Last year the ballet of the Blanding's turtles in the East Trail Pond dazzled me. It seemed to be half courtship and half policing territory, all the while soaking in the sun. I'll include a link to the special report I wrote below, but first I want to report on this year's turtle watching.
Providing that the ice has melted on a small vernal pool we call the Turtle Bog that is tucked between two lumpy sandstone ridges, we usually first see Blanding's turtles in March.
I like to think of the chin of the Blanding's as the first yellow flower of the spring,
usually out well before the trout lily.
This year the ice didn't melt until April. Over the years we usually see two large Blanding's sunning on the grassy shore of the bog. One year there was also a Blanding's about half the size of the adults.
On April 15 the ice was fully gone and the sun out in full force. We also check the Turtle Bog for wood frogs, and as we approached a half dozen or so were clucking away. Leslie went first and knew exactly where to look on the west shore of the pool to see a Blanding's turtles. And one was right there. The earth even after a full revolution around the sun of many millions of miles was still well tuned, at least for turtles.
Then after Leslie crossed to the other side of the pool, she started calling, "come here come here!" Things were not as well tuned as we thought. Usually we see the two turtles on the west shore. She was standing above a turtle about 4 feet up on the east shore with its nose facing the foot of the ridge.
She picked it up, saw the convex bottom of a female, and judged it about full size, say a 9 inch bottom shell
Leslie soon moved on and I sat until the turtle on the west shore retreated back in to the water. The turtle on the east shore, which both Leslie and I walked over, didn't budge. I got close to it again to take photos, and it didn't budge.
Two days later we came back to check on the turtles and everything seemed out of tune. No turtle on the east shore, but there were six on the west shore! We are used to walking down the east shore of the pool and used to seeing the turtles stay on shore for our enjoyment. As we crossed to the east shore, three clambered into the water immediately. Only one stayed on shore with head up as usual.
The two others who didn't flee had their heads tucked under birch roots or leaves like they were trying to block out the turtle glut in a pool of water about 120 feet long, 20 feet wide and 2 feet deep and getting shallow and narrow at the inlet and outlet. After I sat for 20 minutes the turtle with its nose under a birch finally got back in the water.
The largest turtle of all remained with its nose in the leaves against a rock. As I sat it moved a little to the right, deeper into the leaves, like it wanted to get more concealed.
Generally when turtles go back in the water, they keep out of sight. Not today. I saw two long yellow chins extend out of the water.
I even took a meaningless video of one chin checking the scene, looking and smelling for I know not what.
Whenever we had a chance we checked the pool hoping that might help us figure out why, for the first time in 14 years of watching, we saw so many turtles there. We also kept checking neighboring ponds and pools, and saw only painted turtles. I did see a Blanding's on May 6 walking along our road about a half mile from that pool.
My other venue for watching Blanding's turtles is, of course, the East Trail Pond. It was chilly went I went to the pond on the 11th. I saw hooded mergansers but no turtles. When I checked the pond on the 24th, conditions were perfect for turtles. But also for beavers who had repaired the dam and the pond had filled with water offering fewer places for turtles to climb up and soak in the sun.
The Blanding's have to share space with painted and snapping turtles.
It's a wonder I didn't see any turtle fights.
The closest turtle island to me had a large Blanding's and a mid-sized painted turtle on it.
Then something began to happen that reminded me of the ballet of last year. A Blanding's climbed up a half sunken log long enough, it seemed to me, to catch a whiff of that other Blanding's sharing an island with a painted turtle. Then it began swimming directly toward that other Blanding's. Adding to my excitement was the periodic croaking of the leopard frogs. But as far as I could tell, the swimming turtle only made it half way to the sunning turtle. In the way there was a smaller painted turtle on a log and just when I thought the Blanding's should be swimming under water there, the painted turtle paddled the water. Could that have scared the larger turtle away?
Good chance I am over interpreting this. As for leopard frogs, I more properly communed with them back in the Deep Pond on our land where there is a shallow grassy area right in front of my chair beside the dam. I got a good look, through binoculars, of the expanding sac of the one frog.
Here is a video of their croaking.
Meanwhile I keep waiting to see what might have become of the many Blanding's turtles I saw in the Turtle Bog on April 18. Because of a dry April the Turtle Bog got shallower and I think all the turtles had to leave. We weren't here last fall and so didn't see how the bog, really a vernal pool, filled up so turtles could find their usual winter home. In early May, I did bump into a Blanding's turtles almost reaching another pond and coming from the direction of the East Trail Pond.
Getting situated for the summer is not necessarily easy for turtles, but usually they always win the race, though some year I'd like to figure out exactly where they are racing to and why.
See how far I got to answering such questions last spring. Turtle in the East Trail Pond