Ambush in the Weigela

The other day, I was walking down the lane rather quickly and shouting for Oscar and Lollipop to “C’mon you two! Get over here NOW!”. Those two are trouble with a capital T. Each day I take them walking with me to the mailbox at the street, and almost always I have to yell for them to follow instead of getting sidetracked along the way. Both of them like to taste just about every nasty thing they can find – toad poop, dead leaves, pine cones, rocks, dead bugs and dried grass clumps from the mower. Flipping through the few pieces of junk mail as I walked the driveway, a strange noise captured my focus. It sounded like repeated clacking. Listening closely, I followed the sounds to the Weigela shrub near the metal building. Two turtles were wrestling around – it looked like one was trying to get away from the other. So yelling even more fervently at the dogs to come HERE, I ran to the house hoping Oscar and Lollipop would follow suit and, thankfully, this time they did.

I did not bother going after the camera with the zoom lens. The situation under the shrubs would only allow for the iPhone. I could get video easy that way, if the battle was still going on. It never failed though, as fast as I could gather a camera and run, I usually missed all of the good action, always taking too long to get back to an interesting scene. Sure enough, on my return, I could see that things had progressed to something more serious and quiet, if not weirdly romantic. I did not wish to intrude on the copulating couple, yet this was not something I had ever witnessed before. Only one other time had I come across turtles mating, but they were just pulling apart as I walked up. These two did not seem bothered at all by my presence. I had plenty of time to get video, thank goodness, because each time I looked at what I’d done, I realized the angle wasn’t right, or I messed up the video trying to move branches and leaves out of the way. I finally ended up crawling under the Weigela bush, lying on my belly to get the best photos and video. I was able to observe up close and was fascinated by what I saw, yet I also felt a bit intrusive by being so close. I hoped I had not interfered in their moment too much. It was probably about fifteen minutes before the two of them detached, and the male quickly flipped back over. In no time, the female made her way towards our house, diving into the shade of the front flower bed.

Upon doing some research later, I realized that I must have first observed the pursuit of the male after the female, thus the “clacking” noise, and I had probably missed the mount and the initial moments of mating when I rushed to the house to retrieve my iPhone. Usually, the male will stand up on his hind legs and place his plastron (lower part of his shell) upon her carapace (upper part of her shell).  Often he will grip her with his hind legs and wedge his claws between her plastron and carapace so that she cannot close up inside her shell to avoid him. By the time I got to the scene, the female had already become impatient apparently, and had toppled the male over onto his back, dragging him around behind her. I noted her claw marks in the soil from the west side of the bushes all along the metal building, so she had obviously left him hopelessly trying to finish his business while she dragged him along. Still, she didn’t seem to mind his presence nor the activity taking place. He stayed connected of course, until the act was completed and his penis had slipped back into his cloaca. Once separation occurred, he quickly retracted the legs on his left side, curled his tail inside along his shell, and did a flip using his right legs to get back on all fours. That flip happened so fast I had no opportunity to record it, but I was amazed at how easily he turned back over.

I heard a strange “clacking” noise coming from the shrubs as I walked down the lane.
The female (right) has no problem taking off rather quickly after copulation. In just a few minutes I saw her duck into the shade of the flower bed in front of the house.
Just before flipping over, the male tucks his tale. I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to capture the flip!
The female has broken loose and the male rests a moment. He retracts his legs on his left side in preparation to do a very quick flip back on all fours.
The penis has withdrawn back into the cloaca, which is just visible here, towards the underside of the tip of the male tail.
Often the male will grip the female with his hind-legs and wedge his claws between her plastron (lower part of shell) and carapace (upper part of shell) so that she can’t close up inside her shell.
Creeping into the undergrowth of the shrubs I saw the source of the commotion – two box turtles locked together. One appeared to be dragging the other. At first I thought maybe this was some sort of battle, but no! With just a few moments of observation, I understood exactly what was going on here!

I now wonder if the female was just wandering along and was ambushed by this male, or if she went looking for a little “afternoon delight”?  And just maybe, if I had not been so sidetracked about what Oscar and Lollipop were getting into, I may have seen the whole mating act. Ah well, sometimes the questions of life are best left to mystery.

© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


38 thoughts on “Ambush in the Weigela

      1. No.
        Arborists are ‘generally’ a rather coarse bunch. ‘Some’ have a habit of smacking their colleagues hard hats with their own hard hats, while making reference to busy turtles. It can be annoying.

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    1. I did a squirrel copulation post a few years back, but I did not have good close-up photos. I see a lot of R-rated insect shows around here but rarely with mammals. One never knows what will present itself in nature!

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  1. Umm… I don’t even know what to say about this one. 🙂 However, it IS part of nature and, if you have lived on a farm, it’s not something you’re unfamiliar with. I can understand why you would be excited to see this. Perhaps you’ll see some babies in about 3 months… you’ll know where they came from!

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    1. I understand that the female can wait to lay her eggs for several years. And if she is inseminated by several different males before she lays eggs, it’s possible for them to have different paternal ties. We occasionally see baby box turtles around here. I was surprised to find a tiny red-eared slider a couple of years back. They are an aquatic turtle and what a hatchling was doing next to the chicken pen was a mystery to me.

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  2. The male box turtle must have a great set of abs under his shell! I wonder where she will choose to lay her eggs. Maybe in your garden! Great post.

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    1. Thanks, Kim! That’s what I was thinking about the male too. And I was bowled over with the quick flip back on all fours. Somehow I thought a turtle on its back would have trouble righting itself. I just explained to Ellen above, that I discovered during research reading that the female can wait to lay her eggs for several years. And if she is inseminated by several different males before she lays eggs, it’s possible for them to have different paternal ties. If she does lay eggs around here she will have a lot of options with gardens and flowerbeds!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This great info, Lori. I have often wondered how turtles mate. And thank you for posting this. I think some folks are squeamish about reading anything that is even remotely sexual but this is life and it is nature. It is in books and in order for species to survive mating must occur.

    It will be interesting to learn if you see little turtles in the future. I have not seen a box turtle in many years. They just are not that common anymore in my area. I hope though, that box turtles remain in good numbers else where.

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    1. Sadly, box turtles (and red-eared sliders in this area) are sought out for pets. I think that is why we do not see so many. And many are tragically run over on the highways while crossing. I’m always very careful to watch for any wildlife when I’m driving. We are fortunate to see many species of turtle on this place. I think it helps that the river, old river channel and slough are near, and the woodlands of course. I see turtles all of the time in the woods. They like my flowerbeds too!

      I find any behavior in nature completely fascinating. I still remember the day we had a state biologist on our property to help give pointers on white-tail deer management – what vegetation or trees to get rid of to make for more deer and wildlife friendly plants and trees to grow. Some plants that he claimed were of no nutritional value to deer were plants that I had observed deer feeding from in the autumn when the berries were ripe. In fact, I had seen several does stand on their hind legs to bat the fruit from the branches so they could eat it! So, to me, anything we observe helps us to better understand wildlife and this ecosystem that we share. Procreation varies so much in all species… and while it’s about survival of a species, it’s interesting to note how it occurs and when it happens.

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      1. Certainly you do have prime habitat for so many species. I will write again that you and FD or truly blessed to have the acreage. I don’t know if you guys had visions about an oasis for wildlife or if it was luck when you purchased the property. A true mature lover would die for your property.

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        1. I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder, Yvonne. Some people might think it’s just a snarl of woods. Some of the neighbors do not like the varmint traffic (skunks, opossums, armadillos, raccoons, etc). There’s more good news about the area that I’ll be posting about – that will create an even safer environment!

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          1. Oh the neighbors- what do they know? So misinformed. Too bad they do not know the value of wildlife and what the animals and insects do for the environment. Will look forward to your posting about your area and the environment.

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    1. You are correct, Margaret! Once the eggs are laid in a shallow hole, and camouflaged a bit, the female wanders away never to return. We’ve seen a few baby turtles here on the place, usually in the flowerbeds around the house.

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  4. Wow, Lori, how impressive that you were observant enough to discover these two despite the shenanigans of the dogs. What fun to peek behind the curtain of Mother Nature and see how these things work. A humble reminder, too, since it all looks pretty familiar, that we Homo sapiens are part of the animal kingdom.

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    1. It’s funny, Monica, that FD and I have so much trouble hearing each other, but I have radar for everything nature, and I hear it well. Even the tiniest insects, I have no trouble locating by listening.

      I am a little surprised at how people seem to dance around the subject of copulation. I suppose I’m just a very matter-of-fact person. I was elated and fascinated by what I saw, and I like how you put it – “peek behind the curtain of Mother Nature”. I find these opportunities to observe real life happening as a gift from Mother Nature.

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      1. What you said about not hearing each other yet hearing nature voices is really interesting, Lori. I often experience that. It’s rather good news, I think: we humans (well, many of us, I hope) haven’t evolved too far away from the woods–yet.

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  5. Perfect title for an informative and gently humorous story. My favorite photograph is the one showing an exhausted and slightly embarrassed guy turtle lying on his back trying to figure out what the F___ just happened.

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    1. Ha ha! He recovered quite quickly I must say, and that flip he did to get on all fours was fast and amazing. I read that sometimes copulation with box turtles can last an hour or more. This makes me wonder if I did interrupt and things ended before they should have.

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      1. I decided to call him Turtle Man. With that flip he’d be an inspiration at our gym. Most of us can barely get up from the mat after stretches and shaky leg lifts. And imagine the locker room talk.

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  6. I love the video, Lori — I’ve never seen turtles copulate before. Excellent work crawling under the weigela! And the bit about the female sometimes waiting years to lay eggs is really interesting too. Thanks for the education, as always. 🙂

    (Not sure if it’s just on my computer or what, but this post has a bunch of visible coding after the video….)

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    1. Thanks, Kim. And thanks for letting me know about the “coding” after the video. It is not visible on my end so I appreciate knowing this. I will have to inquire about this… I’ve already complained about a few other things recently. I’m very unhappy with WordPress right now. Daily I get numerous followers, and they’re all bogus sites. And with the notifications of new followers I get prompts from WordPress that my views are booming and now is a good time to think about upgrading. I wonder if it’s all WordPress generated? I’ve been with WordPress since 2011, and hate to start looking elsewhere. And maybe, I just need to be patient. 🙂

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    1. Ha ha! I’m pretty sure it was a sneak attack. I have seen a turtle living under the fringes of our big storage building. He probably came out as she passed by. By the sound of the clacking shells, and from what I saw initially, he was fairly aggressive. I wished I’d had my iPhone with me and I wouldn’t have missed that initial hookup. Ah well, regardless of what I missed, I was able to observe far more than I had managed in the eleven years we’ve lived here. Nature is fascinating and often quite entertaining.

      Your world makes ME smile! 😀

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