Spring fever is not limited to the human species. Animals, plants, fungi and all the other forms of life that have been laying dormant, hibernating, or just laying low conserving energy in a torpor are also eager to get up and move around when the warm weather returns. Among the first aquatic animals to
Among the first aquatic animals to get “spring fever” are the frogs and turtles. Wood frogs and chorus frogs can often be heard calling while there is still ice on parts of the pond. Painted turtles have even been observed swimming UNDER the ice.
How do these turtles do it? Western Painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta, is a small turtle common throughout Minnesota. They spend the winter buried in the mud of pond where they absorb oxygen through their skin and mouth. Some turtle species even have an oxygen transferring membrane in their cloaca (the rear end).
While I was taking a break from yard work at my sit spot one afternoon I heard some crunching leaves but couldn’t see who, or what was making the sound. Instead of investigating I just waited it out. The crunches got closer until a small male painted turtle came trudging over a log. Because I didn’t move he didn’t pause and walked right over my left foot and then right under my right leg. To him I just another obstacle between his pond of departure and his next watering hole.
I helped him over the hill to the pond on the other side of our property in exchange for a couple of quick photos. This time of year turtles are on the move looking to expand the gene pool and lay eggs. All too often their journeys bring them onto roadways where they meet and untimely end. I have stopped many, many times to escort all shapes and sizes of turtles across the road.
Turtles are truly ancient beings they have outlived the dinosaurs and have seen tremendous change on this planet. They have mastered the niche that crosses both land and water.
Up Next: More flowers in my yard!