Wood Turtle

IMG_9924I was surprised to come across our resident Wood Turtle (Glyptemys insculpta) today sunning herself on the bedrock outcropping on our small river. Listed as species of special concern in Massachusetts, I usually see this one at least once a year, generally in the same vicinity of our stream. We communed for a long while, but the activity of the dog, who barely noticed the small creature, combined with humans too close for comfort, sent her heading for the safety of water. Once wet, the beauty of her shell scutes, both in texture and color became apparent.

IMG_9959I believe I have the sex right: females have flat plastrons (bottoms) and males are concave. As she was making her getaway, I waylaid her for a few seconds to grab a shot of her patterned plastron.

IMG_9930I felt a bit sorry to have disturbed her, but she didn’t seem too bothered, pulling her head, tail and legs in a classic defensive posture. As soon as she was righted, out she came and continued on her way. This is the first time I was able to get close, all the other sightings were too far away. These turtles can move pretty fast when they need to!

From what I read, they are omnivores with their favored food being earthworms and corn. The warm months find them living and feeding mostly on land, in fields, riparian woods and bogs, finding shelter in burrows and overhanging vegetation. Turtles seen sunning themselves aren’t just sunbathing for warmth, they need to dry their shell and skin to prevent fungal growth, which can adversely affect their health. They overwinter in muddy banks and stream bottoms and can live up to 100 years. Threats to their population are human development and habitat destruction, roadways, domestic pets and predators (particularly to hatchlings), and pollution. It is illegal to possess these as pets.

Lastly, I thought I’d include the symbolism of turtles which is peace, staying grounded, determined, slowing down, emotional strength and ancient wisdom. I’ll take my sighting today as assurance that I’m on the right path, stay the course and keep my solid connections with Mother Earth!



About Eliza Waters

Gardener, writer, photographer, naturalist
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30 Responses to Wood Turtle

  1. Jewels says:

    I love turtles! ❤

  2. Line says:

    Oh, she is magnificent!!! You know how much I adore turtles! Thank you so much for showing me this!! 🙂 It made me feel so happy! 🙂

  3. Beautiful pictures!

  4. mk says:

    What a delightful encounter with a beautiful creature, which we’ve gotten to share too. I appreciate the wisdom reminders that the turtle represents, also. It made me think that we too are under threat from human development, habitat destruction and pollution. Your turtle sighting is a reminder to us all.

  5. ladyfi says:

    What wonderful shots! I’ve always admired the turtle because the only way they have of getting anywhere is by sticking their necks out.

  6. I’ve always had a special spot in my heart for turtles and at one time was lucky enough to live in an almost-downtown city neighborhood that included a pond where turtles regularly sunbathed. Thanks for reminding me about my connection to these creatures.

  7. Robbie says:

    beautiful creature:-) I love the pattern on her back as she entered the water-stunning!!!! Just as if someone etched the shell….peace, I like that:-)

  8. dorannrule says:

    What a beautiful enigmatic figure she is! And how fortunate she is your regular visitor and stays relatively safe nearby.

  9. Sharon K. says:

    She’s fantastic :-). What a magical encounter. I love the symbolism, too.

    You’ve got a little of everything, Eliza. Sounds like paradise (except for the ticks!).

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Yes, it was paradise until a few years ago and the tick population boomed. Well, I have to remember that it STILL is a paradise, no matter what! 🙂 There is perfection in all things!

  10. wspines says:

    She is beautiful, the pictures are wonderful and thanks for giving us lot of information. My Grandson and I helped a Box Turtle cross the road yesterday. I haven’t seen as many turtles this year.. Great blog Eliza

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thanks, Carole. I always stop, too, when I see one and help it cross safely in the direction it was going. They need all the help we can give them.
      It has been a cool spring, so many may not be out yet. June is typical for breeding, but they’ll be more active now that the temps. have turned warmer. Keep your eyes peeled!

  11. I missed this posting early. What a blessing to receive some time with a turtle!

    • Eliza Waters says:

      I thought of you while I was observing her, wondering what her message was for me. All I could remember was the Native American tale of turtle carrying the world on her back. Then I read she is a messenger of peace, inner and outer, and knew it to be a good sign for me!

  12. Pingback: Turtles in Our Garden | Forest Garden

  13. Enjoyed this very much. I have a few turtles in my yard too, I love them.

    • Eliza Waters says:

      Thank you and welcome. Turtles fascinate me, they seem so ancient, wise and patient. Except maybe snapping turtles, they seem kind of feisty!

  14. Mr. Gentleduck says:

    Nice post, and I learned a new word, too—scute!

  15. Mary Holland says:

    Outstanding post, Eliza. I feel so badly not to follow your blog — it is really wonderful. After the next book, I shall sign up!

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