Tag Archives: nature

First Turtle

Today marks the occasion of the first turtle spotted in my yard this year.

Let’s see…last year, the first sighting was also in April, so it is turtle time! Today’s sighting was a déjà vu all over again moment, as the turtle was at my back gate, trying to dig its way under. Rather than build a wall, I let it in.

I think this is the same turtle I posted about late last fall, judging from the battered shell and the spot of red on its neck.

And the timidity. Whenever I moved the camera, the head ducked back inside the shell. Here is a shot of the late-season visitor from last year:

What do you think? Same turtle? I think it is–look at the white markings on the shell, and the pointy edge of the shell by its tail. Which means that somehow, it got out of my backyard, in spite of the chainlink fence…and found its way back to my gate this spring. Interesting!

Turtles seem to have really good memories, and don’t need global positioning systems or cell phones to find the places where they want to go.

Time for me to keep my eyes peeled for more turtles, and start stocking up on fresh strawberries!

Turtle Cam: the Blueberry Feast

Turtle cam has been out of town for the past several weeks, so I wanted to check back in and catch you up on the turtle cam scene. I am happy to report that my house-sitter enjoyed a lot of turtle interaction. She texted me pictures of her turtle visitors and reported on their behavior (thanks again, Kim!!).

I’ve seen all three since I’ve been back, but the one I see the most is, of course, Prince. So here are some pictures of him enjoying a feast of blueberries. I keep trying to get closer and closer…

Lunging for the kill.

Lunging for the kill.

And he notices me.

Mine. All mine.

Mine. All mine.

I really wanted to capture turtle claws…

Essence of turtle.

Essence of turtle.

Still working on that one. Maybe a macro lens would be a good investment!

My recent travels included Las Vegas, southern California, and the Airbnb listing from hell. Alas, none of these trips included my bicycle! But I did have my camera, so more on all of those–with pictures!–in future posts.

Have a great week, everyone!

Turtle Cam: A Riddle

Today on the turtle cam, a riddle:

When is a turtle…

Turtle Cam

Are you talkin’ to me?

Like a horse?

Turtle Cam

You are definitely talking to me.

And the answer?

When a treat is involved. Take a look:

Turtle Cam

Must. Have. Strawberries.

What a stretch! What focus! What an avaricious gleam in Prince’s eye!

And I realized…I’ve seen this before…

Turtle Cam

Gimme.

So when you see something you want…a lot…streeeetch to get it!

Turtle Cam: The Hissy Pissy Turtle Appears

I didn’t expect to be posting again so soon, but turtles defy prediction. Today’s big event for Turtle Cam was the appearance of another turtle, the one I call the Hissy Pissy turtle (because when he first showed up, he would hiss at me, and run away).

Like this:

Hissy Pissy "I run away!"

Hissy Pissy: “I run away!”

I hadn’t seen him this year, and was wondering when (and if) he would put in an appearance. When I noticed a turtle trundling across the patio this morning, I thought it was Prince, as he is usually the first to wander in. But when I went out with the platter of turtle delicacies, I realized it was the Hissy Pissy.

“Right,” I hear you cry. “How can you tell?”

Well, it’s not so hard, in this case. Prince, you’ll remember, has a lot of orange spots on his handsome face. But the Hissy Pissy has none (the red around his mouth is strawberry):

No spots on this turtle.

No spots on this turtle.

Notice his claws have no spots either, while Prince (and Shy Girl) are both extremely well-spotted turtles.

But the definitive proof (as they say in science) showed up a few minutes later:

Hissy Pissy and Prince, with Hissy Pissy predictably..."I run away!" And Prince striking a pose.

Hissy Pissy and Prince, with Hissy Pissy predictably…”I run away!” And Prince striking a pose.

Prince is not one to miss out on strawberries.

And to reassure you: as soon as I and my intrusive camera went away, Hissy Pissy returned to breakfast.

The lure of strawberries: impossible to resist.

Introducing Turtle Cam

Prince is watching you. The most fearless of turtles, he seems to enjoy the limelight.

Prince is watching you. The most fearless of turtles, he seems to enjoy the limelight.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts , I love turtles. Who doesn’t? It seems only the Grinch-iest of people would dislike these most humble of creatures. Like most turtle fans, however, the most interaction I had with them was in accelerating their progress across busy roads.

That changed, however, when I bought a house nicknamed the Turtle Café. The previous owner told me that her mother had fed wild turtles in the backyard. As selling points went, that was irresistible. Plus I loved the house.

Sure enough, a turtle appeared the first summer I lived here. I offered him (or her) cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and blueberries, all of which were devoured. Indeed, he got to where he would come right up to the patio door and peer through, as if to see exactly where his dinner came from.

Jim, the first turtle to appear, and the first to say, "Yo! Where are the strawberries??"

Jim, the first turtle to appear, and the first to say, “Yo! Where are the strawberries??”

Since then, turtles have come and gone every summer. I feed them, name them, and take pictures of them. Some reappear on a regular basis, and the pictures help me with identification. My turtle policy is not to touch them, mark them, or interfere with them, other than giving them food and taking pictures. I used to worry about them getting too dependent on handouts, but they never stick around all summer. Instead, they are regular visitors for a month or so, and then vanish on mysterious turtle errands for the rest of the season.

Rather than bombarding my Facebook friends with pictures of turtles (and because I don’t like Facebook’s policy on intellectual property), I decided to make the turtle action in my backyard a regular feature on my blog, at least when they are active. And this spring, they are really active! I have two regulars to the Turtle Café, and my eyes are peeled for more, as it’s spring and turtles coming out of hibernation are hungry.

Prince (left) and Shy Girl (right). This is the first time I have ever seen any of the turtles hanging out with each other. Usually they are alone. Their heads are raised because they hear me. Soon after I took the picture, they took off in opposite directions.

Prince (left) and Shy Girl (right). This is the first time I have ever seen any of the turtles hanging out with each other. Usually they are alone. Their heads are raised because they hear me. Soon after I took the picture, they took off in opposite directions.

Enjoy.

Why “It’s Natural” is Bogus

I’m one of those people who always think of the perfect comeback long after a discussion or argument is over. Case in point: I have three  cats, and it seems like whenever I have guests, there is always at least one person who criticizes my choice to keep those cats indoors. I am always taken aback by these attacks, because I see my choice as the best for my cats, my neighbors, and what little wildlife there is in my corner of suburban America.

The primary reason for that choice, of course, is that indoor cats lead longer and healthier lives than their outdoor counterparts. I also like it that I am sparing my neighbors the dubious pleasures of midnight caterwauling and cats using their flowerbeds for litter boxes. Finally, there is the fact that cats hunt. According to a 2013 study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., outdoor cats (both feral and domestic) are responsible for killing between 1.3 billion and 4.0 billion birds in a single year. And that’s just birds. According the Kitty Cams Project, 49% of the kills are left at the capture site, not eaten. Simply killed.

The moment I explain my choice, however, the person feels compelled to argue with me. The latest incident was at a party I had. One of my guests—a man with an artificial leg—asked me why I didn’t let the cats go outside. When I told him my reasons, he scoffed at me, especially about the hunting.

“It’s natural,” he said. This from a man with an artificial leg.

It got me thinking about what a lame argument “it’s natural” is. My cats are all males, and they are all neutered. Surely it would be more “natural” to leave them unaltered, letting them roam and reproduce. Surely it would be more “natural” not to vaccinate them against disease and again, let them roam and spread those diseases.

But no one criticizes me about those things. Controlling reproduction and disease is acceptable, but doing my part to lessen the decimation of local wildlife is unacceptable, because hunting is “natural.”

Dogs are natural hunters and natural pack animals, but I have yet to hear anyone advocating that they be allowed to roam our neighborhoods in packs, hunting and fighting and reproducing. On the contrary: when dogs attack people or kill other pets, their owners are held accountable—even though it’s natural for dogs to do these things.

We draw lines, all the time, between which bits of nature we consider acceptable and which we do not.  The criterion is as simple as this: if it affects human beings and their property, nature is to be controlled and manipulated. If it doesn’t directly affect human beings and their property,  people don’t care.

Well, I do care. I control the hunting instinct of my cats for the greater good of local wildlife. So sue me.

Because we live in a world where all of nature has been touched by human manipulation, the concept of “natural” is tenuous at best and a dubious moral compass. What it comes down to is that our daily actions create the world we live in.

Me? I choose a world with wildlife, and keep my cats indoors.