The Turtles of Turtle Hill

By Terry Golson


We first saw our new home in January.

Behind the house are 4,000 acres of protected wildlands. One reason why no development is allowed there is that this ecosystem is home to the endangered Blanding’s Turtle. I’d not heard of this turtle species before looking at this house in this small corner of Maine. But I very much liked the idea of a special reptile on our land. I thought that perhaps we should name the house Turtle Hill.

After moving here, I thought maybe we should name it Windy Hill.

 

The name of the place was still open for debate, but then the turtles, specifically the female residents of this land, went on the move. It’s egg-laying season, and our hill above the marsh, with loose ground in the sun, is their place of choice.

A spotted turtle crossed the driveway on her search for the right place to make her nest.

 

Getting home can take extra time, because we help turtles across the road. The town keeps the road dirt just for the turtles! (If they’re in danger of being run over, you can pick them up, take them in the direction they’re going, and set them down at the verge, so they can continue on their prescribed journey. Do not think that you know better than a turtle. It will go where it needs to go. If it is a snapper DO NOT pick it up. It can reach around and bite your finger off. A very long stick or a shovel is required to move those creatures along.)

 

Many painted turtles are laying their eggs in our meadow. Yesterday I saw five. I’m sure there were more.

 

Scooter is not sure what to think of them. This is as near as he’s gotten.

 

But we don’t want him to disturb the turtles. We also don’t want Scooter walking in the tall grass, as he comes back covered in ticks, so we put an x-pen out the back door. He can go out and pee and come right back in.

 

However, I always check to make sure that one of the residents hasn’t, somehow, made their way into the pen. Like this painted turtle who decided to lay eggs on Scooter’s side of that fence. (We moved the fence after she was done.)

On that day, Scooter stayed on a leash, and went out the front door to do his business. Keeping the little dog on a leash isn’t a bad idea. There are other species of turtles on the move.

This snapping turtle laid eggs in three nests right by the front porch. Those spots on her shell are flower petals! It was a rainy day, and she’d trundled through the blooming meadow to get there. It made her look charming, but snappers are fearsome animals.

 

This morning, I saw this snapper through my bathroom window. So prehistoric looking.

We have yet to see a Blanding’s turtle.  Still, the name Turtle Hill is more than appropriate for our new home, so that’s what it is.

Have you named your home? What and why?

Added note: I have so many things to learn about these animals! We’re looking for good resources and field guides. Suggestions?


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17 thoughts on “The Turtles of Turtle Hill

  • Gary and Miriam Hedderson

    Terry…this is amazing to follow. We have turtles here in Madawaska Valley – all kinds. We live on Kamaniskeg Lake and, last year, a small snapping turtle made her way up from the water (75 feet) and then rested near our house. We went to take a picture and I noticed that she watched me carefully – neck moving to follow me. I wondered if she saw ‘colour’. I looked it up! She does! And she especially sensitive to red. I was wearing a bright red shirt. Enjoy all this….we love to hear all about it.

    • Terry Golson Post author

      What you’re talking about is one of my favorite subjects – an animal’s umwelt (how they uniquely perceive the world, which affects everything including behavior.)

  • Cindy Bates

    Terry, your new home is beautiful, as is the land around it. Tonka seems to be adjusting well to his new home too. I have enjoyed your pictures. Keep them coming!

  • Louise Hornor

    My husband and I have named all three of our homes. The first was a condo in an urban downtown, called “The City House.” The next was a converted tour bus, “Odyssey” and now we live on our boat, “Vector.” Naming vessels is not unusual, of course. But we name all our vehicles: cars, motorcycles, and scooters. Perhaps I’ll name my next scooter, “Little Dog” to maintain balance in the universe.

  • Daisy

    Thanks for the news and the great pictures ! Loved Scooter being curious… the turtles are very intriguing indeed and looking forward to learn more about them ! This is a very, very close neighbourhood LOL !
    I had not officially named my home but taking the opportunity for THE LAIR as it is the way I designed it when talking with people 🙂
    You have chosen a very beautiful place for this new stretch of life !

  • Judy Throm

    O-h-h-h-h Turtle watching – what fun! Yes Terry, you’ve found the perfect name for your new home/acreage. The little spotted turtle is particularly endearing! Several years ago I volunteered at an animal rehab center, and turtles were a part of my care (I also fed lots of baby birds, squirrels and possums). When you moved to Maine did you manage to leave the Fisher Cats behind? I always thought your tales of the FC where quite fearsome!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      There are more fisher cats in Maine than where we used to live. They used to be deep woods animals – you’d know you were in wilderness when you saw signs of these animals. They were never near humans. Maine was perfect for them. But they’ve been moving ever closer to suburbia because they’re opportunistic hunters and have discovered the ease of hunting domestic animals.

  • Ann Shill

    Years ago my sister and I were taking a sharp curve behind the reservoir on rte 9 in Brookline Ma. There was a HUGE turtle right in our path. We pulled the car over and decided to “help” it. I don’t know the species but this turtle was trying to bite with one end and gouge with lethal looking claws on the other. Out of necessity we got it back to the side of the road from where it had come. I’m sure it was swearing as it headed back into a woodsy area by climbing a 4 foot chain link fence! What a memory! PS- How are the Ladies and the Gems?

  • Jan

    Your new property is amazing, you will have some wonderful new adventures. Our bungalow already had a name ” Heathside ” because we are surrounded by the heaths of the New Forest and all the Horses, Cows and Pigs that roam free. We have some wonderful wild flowers including Orchids, but no Turtles very envious. So glad all the animals very sorted and settled.. Loving all your blogs as usual…:)