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A long first journey

The beginning of June (in normal years; mid-May this time around the sun) times the arrival of hummingbirds from above and gravid turtles from below.  On just one house lot not quite neighboring the pond, an average of 12~15 snapping and eastern painted turtles lay, mainly during a two-week period. (Layovers in smaller satellite and garden ponds allow the expectant mothers to delay laying for up to a few weeks.)

Bleached duckweed

Seeking friable or sandy soil and good southern exposure, most seem to survive difficult trek through rough woodland, up steep banks and past other obstructions, with predator attack or automobile accident claiming a few.

The majority of these nests do not survive their first night, scent cues of turtle and disturbed earth attracting ovivores within hours of most nestings. By the end of the first week, hundreds of leathery remains signal good fortune for skunks, raccoons and perhaps others (see p.27).

A sad day for chelydra-kind

However, just enough evade detection to maintain (apparently) stable populations. Hatching occurs throughout the autumn, occasionally on a warm day in winter, and is sometimes delayed until the following spring.

New-born snapping turtle, yolk all et up

Hatchlings are easy prey for all sorts of land animals, bullfrogs and birds. If adults can take several hours to trek up from the pond, the journey back for a toddler that cannot clamber over rocks and branches must be heroic indeed.

Then, after a few years on a diet of worms and leeches and ducks, half (depending on incubation temperature) may return to continue the cycle.

First sight of the promised land – er, water

 

Weeding by Thor

Cloud-to-cloud

 

Don’t stand under a tall tree during a storm…

Late on Friday afternoon, a brief but violent thunderstorm took a narrow track through town. Along with gusty winds and hail came an unusual amount of lightning. On this side-road above Farrar Pond, a bolt hit slightly below the top of a 90-foot eastern white pine

After the strike

causing a steam explosion that blew warm bark and bone-dry shards all around the area. A large amount of energy was apparently deposited in a zone about 18 feet up from the ground, leaving a little soot from pyrolized pitch

and blasting out about two yards of the tree’s core.

Heartwood attack

The trunk was split vertically along two lines, leaving most of the mass supported by a narrow strip in the middle. The whole thing teetered alarmingly (see video here) so police closed that part of the street until a sharp gust of wind finished the take-down on Saturday afternoon

with enough force to land the whole upper section all the way out onto the street. Remarkably, the top missed wires—including the new 13,000V lines—that occupy more than 180° azimuth of possible fall paths. The large rhododendrons inside the circle were damaged, but should largely recover in 3-5 years. Clearing the street kept axe and mule team busy for a couple of hours

and then the good folks from the Highway Department came to remove the mess.

So now there’s a scenic new snag for the woodpeckers, and some other upstanding tree can take the next hit.