Redneck the Turtle


Redneck, the very tame red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is back in his home today after a long, unauthorized walkabout. Above he eats cat food from a bowl next to one of his ponds.

I was very upset that he might be gone for good and spent the better part of two afternoons searching for him before I found him thirsty and hungry in the vast fields that were once our lake (now dry lake).

As it was 95º F (35º C) and quite sunny I think he was very happy when I picked him up and brought him home. He proceeded to eat a large bowl of cat food and presumably drink a lot of fresh water.

ABOVE and BELOW: This is a flock of Great-tailed Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) that feast at feeding time every afternoon. Sometimes referred to as blackbirds they are not related to blackbirds and are instead members of the Icteridae family.

Below: Note the long tail and the jet-black with violet-blue iridescent sheen to the feathers of this male Great-tailed Grackle. He probably weighs about 230-250 grams (or about 1/2 pound). These images are a little fuzzy as they were taken through the screen of the back porch from a distance of about 25-feet.

The birds await my arrival every afternoon. They are on the food within seconds, competing with one another and with the reptiles for the food.

Below: In the ponds where I have fish I have nets to protect the fish from predators. Here a very large American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) sits on the nets and weighs them down. I see only two of these frogs daily. . . so many years of drought have undoubtedly wiped out their population in our area.


I've been enjoying the annual Sandhill Crane's (Grus canadensis) dances when the bugs aren't too thick to preclude viewing. I sit atop the berm of the now-virtually-dry-lake and watch their elaborate mating ritual from about 1 mile away.

The birds jump and flap and . . .literally dance.

The dance is done by two cranes together – one male, one female – with equal energy and vocalizations from both cranes. The dance starts with deep bows by both cranes. The male crane throws back his head onto his body and gives a deep call. The female then puts her head back about 45 degrees and make a higher-pitched call or two. Both cranes then perform leaps into the air, run and jump, skip and flap their wings, bow, and toss sticks or grass, all the while calling out to each other. This goes on for several minutes at a time.

This dancing is considered a mating ritual, but it is performed many times throughout the year by Sandhill Cranes of all ages. It is thought that dancing is a stress-relieving activity that reduces aggressive behavior and strengthens the bond between pair bonded cranes.

Though the Sandhill Crane is not considered threatened as a species, the three southernmost subspecies are quite rare.

The Florida Sandhill crane is uncommon, with only 5,000 individuals estimated remaining. They are most threatened by habitat destruction and will probably depend on human management for survival. The birds are protected in Florida and there is a steep monetary penalty for harming them.

These birds are generally left in peace though there are an increasing number of humans traversing the dry lakebed. . .through the Sandhill Crane's habitat.

The Sandhill Crane has one of the longest fossil histories of any extant bird. A fossil found in Nebraska near the Sandhill Crane’s gathering ground in the Platte River Basin has been dated at about 10 million years old. This Miocene era fossil is structurally identical to the Sandhill Crane that lives in North America today.

It is disheartening to think that we could wipe them out in mere decades after they survived so long.

Redneck the Turtle in water lilies