Rare images of land turtle nesting
by Murray Goodridge
MY WIFE JANELLE and I purchased our property ‘Hidden Lake’ in Bywong in 2005. The main feature of the 16ha farm is a 2ha lake created about 70 years ago by the damming of a seasonal creek. At the time of our arrival the lake was already a magnet to wildlife with fallen timber and dead trees providing tremendous habitat for both aquatic and avian species.
Over the ensuing years we have fenced out the lake, built an island, planted thousands of trees and shrubs and have strived to enhance the riparian area as a natural wetland.
Apart from 100+ species of birds that frequent our property, it is the native Eastern Long Neck Turtles (Chelodina longicollis) that have recently provided us with some ‘David Attenborough’ moments.
It’s common on the warmer months to see the turtles basking in the sun on logs in the lake, however, recently, during afternoon showers we have observed a number of female turtles expertly digging nesting holes (with their hind legs) in our western facing paddocks. Some of these turtles appear to dig numerous holes before deciding on the perfect location to lay – we have observed similar behaviour in the marine turtles as well!
We were very fortunate on two occasions to witness the actual laying of the eggs and recorded the events on our mobile phones. One of the nests contained 12+ eggs around 25mm long. After laying, the female methodically covers the clutch of eggs with the excavated soil and leaves the site as she found it – extremely well camouflaged. There is a problem however. To enable her to dig the nesting holes, she urinates on the soil to soften it. The smell of her urine acts like a beacon to a hungry fox and unfortunately we have witnessed a number of nests that have been raided by these feral animals. Pigs are also known to enjoy an entrée of turtle eggs! For this reason we now fox proof any new nesting sites that we can identify.
I guess the moral of the story is that if you see a turtle out of the water, do not disturb it unless it is in imminent danger and also slow down on our country roads and be wildlife aware.
If anyone would like more information please call Murray on 0403 903 933.
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