Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Turtles on the Brain

The naturalist John Burroughs observed that if you think “arrowheads,” you’ll find arrowheads in every field. Is it the same for turtles?

Yesterday, I saw turtles everywhere. Was I just thinking “turtles” or was there another reason I spotted so many painted turtles soaking up the sun?

Painted turtles do what is known as basking because they can’t generate their own heat. Either they’ll float just under the water’s surface, or they’ll climb onto a log and bask for hours at a time.

However, too much heat can kill a turtle in several minutes. This probably explains why I don’t see many basking turtles on hot summer days, and why I do now as summer wanes and temps here at night descend to the upper thirties. In other words, seeing turtles everywhere is not psychological; they aren’t Jungian symbols of creative ideas bubbling up from the subconscious. Hah!

By the end of October, these creatures will bury themselves in the mud and survive five to six months without oxygen. Who then can blame them for catching a few last rays? I did the same yesterday when I rowboated across the lake to do my own basking. Even took a refreshing swim, one of the last I’ll take I’m sure before my own winter hibernation.

Did you see it blink or did you blink?

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Please Do/Don't Feed The Animals

I can never pass up a free meal, and neither, apparently, can many animals at Mohican Lake. Once these five-finned, four-legged, or two-winged friends get a handout, they return same time, same place, different day expecting another.

Although I no longer feed the birds or the chipmunks (see "Chippy the Chipmunk RIP" below), that hasn't deterred these creatures from turning up every morning with nosebags. As soon as I get close to the picture window, Nutty the nuthatch lands on the railing looking for sunflower seeds. And once Nutty alights, Chicky the chickadee or Titty the titmouse swoops in for a looksee.

Last year, cottage guests and I took baked chicken on the float for a late-afternoon dinner. The bits of chicken meat that we dropped into the water drew a voracious school of sunfish and blue gill. My guests were so tickled by the experience that they repeated this ritual for the rest of their stay. Weeks later fish would gather when I went to the float to swim. In fact, I had to cover a large brown mole on my back with a band aid because, if I swam at about 5 o'clock pm, fish would pick at it. (Ouch.)

Bald Eagles, too, aren't above scavenging, or even begging. During ice fishing season, the eagles will scoff down fish guts left on the ice by the fisherman. One winter, a full-grown bald eagle stood watch on the ice about 30 feet from a group of fisherman who were periodically throwing it fresh caught fish.

My brother tells this eagle story from one of his summer visits to Mohican Lake. An eagle, perched on the branch of a dead standing pine, watched my brother fish from a rowboat just off the northwest shore near Blueberry Island. He caught a perch, but instead of immediately dropping it in the water, he thought he'd throw it in the air to see what the eagle would do. That eagle launched from its perch on cue, missed the fish by yards, but proved it had probably done that before.

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