Turtle, Times Two


Late on Christmas afternoon, two turtles had trundled up this tiny snag to enjoy the sunshine and the gift of an especially warm day.

Cold-blooded, turtles control their body temperature by basking in the sun to absorb warmth and UV rays. Heat is radiated to their bodies from their shells, but they often will stretch out their legs to collect additional heat. In the photo below, you can see how far their legs are extended, and how they’ve widened their feet to increase the surface area even more.

I usually see turtles lying prone on logs, but these seemed comfortable at about a 60 degree angle. It’s clearly a favored spot. I’ve seen this pair of what I presume to be red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) on the same snag three different times, but this is the first time I’ve caught their reflection in the water.


Comments always are welcome.

63 thoughts on “Turtle, Times Two

    1. There’s no ‘may’ about that — it was one of the most memorable commercials of the time.

      I also thought I remembered a recent post from you that included a little fun with two plus two and two times two. I was going to link to it, but couldn’t find it. What’s certain is that, in this case, two turtles plus two reflections equals four turtles.

    1. Since I never was able to get a look at the markings on their heads, the lines on those shells helped me ID them as red-eared sliders. I was impressed by their ability to keep from sliding off their perch.

      Happy New Year to you — it’s hard to believe twenty years have passed since the world was fussing over Y2K.

            1. As my great-aunt Rilla liked to say, “Tempus fidgets.” (She was the one who also coined the term ‘house of the seven Grables’ and called our fantasies ‘fig newtons of our imagination.’)

  1. Great shot! The Doublemint kids here are tilted up at such an angle, they almost look like refrigerator magnets. Turtles’ backbones are fused to the shell, so the sun must feel great on their backs.

    1. You’re right ~ that refrigerator magnet image is perfection.

      I recently learned that many (if not most) turtles’ shells are covered with hard, protective scutes made of keratin, the same protein as in our fingernails. Not all turtles shed their scutes as they grow, but some species of water turtle — like this one — do shed them on an annual basis. Apparently they’re translucent and a little hard to see, but it would be fun to find one.

  2. Love the way you’ve caught the reflections as well as the turtles themselves. Hopefully two turtles means lots more in the future…

    1. After seeing what I’m sure is the same pair multiple times in the same spot, I suspect they’re a couple, so baby turtles are a real possibility. I’m going to have to read up on sliders to learn something about when or where to see the young. For all I know, they may stay hidden away until they’re large enough to be mistaken for adults. Surely there’s a “Turtles for Dummies” book that will tell me.

    1. I was pretty excited to find this pair. I rarely see turtles, and when I do they’re often too far away for a decent portrait.These required a telephoto lens, but their angle on the snag made them easier to photograph. I doubt they’re basking today, unless they’re basking in mud; it’s turned a little cold again.

  3. Nice turtle mathematics. If you were a 1st or 2nd grade teacher, these shots would be perfect examples of the addition/multiplication taught. Nevertheless, for those of us who appreciate wildlife and gorgeous photography, you also rendered a good deed with this post.

    1. These shots might even have helped me in first or second grade. I was one of those who had a very hard time with arithmetic, let alone geometry and algebra. Pictures of turtles might have helped.

      This pair never moved while I was there – about an hour and a half. My sense was that they were warm and happy, and wouldn’t move as long as the sun was shining.

  4. I’ve seen a few turtles climb onto a log, but never perched and sunbathing at such an angle. This is a great catch, Linda. And the reflection makes it even better. Your comment about them stretching their legs out to gather warmth reminded me of a post from several years ago before we made each other’s acquaintance.

    1. I wish I could have gotten a clearer view of exactly how they were positioned on the snag, but I was on a boardwalk and there wasn’t any other vantage point. Like the turtle in your post, they seemed perfectly balanced, but I don’t know how they were managing it. I suppose the front feet were helping, but that’s a lot of turtle to be hanging by two feet.

      Alligators will spread their feet when they’re basking in the sun, too. They’re so big they need a lot of surface area to obtain warmth, so their scutes form little ‘peaks’ on their backs — elevating the skin and exposing more surface to sunlight. It’s a cool way to get warm.

      1. I’ll tell that if I were seeking warmth that way it’d be flat on my back. Of course, I know why a turtle would do it that way but I guess those tiny little feet might be why a gator doesn’t either. I envy turtles’ apparent sense of balance. I can hardly keep mine on solid ground.

    1. Their little spot not only was sunny and warm, it was well away from passers-by. I’ve seen some nutria in the pond, and several species of waterfowl, but no alligators, so they could nap without worry. I certainly wasn’t going to bother them — I was there only to admire.

    1. It was one of those nice encounters you wrote about in your recent post. Seeing the turtles would have been fine enough; seeing the ‘turtles times two’ was even better.

  5. The turtles make a lovely reflection.

    (Turtles are a favourite of mine since I used to see them many years ago in the Royal Botanic Gardens, often catching them digging in the sand to bury their eggs).

    1. It helped that there was some high cloud. Given their angle, I suspect bright sunlight would have bounced off their shells a little too sharply.

      Down on our beaches, there are people — the ‘turtle patrol’ — who seek out the nests of endangered sea turtles, especially the Kemp’s ridley, and collect the eggs. They’ll announce releases ahead of time, and it’s possible to watch the hatchlings head back to sea.

  6. What a Christmas gift you received from those two turtles and a perfectly placed sun. It’s a wonderful photo. I don’t see them often at the ditch — when I do, it’s special. Nice you’ve seen this pair more than once!

    I’m catching up after a week off blog. I know I’ll have more treats in store!

    1. After a few years of roaming around, I’m certain of one thing: there’s always something to see. I’ve never spent time in nature without finding something beautiful, unusual, odd, or just plain weird. What could be better than a year filled with gifts? I hope the coming new year is filled with them for you and Rick.

    1. There certainly are human beach-goers who believe exposing every possible centimeter is a good idea — even if in some cases it isn’t. These certainly are cute; I’d love to see some young ones, who could only be cuter.

        1. If nothing else, there’s always the release of the baby sea turtles that takes place every year after volunteers collect their eggs from the beaches and hatch them. The ‘turtle patrol’ is a real thing!

    1. That’s right; They aren’t lazy — that basking is part of what keeps them healthy and comfortable. I like the diagonal, too, and the way the reflections extend behind the turtles as well as in front of them.

    1. It would have been fun to catch a glimpse of their faces, but this did well enough. I’d seen and photographed this pair before, but the reflection this time was the perfect touch. One of the best things about returning to the same spot multiple times is getting a sense of just who’s living in the neighborhood, and being able to predict who might be out cruising — or lounging — around.

      1. Well I, for one, am very glad you’re familiar with the neighbourhood, lol. Best wishes for a very Happy 2020 Linda!
        I’m hoping it’s not just wishful thinking on my part, but the very act of writing down and actually seeing this number feels to be of great portent… Be well. xo Deb

        1. Well, they do say that 20/20 vision is a good thing — not to mention 20/20 hindsight! Let’s hope our hindsight helps us to see the path forward more clearly.

  7. This delightful image took me immediately back in time, when I lived in walking distance (on a good day) of a small lake. It had a walking track and boardwalk, and sometimes I was lucky enough to see the shelled creatures resting and sunning on the logs above the water.
    Of course, I love their capacity to have their own portable home, and I’ve a tiny ceramic one that travels with me. One day I saw a green van called the turtle, and met the owner.

    1. Until I began reading about the sliders, I had no idea there are so many species here in Texas. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a box turtle, and I’d love to encounter one.
      I didn’t realize how fast they can move, either. I encountered one in East Texas, and by the time I’d taken about five steps and turned around to photograph it, the creature was gone, as surely as if it had vaporized. They’re truly amazing.

  8. I love the pic of the turtles. I don’t think that I have seen any before with their legs stretched out. I had to look long and hard to determine that these were just two turtles. Great find for sure with the refections in the water.

    1. Aren’t those reflections fun? And aren’t their legs long? I’ve always assumed turtle legs were quite short, but these seem to contradict that. I started wondering whether these were male or female, and after watching this video, my suspicion is that they’re both male. The long toenails and the much longer tail are characteristic. The one on the left really does look like a male, so I’m assuming the other one is, too, since the females are noticeably larger.

    1. We’d hoped for a little sun and a little basking yesterday, but it wasn’t to be. Our weather is roller-coastering now, but eventually it’s going to become true winter, and these will go into the mud. At least, that’s what I think they’ll do. My turtle knowledge is minimal at this point, but I’ll learn.

  9. Wonderful photograph! I actually thought it was four turtles for the first moment. As a kid I had a box turtle as a pet, so I have always had a warm spot for turtles.

    1. I’d see this pair before, but this time some combination of the sun’s angle and the turtles’ slant on the snag combined to create the reflection. I was tickled with it, believe me. I think a turtle for a pet would be fun. I knew a fellow from Wales who had a tortoise that he’d had for years and years. I don’t know whether Henry (the tortoise) still is alive, since the fellow stopped blogging, but it was fascinating to follow the complexities of getting Henry ready for hibernation, out of hibernation, and so on. As I recall, Henry was quite fond of lettuce.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.