Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Turtle Life Part 5: Spring Emergence

A baby turtle on its journey to water.
Black is all you ever have seen. You and your sisters are packed into your subterranean nest, and you have just endured a cold winter.  But days are getting longer, and sunlight more intense, and the soil begins to thaw and then warm.  On a hot rainy day in March, you and your sisters begin to claw your way through the moistened soil.  You have several centimeters to dig through, and you reach the surface.  Your first glimpse of light!   However, you are an aquatic turtle, yet mom put your nest far into the land.  For each meter she crawled out of the water, you have to crawl back.  With her size, she can walk that far in ten minutes, but it will take you days.  You are about the size of a quarter.  The lawn grass towers above your head.  Divots in the ground are like canyons, and slight rises are like mountains.  You cannot see the water directly, but you can sense it, and start walking towards the water.  Your dark colored carapace helps camouflage you, but there are predators everywhere.  Little blackbirds, blue jays, herons, crows, raccoons, bullfrogs, and anything else that can fit you into their mouth might eat you.  And if you don’t make it in time, you could dry out and die.  In early mornings and late evenings you march towards water, but its too hot in the middle of the day and too cool in the night.  Inch by inch, you get closer to your goal until you finally reach the swamp.  Your first swim in the water feels natural, as this is your real home.  While you still need to avoid fish, frogs, wading birds, and many other predators, you have already beaten many of the challenges you face.  If you are able to survive, you will come back to the nesting beach where you were laid, but 5 years later, to lay your first clutch of eggs.  Your first year of  life is now complete.

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