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turtle alert

“Turtle alert,” my wife yelled as she looked out the kitchen window to report movement in our backyard.” Sloth, for my part, will engender a second, higher-pitched horn call: “Turtle alert!” Should I foolishly ignore the call because I’m in some important function (like a video game), it repeats the alert louder and faster to make it sound like “turd alert”.

Sure enough, a good-sized terrapin, with diamond-shaped burnt orange markings on its shell, patrolled our lawn. More often than not, it craned its neck to gain more reach to support its search for the elusive mushroom, a garden delicacy it craves. However, a steady light rain will transform this armored gourmand into a “stud turtle.” We can only speculate that the rain acts as an aphrodisiac on our turtles. More of them come out of the woods to play in our backyard during a light rain shower, and we learn nature’s purpose as the males comically mount the females.

Probably, on sunny days, we only see male turtles. So, anything but social, they behave as if they are defending territory on such days, or reacting to a perceived theft of property. “Hey, that other turtle ate my mushroom!” They rarely fight. The larger ones will run towards the smaller ones, who will quickly drag you in a different direction. However, on rare occasions, two large turtles will engage in a staring contest. Their proximity seems a measure of determination. His art of war: serious looks, serious lack of movement and the tension in the air enters the house to affect my wife.

“What are they doing now?” she frets during a Hallmark Romance chick flick. Unable to enjoy the spectacle of her, she scours the rug to collect more turtle reports. Sometimes the star tortoise war will last for hours before it seems like some territory restructuring is taking place. Then, we see each of the big guys patrolling a different territory in our backyard… unless a mushroom comes into play.

Our terrapins are happy additions to our backyard animal visitors, which also include squirrels, rabbits, moles, the occasional red-tailed hawk, a deer, and more rarely, a wild turkey. At night, different animals start their shift: raccoons, foxes, opossums, and owls. But our warning about seeing any of the other wildlife, “I see nature,” seems to imply that terrapins have a special place in our lives. Glad the Australian Fitzroy River terrapins don’t visit. They are back breathers, something I’ve put on my “never want to see” list. #TAG1writer

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