Sunday, May 29, 2016

watching for them

You'll never guess what we saw at Aldergrove Lake Park this week. We couldn't have been more surprised.
It's a great wooded park filled to the brim with animal and reptile, bird and butterfly, mushroom and moss, berries and bark and all kinds of natural delights.
We've seen turtles soaking up the sun on gray logs floating in the pond. Snakes, fish, dragonflies, ducks of every sort, birds that shrill and hum and zeep. Scruffy little country mice, huge owls on silent wings, coyotes eyeing bite sized pets, mushrooms in every shape and size and color, sun sweet berries, dew dappled Bleeding Heart and ferns as high up in the moss fringed branches as you can gaze.
We thought we had seen it all.
As we climbed out of the car I asked my husband what he thought we'd see. We headed off down the gravel path chatting happily about the similarity between snake heads and turtle heads. As we rounded a corner, I was jolted into the moment.
It was just a Park Ranger but talking about snakes tends to make me jittery about things that move in my peripheral vision.
And then, there it was.
In my peripheral vision.
A very large turtle.
How strangely out of place it seemed there, about a foot from the walking path.
It had clearly clambered out to the marshy edge of the pond, up a tangled bank and across a stretch of meadow.
It had crossed the foot path.
And there it was, blinking in the sunshine, its head adorned with yellow and red stripes.
It was my husband who noticed first.
Noticed that the turtle had dug a hole and was laying eggs.
Great white, glistening eggs.
Bigger than robin's eggs.
The turtle turned her head and held us with her steady gaze.
The ranger thought she was an endangered Western Painted Turtle and was pondering elaborate measures to protect the nest.
A glance at google and a conversation to headquarters confirmed Red-Eared Slider instead.
If you aren't endangered, you're on your own folks.
The ranger did plan to linger and pace a bit while the mother focused all her energies and then escort her safely back to the pond.
I'm not sure what would become of the nest, right there by a busy walking path.
The eggs can incubate for several weeks to several months.
I hope they do fine.
And stay safe and snug in the dark, dark ground.
Until some warm summer day the ground shakes and moves and crumbles away as little turtles haul themselves out into the tall grass one after the other and march towards the cool green water of the pond.
Towards gray logs in the sunshine.
I'll be watching for them.

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