Turtle House

It is such a lovely day that I am taking the kayak out for the first time this year.  Some of the birds also seem to be enjoying our warm April day, calling to each other and finishing their nests.  (I have seen an Eastern Phoebe lately, sculpting a deep pocket of moss and grass by our  cabin door.)  Distant woodpeckers hammer on trees.

As I paddle along the shore, I scare up a Canada Goose and it flies away.  Bass slide by my boat and minnows frisk in the shallows.  The lake is thawed and everybody in this house of water is waking up.

So where are the turtles?  I reach the opposite (east) side of the lake and drift quietly, looking.  No turtles.  I paddle north to the boggy end of Crystal Lake and–voila!  There are two big turtles basking on the dome of a muskrat den, and they slide into the water  as I appoach.  Then I see several tea-saucer-size snapping turtles perched on roots and they bellyflop into the lake at the sight of me.  They are almost cute at that size, even with their ridged, armor-like backs.  Soon there are five heads sticking up from the water, watching me glide by.

In the basement of the lake, lily pads reach for the surface, most of them still curled up like oversized cowry shells.  The ones that are unfurling underwater are as orange and red as maple leaves in autumn.  I never knew they started out that way, so colorful.  On the shore, two mud turtles keep each other company, the domes of their shells glowing happily in the afternoon sun.  I begin to understand why the turtles like this end of the lake; there are few trees to block the light.  Bees land on my lazy, yellow kayak, so I pick up speed and head for home.  The bees return to land, where yellow means pollen.

At our dock I still don’t see any turtles, but now I know that the whole lake is their house.  Our bit of shore may be a bedroom for a particularly big snapper (see previous posting, “Turtle Trails”), but the north end of the lake is their sun room.  Soon it will be adorned with vibrant water lilies and green landing pads for frogs.

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