Saturday, August 23, 2008

Turtles on Vacation

Over many years of being married to a turtle lover – my husband Allen – I’ve learned that there are, strictly speaking, only two types of vacations:

  1. Those undertaken for the express purpose of seeing turtles
  2. Those undertaken for simple rest and relaxation – along with the hope that one will see some turtles along the way.

Last week, we vacationed in Connecticut and Rhode Island – a rest and relaxation vacation. Nevertheless, there were turtle sightings, to wit:

We spied Eastern painted turtles at Mystic Aquarium’s wetlands pond.

At Marble House (below), a Gilded Age mansion in Newport, RI (now a museum), we took a self-guided tour. When we arrived in the kitchen, the narrator on the tape mimicked the sound of chopping off a terrapin head in preparation for cooking. (I guess this was a turtle “sounding” rather than a “sighting.”) Across the room, in a glass-fronted cabinet, was a turtle mold, made of what looked like pewter. Not sure what might have been cooked in the mold. Wasn't allowed to take photos in the house, so no picture of said mold.

And in Connecticut, at a Feast of Green Corn, known as Schemitzun, presented by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, we saw rattles, medicine pouches and dream catchers made by tribal artisans from turtle shells and other materials.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Turtle Pond Envy

I have a bad case of turtle pond envy.

Each time Allen and I visit friends who have a) a backyard, and b) a backyard turtle pond, we find ourselves, apartment dwellers that we are, wishing for a little bit more real estate for our turtles.

This weekend, we visited turtle friends who are blessed with both a backyard and a turtle pond/s.

Who wouldn't be envious?

Last year, we visited other turtle friends with a similarly
resplendent outdoor people-and-turtle set up.


Can Turtles and Iguanas Be Friends?

Yellow Foot Tortoise & Iguana

This was a question I'd never thought to ask - until yesterday, when Allen and I visited our friend AJ, an iguana rehabber. We see AJ at every reptile show at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY.

She's usually there with one or more iguanas who need homes, along with Merlin, an iguana who has the run of her Connecticut home, which she shares with her husband, two sons and approximately 35 other iguanas. (I didn't get an exact read on the lizard population -- the number may be higher, though I doubt lower.)

Just as many turtle lovers start out with one turtle, AJ started with one iguana, a birthday present from her family 12 years ago. Then, a friend wrote a story for a local publication about her iguana, and included AJ's phone number. "The phone hasn't stopped ringing since," says AJ.

I knew that we'd be seeing a large number of lizards; I just didn't realize that AJ also keeps turtles, tortoises (and frogs). Or, that her tortoises coexist quite nicely with her iguanas, as you can see, above and below.

The iguanas also coexist (for the most part -- gotta separate the dominant males) very well with each other. And many enjoy a swank picture window habitat.

The turtles in our house should have it so good!

]Fast friends
Red Foot Tortoise and Iguana
This is the life!


More Turtle Show Photos

One of the most exciting part of the Turtle Show is taking photos of people and turtles. In fact, it might just be the very best part. And this blog, well, it's a great forum to show off lots of those photos.

Turtle judging

Above, our turtle judge.

Next, some of the turtles he judged.

Redfoot tortoise

Above, a red foot tortoise.

Red Eared Slider Turtle

Above, a red-eared slider.

Star and Leopard Tortoises

Star and Leopard tortoises.

Mata Mata

A Mata Mata, or a South American leaf headed turtle. Yes, this really is a turtle!

Juvenile box turtle

Above, a juvenile Eastern Box turtle

Adult Chinese Box Turtle

An adult Chinese box turtle

Common Snapper photoshopped

A common snapping turtle (and "floating" friend). Yes, this was photo manipulated.

Turtle flip-flops

And the only pair of turtle flip-flops I've ever seen!

Bet you didn't know there were this many kinds of turtles in the world!

The Annual NY Turtle & Tortoise Society Show

One thing never ceases to amaze me about the annual New York Turtle & Tortoise Society (NYTTS) turtle show – how fast the time goes. Allen and I drive into Manhattan, arrive at the Village Community School at 11 am, and spend the next hour setting up (we don’t bring turtles; we bring turtle chotchkes to sell) in the school yard.

At noon, the “doors” open to people and turtles. What feels like mere minutes later, it’s 5pm – the white, red and blue ribbons are being announced, and the trophy for best turtle is given for health, longevity and breeding success.

And then it’s 6—time to pack up and go home.

How does the day go by so fast?

Many things remain the same from year to year: turtles bask in tanks and tubs and kiddie pools. Umbrellas provide shade for some; pottery shards, newspaper, and plastic tubs shelter others from the heat of the day.

Juvenile Chinese Box Turtle

Water turtles enjoy some shade.

Sulcatas, red foots, yellow foots and leopard tortoises mosey around the school yard, getting under people’s feet, eliciting oohs and ahhs and attracting everyone with a digital camera (including me, of course).

Dr. Roger Wood of the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, New Jersey is on hand with educational displays, adult and hatchling diamondback terrapins, students from Stockton State College and international interns learning about turtle conservation.

A veterinarian, most often Dr. Bill McCord, goes from turtle to turtle, carefully judging each turtle and giving each owner care advice. (How old is your box turtle and what are you feeding it? It’s two years old and you’re giving it fruits and vegetables? Try to give it worms once a week, or a pinky. It needs more protein at this stage of life.)

Dozens of turtle species are exhibited: red-eared sliders, snappers, spotted turtles, eastern box turtles, Chinese box turtles, Greek tortoises, cooters, mata matas, hingback tortoises, Horsefelds tortoises – even some Japanese pond turtles, which won this year’s grand prize.

Juvenile Japanese Pond Turtle

Winners 2008 Turtle Show

One thing is plain: people love their turtles!

Turtle lover and common snapping turtle.

Turtle lover and hingeback tortoise
Turtle lover and African sulcata (spur-thigh) tortoise.

When I can get away from our sale table, I walk around, take photos, talk to old friends, and do my own ohhing and ahhing over the turtles.

The day is rarely long enough!