Turtles for Piper

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

April 28, 2012

This Note is for Piper, a young lady whom I met with her mother recently along the shores of Lake Holman. Piper liked turtles, and her mother was the kind of marvelous woman who was more than willing to squat along the verge and try to catch them for her little girl.

Folks, we need more of that.

Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)

Painted Turtles like to bask on logs.

Painted Turtles

The pattern of plates (scutes) on the shell may be different.

The turtles in the lake are mostly Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) and an occasional Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta). I suspect that we have Red-bellied Turtles in our local lake, but I have never seen one that I was certain of.

Painted Turtle hatchling

Turtle hatchlings are ridiculously cute. Painted Turtles are no exception.

Painted Turtles are by far the most common, and they are the ones usually seen basking on logs and along the bank. Some of the Painted Turtles have red bellies. However, it is “a truth universally acknowledged” that a turtle with a red belly is red-bellied turtle, but not necessarily a Red-bellied Turtle (Pseudemys rubriventris).1

Painted Turtles

The one on the left is not a Red-bellied Turtle, only a red-bellied turtle.

Painted Turtles are accomplished swimmers.

Painted Turtle swimming


Painted Turtle swimming


The Red-eared Slider is actually an invasive species in our part of the world. They are a problem because they often out-compete native turtles for resources. Red-eared Sliders are very popular in the pet turtle trade, but few folks are up to keeping a turtle for the long haul—they can grow to be a foot long and live up to 40 years. They also carry salmonella.2 It is against the law to release them into the wild, but folks do it all the time.

Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta)

Red-eared Slider. Note the red "ear," which is diagnostic.

Now for Piper, and for Piper’s Momma, and for all the other mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and anybody elses willing to do the good work of getting the young’uns out into the wild places, here is something I’m sure will be a great help.

It’s not about turtles; it’s about birds, and birds are a great introduction to all that is wild and beautiful. Bill Thompson has just released a new book, The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. It covers 300 birds that are most likely to be encountered in our area. The text is engaging, and the layout of the book invites learning and wonder.  This is a Peterson Field Guide, and in the Peterson tradition, it is simply excellent.

Thompson knows birdwatching; it’s in his blood, his parents started Bird Watcher’s Digest, and Bill is the current editor.  He is a renowned international authority, lecturer, and author, and he has poured that knowledge and experience into a book specially crafted for young people.

This is a great book, it will make a great birthday present, or a great present for any other reason.

  1. I recently had this truth confirmed by the eminent herpetologist, Dr. Tim Maret, of Shippensburg University. []
  2. Lianne McLeod, DVM, “Red Eared Sliders,” About.com Exotic Pets, http://exoticpets.about.com/od/aquaticturtles/tp/knowaboutRES.htm [Accessed 27 April 2012]. []

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you. Your turtle photos are gorgeous and your plug is greatly appreciated. I think it’s a pretty fantastic book, even though you shouldn’t listen to me because I did 200 drawings for it and I happen to be pretty crazy about the author.

  2. J.B. Wheatley said:

    What Bill (and you, with your 200 illustrations) has done deserves both the praise and plug. It is a mark of greatness whenever someone tries to do good beyond the horizon of their own lifespans. Our future will be improved by every young mind captured by that book. God bless, jbw

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