Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: turtles


Red-eared Pond Sliders

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.

Turtle Stone

Another of my “small stones” (obervational micro poems) is up over at a handful of stones: Turtle stone. Check it out.

Turtle — Butterfly — Deer

It’s not just birds on the trail by the house.



White-tailed Deer

Birdz in the Hood

Last week’s Great Backyard Bird Count project got me thinking about long-term counts around the neighborhood. What species come and go over the course of a year? Which are the year-round residents in our neighborhood?

I know that the ducks like this lesser scaup only come to the pond in the winter.

But what of the others? On Saturday, while walking along the trail down to the pond and onward to the creek, I decided to try to take a weekly count of birds and other wildlife I happen to see. If I can maintain this for a year, perhaps I’ll really know my local wildlife. Who knows, maybe they’ll start inviting me to their nests for insects and seed.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The two red-shouldered hawks that circled and swooped over the pond were by far the highlight of Saturday’s walk. One of them even came close enough to let me take this fairly decent picture.

Farther down the trail, I heard a faint tapping up in a tree. I saw two ladder-backed woodpeckers, male and female. The male is the one with the red cap. The female’s is black.

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Along the way, I heard great symphonies of bird song, but only saw these:

  • 1 Lesser scaup
  • 2 Red-shouldered hawks
  • 4 Blue Jays
  • 1 Turkey vulture
  • 4 Black vultures
  • 2 Ladder-backed woodpeckers
  • 1 American crow
  • 1 Killdeer
  • 2 Bewick’s wrens
  • 2 Chipping sparrows
  • 4 House sparrows

Other than birds, the only animals I saw were dozens of turtles on the pond including a few that decided to pile up and sun themselves.

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