I was spending some time yesterday on what I call the "prairie" beds: weeding, planting. At one point toward the top of the hill I looked to my right and saw the turtle:
I call it "the turtle" because reader TJ Hanna pointed out that wild turtles are quite territorial, so unless I see more than one box turtle at a time, it's most likely the same one. TJ also pointed out that this is a female turtle -- the eyes are brown in females and red in males.
Even with a quick glance I knew that something was up -- she was doing more than just strolling around the garden today. With her hind legs she was excavating a hole:
She spent a lot of time here, wiggling, scrunching down (if turtles can scrunch). I just knew she was laying eggs!
Later in the day I returned and there was almost no sign of her ever being there:
I had to be certain though, so I carefully removed the mulch, and found the soil to be quite well-packed down -- this was no loose mound of earth! A little careful digging with my fingers and...
Eggs! Turtle Eggs! In my garden!
I only revealed two of them, but a little research tells me that there are probably four to six of them in the nest. They're oblong and are about the size of a large grape -- about an inch long, possibly a little longer (25mm).
I covered them back up, gently packed the soil down a bit (how much downward force can a mother box turtle exert?), and moved the mulch back over the nest.
I then moved some fencing material over the nest and staked it in place to keep predators away.
After reading this morning that it will take 3-4 months for these eggs to hatch, I will probably make a more sturdy cage.
I've already put a 90-day reminder (15 September) into my phone. I sure hope I'm able to see the little hatchlings when they emerge!
This is just another example of how much amazing stuff is going on in the garden all the time -- most of which we miss -- and how being in the right place at the right time is so important!