If, in spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love, it may be said that a turtle's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of sunning. A spiny lizard will emerge to catch a few rays after a several successively warm days. But a turtle behaves like a sorority girl desperately trying to achieve a tan in the few sunny hours of an otherwise cold winter afternoon. One warm afternoon last December, I took a walk to our local pond, and counted more than 50 turtles lined up along the shore.
Now though, with spring rampaging across the land, the turtles line the shores of every creek, stream, pond and drainage ditch. They are a skittish lot, flinging themselves back into the water if you merely look at them longer than they think socially acceptable. From what I can see, we have a fairly ordinary population of Red Eared Sliders and Painted Turtles in our local pond, but I don't know my turtles all that well, so we may have quite a few others I wouldn't know how to identify.
On Easter afternoon, we went down to Fair Park with our cameras in search of the perfect turtle shot. The lagoon is inhabited by a sea-serpent sculpture (it's supposed to be a fern, but greatly resembles Nessie), on whose undulating loops the turtles like to perch in orderly rows. We were surprised to discover that the lake hosts a small colony of Western Spiny Softshell turtles, though they are so shy and solitary that we were never able to snap a shot of one. The more commonplace turtles are fearless in these waters, probably knowing from experience that pesky humans cannot reach their turtle islands in the lagoon.
Previous Au Naturel essays
A few thoughts on Columbine High
King of the Anoles
A Turtle's Fancy
Winter in Texas
Harbingers of Spring
Copyright © 1999-2003 Susan Chance-Rainwater