Sunday, June 28, 2020

Turtle Visits

In June, we had visits from three Woodland Box Turtles (Terapene carolina carolina). Formerly, these were named Eastern Box Turtles. The first one to see on June 6 was a delight because he was rescued 3 years ago. Here is the post from then:

"Flame" Rescue Turtle, Male, June 6, 2020

A non-scientific post I looked up online said that you could tell an approximate age of a box turtle by counting the rings on one scute on the shell. Two rings will form each year so I counted 16 so divided by 2, that makes Flame, the rescue turtle, about 8 years.

Flame has only 3 legs (one amputated during his rescue) and a scar from a likely vehicle encounter. He was found close to the road and in the driveway about 500 feet from where he was released.

"Shy" Turtle, Male, June 9, 2020

One morning, my husband alerted me that a turtle was in the mud puddle in our driveway. By the time I dressed, grabbed my camera, and went down there, I could not find the turtle. He had already left. I kept looking and finally found him hiding behind a tree on the hillside and about 10 feet from the puddle. I did see he had a red eye before he escaped into his shell to determine that he was a male.  He also has about 16 rings so he maybe around 8 years old.

I named this female box turtle "Cook" because I imagined that one of the patterns resembled a cook. I believe this is a female because her eyes are brown.  Once again, my husband alerted me but this time she was still in the puddle when I walked down there.  She was just walking around and drinking the water, creating a trail in the mud.  She did not seem afraid of me at all.

This view from the other side shows slightly different patterns. I am hoping I will be able to recognize her again from her patterns if she stops by again. I estimate she is about 6 or 7 years old.

We will probably have turtle visitors again when the blackberries ripen in about a week or so. They always come to get those that fall on the ground.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Cicada Invasion

Southwest Virginia is experiencing an onslaught of the 17-year cicadas.  I experienced them in 1986 and 2003 but was not home all the time as I am now so it has been very interesting to watch them emerge and listen to their songs.

Cicada May 23, 2020

While a few emerged a few days before, I first noticed a number of cicadas on May 23 but with no song yet.  My dogs, Daisy and Molly, noticed them right away. They ate quite a few that were still on the ground.  

Most seemed to gather on this small hickory tree.

Two days later, there were a few more on a hickory tree. And I started to hear them singing but not very loud.  

Every morning, I saw quite a few newly emerged cicadas on the ground. They stay there awhile while their wings finish forming and drying out. Then, they fly up into the trees. Every day, there were more and more.

June 8, Cicadas on Bradford Pear? 

I noticed one of our  "Arbor Day" trees (one I would like to cut down!) had a crowd of cicadas on it.

The above video is of that tree with the cicada sounds. Only the males make the sounds. In the background are more cicada sounds, more like a roar or the background music to a science fiction movie.  And sometimes I hear another sound, almost like the sound of the witches' army in The Wizard of Oz. Later in the evening, the cicadas die down but a few sound like lawn sprinklers.  All together they sound like a symphony during the day. We did hear the cicadas a few times in the middle of the night, probably prompted by the full moon. 

After the mating, the females deposit eggs in the branches of the trees. I remember last time, it was in the last 12 inches of a branch.  Once eggs hatch into larvae, feeding on the branch, they will eventually drop off and crawl back into the grouind. I remember in 2003 all the little branches on the ground.  It did not hurt the trees too much.  I did read it can hurt young fruit trees. 

I was lamenting that there did not seem to be too many birds at our feeders in the past week or two, mostly goldfinches and downy woodpeckers (a family feeding their young). Then, I realized the cardinals and blue jays were probably feasting on the cicadas which must taste very good. My dogs eat them too. 

I made this post to document their emergence on our land. I doubt my husband and I will still be living here in 2037, the next time they emerge!