Muskoka Ontario Blanding’s Turtles

posted in: Wildlife | 6

blandings turtle in flower garden muskoka ontario

On the weekend some friends and relatives stopped in Gravenhurst to visit a local community event. While at the event they encountered a display hosted by a Muskoka area turtle conservation organization known as “START” (Saving Turtles at Risk Today). Apparently the START people were most pleased and interested to hear about the turtles I have on the property, particularly the rare and endangered Blanding’s turtles. Having heard about their enthusiasm I wanted to do a post to show some of those turtles. This page contains some info about the turtles on the property and at the bottom of the page you will find a gallery with about 40 images of turtles seen between 2014 and 2017. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I have far too many turtle sightings and photos to share in a single post!

For years I have been watching the Blandings turtles on the property, documenting when and where I find them, and taking pictures of their shell markings to identify them. I feel confident that I am seeing many of the same turtles return each season and a few new ones too.

On sunny days it is often possible to see several Blanding’s turtles along with a number of painted turtles and the occasional snapping turtle too. The spring-fed pond they reside in is less than 1 acre in size and about 8 feet deep. The pond is backed by dense unspoiled forest on its north side, open fields to the south and receives full sun most of the day.

In part of the pond there is a floating island made of waterlogged logs overgrown with marsh grasses and pond plants. Turtles can bask safely on this island but there is limited dry sunny space for them so each year I provide some fresh logs for the turtles to use. It is very satisfying to see turtles in all sizes lined up on their logs basking in the sun. By the end of the season those logs will have become waterlogged and end up submerged in the pond to become another part of the floating island.

The pond is also home to a healthy population of sunfish, spring peepers, leopard frogs, grey tree frogs, American bullfrogs, eastern/red-spotted newts; tadpoles for red-backed, small-mouthed and blue-spotted salamanders; toads, numerous pond plants and water lilies, and this season a family of otters too. Since there is so much going on in the pond, specially in spring and summer, I avoid doing any activities in or near the pond so as to not disturb the wildlife.

All the turtles, Blanding’s included, appear to be migrating between various other ponds on the property. To reach those ponds the turtles need to make a trek through the forest following any of the spring run-off creek beds. Some of the turtles head south on the property in search of nesting sites as this direction takes them toward open spaces and sandy, graveled areas. Unfortunately that can send them in the direction of roads. Though our dirt and gravel country road sees very little traffic it is still a concern. I often find squashed snakes on the road which indicates turtles may be vulnerable too.

It appears that the turtles first attempt to find nesting sites closer to the pond. I’ve found Blanding’s turtles trying to nest on my driveway, in the lawn, flowerbeds and on gravel walking paths. If they find these areas unsuitable for digging they have little choice but to travel further, and that typically means crossing roads or attempting to use the road itself as a nesting site.

To help those turtles I’d like to provide a safe and suitable nesting site next to the pond. This would require the delivery of a dump truck-load or two of local sand and a massive amount of work moving it to the site one wheelbarrow at a time! But, if a sand delivery were to happen I would find a way to get that pile moved into place for the turtles. The only time of year that it is possible to do such a project would be in the fall-early winter as this is when the ground is firm enough to move loads of sand, and when it would cause least disturbance to the turtles and other wildlife in and around the pond.

There are several signifcant advantages to providing a nesting site close to the pond and my house:

– It saves the turtles from having to make a dangerous trek in search of a nesting site.

– It’s a location that I closely monitor daily so I would have some chance to spot a new nest and immediately protect it with the proper caging as seen on the shoulders of many of the roads around here during nesting season.

– Being close to the pond gives the turtles an opportunity to quickly return to the water should they feel disturbed or threatened while attempting to nest. New hatchlings too would have a quick and easy journey to the safety of the pond.

If you are interested in seeing more Blanding’s turtles, as well as any of the other turtles I encounter, please subscribe to the blog. I always photograph any turtle I see on the property, big or small, rare or common, and periodically do posts to share those pictures and info!

In this collection of photos seen below I’m showing some of the Blanding’s turtles found on the property since 2014. There are many different turtles shown and in many cases too I’ve been able to identify the same turtles returning from one season to the next. I’ve included a few examples of some other species, such as painted and snapping turtles, to show the variety living in my pond. I will eventually do separate posts for those other turtles as there are just too many turtle pictures to include in one gallery!

A note about the gallery images below and their captions:

– All the turtles shown were found on my property between 2014 and 2017. All are live healthy turtles, including the photos showing the turtle shell markings.

–  “Blanding’s” is the correct punctuation however I frequently drop the apostrophe as this may help people searching for “Blandings” turtles without entering the apostrophe in their searches.

–  Any time I mention a turtle seen on my “driveway” this means the turtle was found coming to my backyard pond or leaving the pond to seek a nesting site. In all cases this required the turtle to cross roads.

The gallery at the bottom of this page shows about 40 photographs but if you would like to see even more turtles please see these posts too:

Monster in the Chamomile Patch

Blandings Turtle Meets Cat

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6 Responses

  1. Pamela Cherry

    Very interesting Otter, I have long been fond of tortoises – but not so much turtles. These guys look quite beautiful with their lovely coloured undershell. No doubt you sent this article to those local groups who are interested in turtle preservation Other groups, further afield would probably also like to read of your experience.

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    • Otter Boyd

      Thank you, yes I am just writing an email right now to notify the START people about this new page. If they love turtles, specially the Blanding’s, this page might bring some smiles to faces over there.

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  2. Min

    Impressive variety of turtle photos – each one interesting to look at and enjoy – just as a beautiful shot was the header photo of turtle in garden flowers. Amazing to catch the bittern with turtle nearby and I also loved the snapping turtle covered in pollen – was quite mystical – such talent Otter and so glad it is shared so I can enjoy it.

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    • Otter Boyd

      Thank you, it was interesting to see the bittern and painted turtle together. I also got a shot, but didn’t add it to this gallery, of a very large snapping turtle trying to hunt that bittern!

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  3. Alexia

    I had no idea those turtles were so rare and protected. You are very lucky to have such access to these wild creatures especially when they are so rare.

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    • Otter Boyd

      Yes I am lucky! Oddly enough there has been no response at all from anyone at START! I sent them this info a week ago and thought they would be most pleased to see how the turtles are doing around here.

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