10 July 2020
We're currently staying in a short-term vacation rental in Ventnor City, on the barrier island of Absecon. (That's pronounced ab-SEE-kin.) Last night and all day today, we've been feeling the effects of Tropical Storm Fay - about six inches or so of rain, flooded streets, wind of 40-50 mph (64-80 kph), with occasional gusts up to 60 mph (96 kph). But we have the ground floor of a duplex, and while we're close to the beach, we're far enough away that we're fine. Cozy and inside, with enough food to stay put for a day or two. All is good.
I wanted to share some more excitement in the backyard of S & J's house (Richard's brother and sister-in-law, so my in-laws but that always sounds like the parents-in-law).
Their backyard seems to be a turtle highway. Several weeks ago we had the lovely bright orange and black box turtle, presumably making its way to the Meadowlands, the marshy wetland area down at the end of the street.
Well last week, we had another turtle walking through, about dinner time. This one had a pale greenish grey color to the head, neck, and legs, with black or dark grey spots and marks. The carapace, the shell, was sort of a light greenish brownish grey (taupe? greige?) with the most gorgeous spiral designs on each scute, the overlapping scales that make up turtle shells. It really was a very distinctive looking turtle, and it was moving quite quickly through the backyard toward the Meadowlands (locally called the Meadow).
It didn't take much research to find out that this was a northern diamondback terrapin. Terrapins are basically turtles that live part of the time on land and part of the time in brackish water, that mix of salt and fresh water found in coastal waterways and estuaries. Terrapin is an Algonquin word that means "little turtle."
S took a couple of photos of our terrapin, but Terry Diamondback Terrapin was looking for a shortcut and wasn't going to pose. So I'm including a batch of photos from online, just so you can see how pretty he/she was.
I gave Terry D. Terrapin a talk, to stay on the lawns and avoid roads. To follow the fence to the driveway and then turn left. And keep going, heading down the very slight hill, to the Meadows.
Well, I later learned that it's okay to pick up turtles (and terrapins) that are in roadways, and carry them in the direction they are heading, preferable near bodies of water.
I was driving back from a medical appointment, and noticed a basic painted turtle in the road. These are the dark turtles with little stripes of yellow or orange or red, usually on their necks and legs, sometimes on the edges of their carapace.
So, Painted Turtle was crossing from the Meadow to someone's lawn, presumably to eat some shorter grass. (Again, internet photos here.)
I wasn't sure what to do, so I stopped. There wasn't anyone driving behind me, this isn't the main road. I turned on my flashing hazard lights, and allowed the turtle to sloooowly walk across. There was an approaching vehicle at one point, so I opened my window and waved for them to slow down, and they stopped. We both sat there a good five minutes, waiting for the turtle to get across. Turtles don't seem to walk in a straight line, so it took quite a while.
These turtle encounters made me curious, so I did a bit of research. Small turtles like these (up to roughly 12" or 30 cm in diameter) can be picked up and carried to safety. The best way to carry them is to put one hand on each side of the shell, close to the back legs, fingers on the under shell and thumbs holding the top shell. Pick up gently, don't drop your turtle friend. DO NOT pick them up by the tail, that can damage their spine.
Larger turtles, and especially snapping turtles, you can either lift as described above, or the safest is to lift the back end and sort of wheelbarrow walk the turtle across the road. (Remember wheelbarrow walking in phys ed in elementary school? Like that.)
I reported the terrapin sighting to the New Jersey Wildlife Conservation something, but we're close enough to water that no one has contacted us.
Just to round out the Walt Disney quality of the backyard, we now have a baby bunny. We hadn't seen the adult rabbits in a bit, they seemed to be hanging out at one of the neighbors recently. And then this little tiny bunny appeared one afternoon, hopping out from the space under the back deck. We think that's where the rabbit nest was, though we haven't seen Mama Rabbit in a while, just the baby.
But seriously, is this not one of the most adorable baby animals you've ever seen? He/She is smaller than a squirrel, but slightly bigger than a chipmunk. Just about the size of a sparrow, because they hop around in the grass looking for insects and seeds right by Little Bunny. Baby B is barely able to see over grass that is maybe 2" tall. The little white clover flowers are bigger than Baby Bunny's nose!
I can watch Baby Bunny for an hour, though he/she isn't out that long. Maybe about 15 minutes at a time, nibbling on some of that grass, or the moss, or trying out a clover or two. Then a little bit of exploring time - Baby B seems to be interested in the green gutter spout, and I keep hoping he/she doesn't go exploring inside!
Then a little time stretching out in the cool grass, and then suddenly a few speedy hops and Baby Bunny is under the deck once again.
The grainy photos are mine, taken through the kitchen window and window screen - I don't want to scare little Baby B away.
The other, clearer photos are also from online, usually from articles about finding baby bunnies, and why you shouldn't adopt them. Most baby rabbits don't venture out of the nest until they really are able to find their own food. Their mothers are usually somewhat nearby, possibly still in the nest nursing the rest of the littler. Any rabbit kits (also called a kittens, which is truly odd) that are out of the nest are able to eat grass and flowers. And while they look vulnerable, they usually don't wander very far until they're older and bigger. Wild rabbits are difficult to raise, so if you do find what seems to be a lost baby rabbit, please leave it alone unless it's injured. Mama Rabbit will take care of it. (If it is injured, call your local wildlife people, they'll know what to do.)
And that's the excitement of Week #16 in the Pandemic of 2020. I know, there's all the political stuff happening around the world.
But I'm happier watching baby bunnies and interesting terrapins.