Friday, August 05, 2011

In the Eye of the Beholder....

On Wednesday morning, I took this quick snapshot of an ornate box turtle I saw in the cedar grove. The storms didn't come until that night, so it was still desperately dry. When conditions are that difficult, I do my best not to disturb my local land-mates any more than I have to, so I didn't pick this guy up or move in too close...and, at the time I took the photo, I couldn't tell whether this was a male or female, except that the red flush on the front leg made me strongly suspect that it was a male.

Imagine my delight when I downloaded the photos and saw this gorgeous red eye staring up at me! Definitely a male. He looks pretty fearsome, doesn't he?!

On Monday morning, I'd snapped a quick pair of photos of a different ornate box turtle out under the mulberry tree in the Back 5. They are not the best shots, but I was following my "don't disturb more than necessary" philosophy that day, too. I think this is a female, although I can't tell for sure since her head is pretty well hidden. What really struck me, though, was how differently the camera saw her shell patterns in the light of the sun and in the light of a passing shadow. I hadn't realized before how truly concealing the ornate box turtles' shell patterns are in sunlit grass. (The turtle didn't move at all between the two photos; only the lighting changed.)

The other fun realization these photographs have given me is that I can simply take pictures of each ornate box turtle I see on my perambulations and have a pretty good idea, eventually, of how many different individuals are living on our property. The shell patterns are distinctly and uniquely individual - so I won't even need to number them by crudely carving or painting in fingernail polish on their shells, as I've seen done in the past. Photography is great...and digital photography is even better!


ProfessorRoush said...

I love these guys. I usually find them trying to cross the road rather than find them in the yard. They must be pretty good about avoiding the mowed short grass areas because I don't think I've ever seen one during mowing or hit one with a lawn-mower (thank God).

Gaia Gardener: said...

Unfortunately, we did find one after the mower dis-assembled it a couple years ago...and, over many years, I've seen quite a few with mower scars on their carapaces, so I know it's not an uncommon end for them. Greg generally tries to mow high, which helps minimize the risk to them.

The roads are death traps for them, though. If I can safely do it, I try to stop and move the turtle to the side of the road it was aiming for.