On Sunday, we visited the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center with the family. The kids were fascinated by the turtles hanging out on the edge of a pond. I saw the red stripes behind the eyes and the birder in me thought, “Wow. That’s a convenient field mark.” Of course, I had no idea what kind of turtles these were or what that red stripe might signify.
My three-year-old niece had her own opinion about what kind of turtles these were. The big one was the daddy, the medium one was the mommy and the baby was on his mommy’s back. She pointed out another turtle basking alone on the other side of the pond and told us that that one was in time out.
We walked around the grounds and I began to wonder why I don’t keep lists and try to identify other animals as I’ve done with birds the past three years. I’ve learned so much about birds—their varieties, habits and habitats and where they fit into their ecosystems. This doesn’t even factor in how I’ve honed my observational skills. I want to know the world, not just one class of its animals.
After observing a Western Scrub Jay perched atop one of the live oaks—my first life bird for 2010—I decided, why not start life lists for the other classes. As with birds, I don’t intend to go chasing around trying to hit a certain number or goal, I just want to know what I see. I want to know this world, especially the little piece of it I call home. I want to know it on a deeper level than just turtle, bug or bat.
When we got home, I broke out my Audubon Society field guide to reptiles and amphibians. The turtles we had seen were Red-eared Sliders, a subspecies of Pond Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans). I’ve seen them before and even posted a picture last year, though back then it was just a turtle. These Red-eared sliders are actually the turtles I see most frequently on my walks around the neighborhood, usually stacked up on the spillway in the pond. They were even the subject of a micro-poem that was featured at a handful of stones.
I’m going through the guides now, trying to seed my lists with the species I know I have seen. There are many I’ve only seen on a superficial level, but the ones I’ve seen, I’m now taking the time to read a little bit about. It never ceases to amaze me how much there is to see and how easily it can be taken for granted.