Posts Tagged ‘Eastern box turtle’

City of Louisville as seen from the Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2016

Happy New Year to everyone out in the blogosphere!  Before closing the book on 2015, I want to thank everybody who checked out the old riverblog over the course of the year.  According to the WordPress stats wizards, I had people living in 107 different countries stop by to see what I was up to!  For an artist whose activities are as localized as mine are…publishing what I do on the world-wide web through this blog is an important part of my artistic activities.  It’s been great connecting with other creative minds and people trying to make a difference in their home locations.

The Ohio River elevated at the Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2016

As far as 2015 went…I haven’t heard the final statistics on this yet, but we either had our third or fourth wettest year on record.  We ended the year with the river at flood stage due to the great volume of rain that went through the Ohio Valley (although thankfully, we aren’t experiencing what’s going on at the moment on the Mississippi River).  We have also had an anomalous month of December that had several record-breaking temperatures with highs in the 70 degree range!  So much for a White Christmas.  These images were made on the first day of the new year and reflect the river actually going down after cresting on December 31.  We had two significant bouts of high water early in 2015 and we ended the year at the Falls of the Ohio underwater.  The four wettest years on record for our area have all happened since 1996.

Louisville as seen from the riverbank in Southern Indiana, Jan. 1, 2015

With holiday and work obligations temporarily out-of-the-way, I went out to the river on the first day of this new year.  The weather was seasonable, meaning it was actually chilly and I needed my gloves, hat, and heavy coat to stay warm.  The river level had dropped a little and side stepping the muddy areas I went to see if anything of interest had been stranded at the high water mark.  Most all of the areas at the Falls of the Ohio where I usually cache materials and make my art were underwater.  Here are a few of the things that I found.

Today's finds include three plastic ball pit balls, Jan.1, 2016, Falls of the Ohio

In addition to the usual Styrofoam and plastic containers…I found these three colorful plastic balls.  I found them at different places on the riverbank.  All three are hollow plastic balls that bear the ENOR stamp.  Looking up this company, they are a large toy manufacturer based on the East Coast that specializes in blown plastic toys.  In particular, they make the balls for ball pits.  Wal-Mart is a big distributor of their toys.  Ultimately, I don’t know what I’ll do with them?  I suppose they will enter the bags of other found balls that I’m currently storing in my basement awaiting inspiration.  The other really interesting item I encountered on this day is 100% natural and here are some images of this find.

Box turtle by a discarded tire, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2015

Near the Interpretive Center I came across other junk that had washed up with the river.  In the shadow of a discarded tire I spotted the distinctive pattern on the shell of an Eastern Box Turtle.  I assumed that this turtle was dead and washed into this area with the other river-born stuff and I picked it up to get a better look.

Found Eastern Box Turtle, Jan. 1, 2015, Falls of the Ohio

Side view, Eastern Box Turtle, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2015

Because of the cold, I was not certain whether or not this turtle was either dead or in a winter torpor?  It’s possible that the river washed it here, but then I would assume it would have drowned?  Another explanation I thought possible was that this turtle was still active due to the unseasonable warmth we had experienced and when the cold suddenly appeared and being cold-blooded it became trapped in this spot?  Normally, box turtles will dig and bury themselves under dirt and leaf debris to overwinter.  This guy probably didn’t get the chance to do this when the cold hit.  Regardless, I could not decide if this old turtle was still with us?  As a precaution, I brought it to the Interpretive Center and presented it to the park’s naturalist who said he would look after it.

Eastern Box Turtle carapace, Falls of the Ohio, Jan. 1, 2015

Eastern Box Turtle plastron, Jan. 1, 2016, Falls of the Ohio

I have heard that counting the growth rings on the turtle’s shell is a good gauge of determining its age.  This turtle’s shell is worn in places and the rings were difficult to count.  One estimate I came up with had it being about 35 years old or so.  You can fairly and reliably determine the turtle sex by looking at the plastron which is the shell that protects its belly.  If there is a concave area like this turtle has…it’s more than likely a male.  The simple explanation here is that to make mating easier…the concave area conforms to the female’s carapace and keeps the male from falling off.  Several years ago during another period of flooding, I came across eight different individual box turtles and photographed them.  Looking through my old images, I wondered if this was a turtle I had seen before and it was not.  I hope that this turtle is indeed alive and can be returned to the park.  I would think this would be a great sign for the new year.

As for what else I plan to do this year…well, much depends upon what the river gives me.  When the water subsides I will come out and take a look.  On January 8, the newly revamped Interpretive Center will open and I will get my first look at the installed 8 foot by 4 foot panel of assembled river found items I was commissioned to create.  I hope it all looks great and we shall see.  I also have two other opportunities to show my work in the new year and I will give you more details about those shows as they develop.  I haven’t ever been aggressive about seeking exhibition opportunities, but rarely turn down an invitation once it presents itself.  In closing, I was reminded of this plaque that is fixed to one of the outdoor walls at the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center.  In so many words, it gives as good an explanation as to why I use this place to site my art.  Here’s hoping we all have a memorable and wonderful 2016.  See you next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Plaque at the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center, Jan. 1, 2016


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With the record rains and high water at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, 2011 has already become a memorable year.  Of all the wildlife I have observed this Spring, the sightings of so many Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina) has added to the mystique of this year.  My history with this engaging turtle in this park is slim.  During the eight previous years I’ve come across live specimens only twice.  On two other occasions I’ve found the intact carapaces of deceased turtles, one of which had a pellet-sized hole in its shell.  Their relative scarcity reinforced the idea that although this is a widespread turtle in our country, it was becoming less common for many reasons including habitat loss, road kills, and wild animals collected for the pet trade.  What I’m about to present is a portfolio of eight individual box turtles that I have seen and photographed over the last two months.  No doubt the flooding helped concentrate them in ever shrinking territories and this is why I came to find them.  I tried to be careful in handling and left them where they were found.  The first turtle I came across was in the western section of the park and here are two images of it.

This one was found after the first flood.  It has really interesting and colorful beading on its neck.

The Box Turtle #2 was found swimming to higher ground during the height of the second flood in May and in the eastern section of the park.

Box Turtle #3, I found twice in the same day in the eastern section of the park.  Here is what it looked like. Note that the second scute bears what looks like a lower case letter “a” on its shell.

And now for the opposite side of turtle #3…

Here’s the same turtle the second time around and this time he has found a friend!

At first I thought this was a male and female turtle, but I didn’t check anything but eye color which in this case was on the red side indicating the chance they were both male.  When I came across them, they were certainly aware of each other.  The larger of the two box turtles may have been the older specimen based on how worn its shell was.  I’ve heard that counting the growth rings on these turtles is not a reliable way to determine their ages.  My field guides indicated that this is a long-lived turtle with individuals easily living to 40 to 50 years and in rare cases possibly a 100 years old.  Here are three images with Box Turtle #4.

Box Turtle #5 …I only have one image of it mostly retracted in its shell.  This one is also from the eastern section of the park. 

Box Turtle #6 is very colorful and was found near the Interpretive Center during the height of the flood.  Although it’s hard to tell…it’s standing on the remains of a refrigerator that floated in with the Ohio River.

The next two turtles are the smallest ones I’ve found thus far and each was found in the eastern section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  This is Box Turtle #7.

Here’s the underside of the same turtle showing the plastron and the hinge that allows the box turtle to completely hide inside its shell.

To close, I have three images of Box Turtle #8 and its the smallest yet.  One other thing I noticed about this little guy was that it was missing part of its left front foot which had healed from whatever injured it.

Another image to help provide scale using a quarter for a guide.

Of all the info I learned about box turtles, the fact that most surprised me is that if left alone they can live their entire lives in a relatively restricted area the size of a football field. They become so habituated to this territory that if they are moved from their familiar surroundings they can become dislocated and fail to thrive.  This is a good reason not to take these turtles out of the wild. I placed #8 on the ground wishing it well.  It pleased me knowing that there were at least this many box turtles in this small park.  I wonder how many others I will come across before year’s end?

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