Thursday, April 15, 2010
Turtles Hatching at Weaver Dunes
I woke up this morning with the urge to get a serious dose of prairie. I hadn't been over to Weaver Dunes in a couple of years - and it was time to fill my Prius with Minnesota gasoline (15¢ per gallon cheaper than the price in Durand).
So ... Tom and I headed over to Kwik Trip then took the scenic route south through the Dunes.
We saw some great birds - a female Northern Harrier, Eastern Meadowlarks, Killdeer, Horned Larks, Vesper Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Sandhill Cranes, Wood Ducks, Great Blue Heron, Eastern Phoebes, American Kestrel, Northern Flicker, Tree Swallows, Field Sparrows, Great Egret, Wild Turkey, Ring-necked Pheasant and 2 Ospreys!
And we had big fun with the Prius and my iPod (using BirdJam to confirm the identity of the sparrows). I played the calls through the Prius speakers. It was amazing to see a female Vesper Sparrow doing her "come hither" breeding behavior - quivering on the road in front of the Prius. And when I played the Horned Lark song, a gang of them in the attack mode, literally surrounded the car.
But it was the turtles that made the trip unforgettable - and we didn't see any until the ride back home.
It was 2:30pm and 75º when I saw the first - a brown lump on the center yellow "no passing" line. Turtle rescue time! I pulled the Prius off the road and looked both ways before I hopped out. Luckily, for the turtle, there was no traffic.
I picked it up and took a couple of photos. A Wood Turtle. I waited for it to pull out and show it's limbs, but no dice. Then I did what you're supposed to do: I put it on the side of the road - in the direction it was headed.
I hopped back in the Prius - feeling good that I could do something for this creature, but also disheartened, knowing the turtle-vehicle collision season is about to begin.
Then I saw this sign:
I had to stop, turn around and take a photo - how ironic, I thought. It wasn't until I got out of the car that I realized how ironic it actually was.
As I got out of the car to take the photo, I noticed this little lump of a turtle crossing the road. It was the first of a dozen Western Painted Turtles I saw on the road on my way home. I couldn't help myself: I had to stop for each and every one. Turtle road fatalities are an issue everywhere. Take a look at this link.
How small were they?
The size of a quarter!
Why were so many of these little reptiles crossing the road today?
It must have been a hatching.
But wait, don't turtle eggs hatch in the summer?
Painted turtles lay their eggs in late spring and early summer. The eggs incubate for about 70-days and hatch in early fall. However, instead of digging out of the nest, the hatchlings remain hidden underground - in the natal chamber - over their first winter, living off the remains of a large internalized yolk sac. They emerge in the spring - today at Weaver Dunes.
The little ones were heading towards the marshes. Amazing!
There was however, one very large Western Painted Turtle sitting in the road too - heading in the opposite direction - towards the mighty Mississippi.
Big or small, I don't know how they survive any vehicles coming at them at 55mph.
But I did my best to save a handful of them.
Posted by hvhughes at 9:10 PM