Banished Jr was sitting on the deck drinking his juice while I checked out the yard for bugs. I wasn't finding much that was too exciting when Jr. came down to join me and told me he'd found 'something really interesting' and that I needed to come and look. And indeed he had. I'd gone around the edges of the yard checking out the garden areas. He sat on the deck and just looked about 5 feet in front of him and saw this.
It is a female Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) and she was just done digging a hole to lay her eggs. This is right in the middle of the yard and a easily 50 yards from the pond but this is what turtles do. Perhaps its to ensure that the ground where they lay doesnt become waterlogged and the eggs 'drown'. She wet the ground somehow before she started, note the mud behind her. The ground wasn't that wet so I'm thinking she maybe added her own moisture...one way or another. Anyway she didnt seem to mind us being close by and so we sat on the picnic-table bench and watched her laying her eggs. So far as I saw she laid 6 though she might have got on in before we found her.
The laying took about 15 minutes and then she started to push and pull the soil and mud back over the top of the eggs. This took her another half hour or so of very diligent work before she moved off back across the grass. Once she was done with the burying you really couldn't tell where she had been. If we hadn't seen her laying we would never have known she was there at all but for a patch of slightly damp earth that dried in another 5 and disappeared into the background.
The gestation period for the eggs is apparently around 72 days.
Bad news is this would take it right smack into the middle of our vacation week in the mountains. But they are eggs, I'm sure there is a degree of flexiblity in that date. So maybe a little earlier or a little would let us catch the hatch. I've found the discarded shells on the slopes around the pond many times but haven't yet seen the hatch or the babies on their way back to water. Here's hoping. I put a marker on the grass so we can remember where the heck they are. I'm pretty sure they are deep enough and well covered so the mower isn't going to bother them in the slightest. No excuse not to cut the grass then :-(
All I found new was an Orchard Orbweaver (Leucauge venusta ) who has set up home between the the newly sprouting ginger-lily and the beardtongue and already had herself a damsel for dinner.