Friday, June 28, 2013

Painted Turtle Lays Eggs

 Last evening at 7 PM this female Wester Painted Turtle decided a spot 20 feet in front of the nature center's front doors was the best spot to lay her eggs.

So in front of many onlookers, photographers,  and my camera, she ignored us and patiently dug a hole as far as her legs would reach into the ground.
 Turtles dig the cavity into the ground for their eggs with their hind legs.  They alternate with the left foot and then the right foot to make the largest nest hole possible.

Her right hind leg is a blur in this picture as she flings dirt up out of the hole.

She carefully places the dirt removed in a small pile behind the hole.  It took her about 45 minutes to dig the hole. 

 She immediately began to lay eggs once she was done digging.  In this picture her second egg can be seen  emerging from her cloacal opening under her tail.
 Here is the last egg as it falls on top of her others.  She laid 14 eggs in all.  It took less than 10 minutes for all the eggs to be laid.  In this picture the out of focus areas on the left and bottom are her shell and left leg.  The picture is looking a few inches down into the hole.  the top egg was about 3 inches below the top of the ground.

After finishing egg laying the female turtle immediately filled the hole in with dirt using her hind legs again.  In between each foot full of dirt she would press her bottom shell onto the fresh dirt to pack it down.  In 20 minutes she completed moving all the dirt and the nest site was as smooth as the dirt near by.
 Later in the evening I dug down to photograph the eggs.  Here is what they look like with all the dirt spritzed off.

It will take 60 to 90 days for the eggs to hatch.  The female will not return, but instead let the sun incubate the eggs.
With a bit of backlight, a yolk can be seen in the eggs.  Maybe there will be a chance to see the eggs hatch in a few months.

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