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 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.
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