It was the most amazing thing. We’d been walking back and forth along the bridge photographing the mussels moving around. W called me to ‘come and look.’ It was just before 4:30 p.m. (EDT). There, lifting out of the mud, was a turtle. It had been sitting on top of the mud, covered in a layer of mud and totally invisible as we were watching the mussels. Soon after – over the next half hour - another and another and another turtle lifted out of the mud. In the end I think we saw six or more turtles. And I got the impression that you could set your watch by them 'coming to life.' This was a treat that we wouldn't have seen if that lake level hadn't been lowered and we hadn't been watching mussels moving around.
This was the first turtle. It had just lifted out of the mud.
Off it went towards the shadow of a bridge piling.
It made its way along the shadow towards the bridge and settled in under a fallen tree trunk.
This turtle, a smaller turtle, was more circumspect in getting down to business. At first, only its head was clearly visible.
Then it was out and on its way, a layer of mud still on its shell. It was moving at quite a pace. There were little plumes of mud suspended in the water behind it as it moved along.
Still heading towards the shadow cast by the bridge piling.
This turtle had only a thin layer of mud on its shell.
Head up out of the water to take a look around.
Deciding which way to head off.
Off to the right today?
Yep, definitely off to the right.
And off we go…
Based on the shape of the head – triangular with a white stripe along the head from the nose towards the neck - I think these are Common Musk Turtles (Sternotherus odoratus). Unfortunately they wouldn’t flip and swim on their backs so that I could see their plastrons and the bottom is much too muddy and soft to even think about trying to wade in to catch one. It was interesting that a couple of them appeared to be longer than the descriptions of musk turtles as a maximum length of about 5 inches.
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Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia: Turtles of Georgia and South Carolina: Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)
- Fort Yargo State Park: Déjà Vu
- Mussels On The Move
- Common Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus)