Something Fishy, or Not?

Turtle sunning itself out by our pond.

We seem to have our own private “Turtletopia”. Our pond is swarming with a variety of turtles. I love watching them and trying to discover more about them. Up to now, I’ve only rarely seen one outside a pet shop or someone’s aquarium. These days, it is part of the daily routine.

Welcome Home Hugs

For a number of years we were busy raising a family. During that time we imagined that someday we would get a little bit of acreage and enjoy the “homestead” life. We love our modern conveniences, but we like the idea of getting a small taste of life the way it was several generations ago. We figured we would marry the two things together with a perfectly positioned place out in the country.

We ended up here in Jefferson County Alabama with about 9 acres of land and a single-owner home built before me or my husband was born. So many things about it remind me of the homes of my grandparents. Being here is like getting a big ‘ole welcome-home hug every day. There is a warm feeling of familiarity.

About the Turtles

Here’s where the turtles come into the picture. We’re working to reclaim a manmade pond out in the woods. It was left to go back to nature for the past 20+ years. It was completely hidden from view when we got here. Spending time around it feels like a trip to a wildlife preserve.

The first thing we did was clean it up enough to set up a swing and have a clear path to walk along the sides of it. Since the swing is out there now, we spend as much time sitting out there watching to see what will show up as we do working.

common snapping turtle
Common Snapping Turtle – click to enlarge

At first, we only caught an occasional glimpse of a tiny, little head popping up out of the water. If we tried to get a better look, it vanished before we were sure we’d even seen it. Other times we caught site of a few average-sized pond sliders sunning themselves on dead trees away from the shoreline. Eventually, we started seeing the ghostly outline of a very large turtle, just below the surface. Sometimes it would appear close to the edge, but usually it was out in the middle of the pond. We could never get a good look at it. It reminded us of a submarine. As we’d get closer, it would slowly sink, easing itself out into the deeper water until it was out of our view. This is different from the “now you see me, now you don’t” style of the smaller turtles.

Why we expected to see fish

A few months after we moved in, we decided to add a few fingerling catfish to what seemed like a sparsely populated pond. This meant adding a daily routine of feeding them. All through the Spring we never saw another sign of the fish. Instead, little by little, we began seeing more and more turtles.

They caught on very quickly to the daily feeding routine. At first just a few showed up. Now, we see at least 10-12 at time with who knows how many more swimming beneath the water, out of our view. They station themselves in a fan-shaped formation around us to gobble up all the food they can reach.

One day, early this summer, the fish finally showed up. Just as they were late showing up in the first place, they arrive later than the turtles each day at feeding time. The turtles are smart. They head for the feeding spot anytime they hear us near the pond, not taking a chance on missing out even if it isn’t time to eat. When it is feeding time, they are waiting well before the pellets hit the water. The fish always join in after the turtles have already taken most of the meal.

Scruffy as the pond is, I am enjoying opportunities to set aside work to take strolls out there to visit. Sometimes, seeing all those turtles heading right for me, I wonder if we’ll ever need to worry about “how many turtles are too many turtles”!

Alabama Native Turtles

I’m surprised to find such a variety of turtles and it has me going out there more and more often, eager to see what turns up next.

Pair of pond sliders – click to enlarge

Here is a list of turtles we’ve seen:

  • Common Snapping Turtle
  • Pond Slider
  • Florida Cooter
  • River Cooter
  • Eastern Box Turtle

I am relying on Outdoor Alabama’s Turtle page to identify them, comparing pictures.

Have a look for yourself. Visit Our Alabama Pond page. Feel free to set me straight on their identification here in the comments or over on my Facebook page. I’m looking forward to learning!

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1 Comment

  1. Weenita Howzen

    I love hearing about your turtle surprises & success. We have turtles too–often sunning on an old log stuck by our dam–and always took them for granted on our 80 acres with a pond and a lake. Recently we discovered that local poachers had been setting up turtle traps around both bodies of water. We had never heard of such a thing and it is heartbreaking. We don’t know what people do when they kill the turtles–eat them???
    One pond has a type of turtle called “stinkpot.” Odor of old oil ….I guess I wouldn’t want to eat that one!
    Best of luck with your turtles!


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