuse the crowd for this veteran of many summers. His shell measures 15-18″ from head to tail and his shell and tail are covered with algae which helps camouflage him as he lies in wait for his next meal of a fish, duckling or other unlucky prey. I suspect this one has dined on many of the ducklings that have gone missing this summer. In captivity, they may live into their late 40s, but in the wild, 30 years is a long life and this one has to be close to that age. The light-colored object in the upper left is a Tridge pier and a discarded swan feather floats nearby.