Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Honey, About That Tub Of Dirt On The Porch...


Caught in the act...

I found this "slider" ( they bask on logs, they slide off when you approach) laying her eggs two days ago as I crept silently through the woods. I was creeping because from the porch, I had seen that evil black cat from across the street slipping into my property to hunt my songbirds. My plan was to give it a good chase so I was trying to surpise it.

Instead, I surprised this large female turtle as she was finishing her most sacred duty. I think she's a Florida Cooter, but these pond turtles all look alike to me, and well, Slider seems to work just fine. I'm sure this is the big turtle I see basking in the black willow trees at the swampy end of the pond. She's gotten used to me feeding catfish from the dock and rarely slides unless I approach.

To get to this nest site, she had traveled about 150 feet uphill (okay, only a little slope) crossed the sandy driveway, crawled beneath the boat, and out in a semi-sunny spot near a rotten log.

Unfortunately, her little turtle brain could not have picked a worse spot to lay eggs. Her nest was located about 10 feet from my trash can corral, a rectangular "box" of picket fence that hides our trash cans. It is a raccoon, possum, and evil cat magnet. All of these opportunists visit each night. These eggs were probably doomed...too many clever sniffing noses.


So, I made a command decision. There was no time for peanut anguish. I have a lot of experience with relocating turtle nests and time is of the essence. The tiny embryo will attach to the side of the egg sometime in the first 24 hours, after that turning an egg may doom the tiny turtle.

I dug up the nest.


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"The nesting habits of cooters are quite unique, and evidence of failed nests can be easily found along the edges of the dikes most times of year. Females dig three nest holes, and deposit most of the eggs in the center nest, but lay one or two in each of the side (satellite) nests, perhaps for insurance. It doesn't seem to work - nests dug up by predators, probably most frequently raccoons, nearly always have all three chambers exposed." CREDIT = STETSON UNIVERSITY

The above quote describes the nest exactly. There was one main chamber with most of the eggs and two side nests with one egg each.

There were 13 kumquat sized eggs in the nest. I used the same dirt from the nest hole (something I always did in my seaturtle hatchery days) and buried them in the tub at the same depth that the she turtle had done.

The tub sits on my porch atop a table, higher than Lab browse level. I carry it out into the sun for a few hours on these days when I am off for a little gentle warming. The turtle had chosen a spot that was fairly shady, so I am not too concerned about the shady porch, even though it may affect the sex ratio of the little turtles. Generally in turtles, cool incubating conditions result in male turtles developing, while warmer temps result in more females. Even if they are all male, it beats getting eaten by the neighbor's evil cat.

Incubation time is somewhere between 60 and 100 days. The eggs were laid on Sunday, April 9,2006 so nothing should happen before June.

Mark your calendar.


doubleknot said...

How nice of you to save the eggs. Hope they hatch.
Living in my part of Florida we have a terrible time with trying to save the sea turtle eggs - too much rain, predators, people who don't understand why that section is rope off with a do not touch sign. I have a fried who used to help every year with the nest till he couldn't do it any more. The lights when the hatchlings come out kills a lot of them because they go away from the water instead of to it. But you know all that and I am just rambling - so have a nice day - I am glad you are there in bloggerland.

Likes2mtnbike said...

Awesome, can't wait to see.

robin andrea said...

Yay! Great story! You saved the eggs. That is so cool. I am already looking forward to the big day. Woohoo -- turtle babies.

roger said...

nice job, mr surrogate turtle parent. we look forward to hatchling pics.

Anonymous said...

Oh very good FC. It was only recently that I learned, through Phyllis our fire chief, that embryonic reptiles did this sort of thing inside their shells and shouldn't be turned.

What if I can't wait til June??

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful and decisive action. I hope you have success. (Can you do the same for condors?)

Anonymous said...

OOh! I can't wait to hear the rest of the turtle eggs story! I hope you'll keep us as updated as egg-sitting permits :D

R.Powers said...

Seaturtles definitely need our help. Tough for them to find a dark beach to nest.

The pressure's on. If I've screwed up, everyone will know...

They'll be those little green guys that department stores used to sell when I was a kid.

If hatching happens, pics will happen too.

Your firechief shared that? That is so funny to me.

I have dug and dug and have yet to find a condor nest, but I keep looking.

Mrs. S,
The waiting is the hard part.

Deb said...

That is so cool! Around here we have painted turtles and snapping turtles that we occasionally catch in the act of nesting in the sand near our driveway. Never have caught the little buggers hatching though, but Calvin did find a baby painted turtle once.

Sandy Hatcher-Wallace said...

My husband accidentally dug up some eggs that resembled ping pong balls once...a little smaller than ping pong balls.
We weren't sure what kind of eggs they were so we buried them in a bucket like yours using the same technique that you did and waited.
In about 30 days they began to hatch and they turned out to be 6 little aligator snapping turtles. They were so tiny and a biology professor at Berea College wanted them, so that's where they went.

I watched a lizard dig a hole and back up to it and lay eggs once...Of course I left things alone. It was just an interesting thing to watch happen.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I can't wait till June. I really hope they all survive. You are just awesome!!!!

Anonymous said...

Good for you! I had a FL Mud Cooter for 5 years...he was a wonderful little thing that hatched in the swamp behind our house and wandered into our garage. Tommy the Turtle would've died in the jaws of a cat or dog or cottonmouth or under the wheels of a senile citizen (Pasco Co. at the time), so the sigother and I rescued him. We kept him in a 75-gallon aquarium. Tommy loved to swim and eat feeder fish. After I kicked the idiot human out, he took Tommy and moved back to KY; being the lazyass goodfornothing he was, he never cleaned the tank, poor Tommy got an infection, and died.

R.Powers said...

I have pulled up some baby sliders while weed cleaning the pond, so I know they are nesting successfully without my help. I just thought this nest was in too risky a spot.

Neat! How cool that they successfully hatched. Good work.

Thanks. Don't worry, June will get here quick...the last part of the school year flies by.

Well, at least he had a good life with you caring for him.

John Cowart said...

This post is fascinating... but then, your's always are

Karen Schmautz said...

Do they imprint on the first thing they see like those geese on "Fly Away"? Heh! I'd love to see baby turtles following you all over your property.

Do you speak turtle?

Anonymous said...

FC - yes indeed. In her day job she actually does aerial cartography and then spends a couple of weeks in the woods confirming the plants they've identified from the photography. Very cool person, despite the midwestern twang. In her spare time she hunts, and if she encounters sufficiently fresh deer roadkill on her way to or from work she butchers on the spot. She's kind of a role model to me.

R.Powers said...

Thanks...I wish that was true!

I think the reptilian brain is too smooth for that imprinting step. I once had a mallard who imprinted on me in the incubator and I was Momma duck for about 5 years.

We can agree to ignore that midwest part if she's as cool as you describe. I know a similar lady here who has been known to butcher a roadkilled deer. She's all blonde curls and professionalism in her day job, but don't get between her and a carcass that needs butchering.
Just for the record, I am NOT talking about my wife.

Rurality said...

I hope this turns out better than my husband's little tadpole experiment...

R.Powers said...

Uh oh, trouble in tadpole town?

Tim Rice said...

I hope your turtle eggs fare well. A few days ago, took some neat pictures of ten or twelve turtles in a row sunning themselves on a log in a small pond. I love watching turtles.

Duane k said...

I hope you've got healthy baby turtles soon!

LOL @ the Peanut Anguish reference!