Sunday, April 28, 2013



Spring is officially here.  

This afternoon, in the 60-degree warmth of the marsh, the snapping turtle population cavorted in their habitat.  Perhaps because of the sunshine, each of the turtles approached seemed lethargic. 

I was about to get my first close-up shots of turtles in the throes of passion (something I had hoped to capture with camera) and I felt somewhat like a voyeur.   But when I approached, this pair was indifferent and did not move.  It's impossible, of course, to get into in the minds of turtles - at least a male turtle.  These reptiles haven't significantly changed in several million years, and they know exactly what they are about, but it appeared to me this pair lounged in post-coital afterglow, enjoying closeness in the soft ooze of the Bayou.  (Note contented expression of male, top.)  

Previously when such activities were observed, it was always from a distance. Then, turtles jockeyed for position and occasionally clashed with one another, movements that were often super-quick, surprising for reptiles with a reputation for sloth.  

We had concern for turtle survival over this past winter, and time will tell if the local population count appears similar to last year.   A soft mud bottom underneath water, with winter's ice topping it all, seemed to make this spot ideal for their wintering.  But last December's rapid drop in water levels exposed their favored mud habitat to freezing cold.  This occurred shortly after the turtles had already submerged in mud for hibernation, and some of them might have frozen, we conjectured.  The appearance now of these turtles bodes well for the future population of snapping turtles here.

After nearly five months of survival-induced
abstainance, broken by Sunday's mood lighting,
turtles were observed "getting it on," as it were.
There are other signs of spring here, too.  The lone egret of last week is now a pair, and they are joined by several great blue herons.  Three eagles flew freely over the harbor, while at the same time turkey vultures circled on the updrafts.  A kingfisher worked the waterfront while a muskrat paddled the surface near shore on an afternoon excursion.   

Wednesday evening in the light of the full moon we observed a deer pausing in the shaft of moonbeam, while just beyond it, offshore, swans swam bout.  It was a magical scene.

Other shifts noted

Winter ferry Arni J. Richter took over the daily ferry schedule January 21st, and each day from then through last Wednesday, April 24th, ferry trips were from the Potato Dock.

Last Thursday morning, April 25th, with water levels having rebounded - but still lower than this same time last year by about 6 inches - the ferry Washington loaded traffic at the normal island dock location.  This was good news for all concerned:   the public (many of whom found backing on the ferry a challenge), and our crew (who now have better access to maintenance facilities, supplies, and a ticket booth).   For the moment the AJR will stay moored at the Potato Dock.  A further rise of 10 inches or so should enable use of that ferry in the channel, too, and we fully expect this could happen by Memorial Day weekend.  Time will tell, but the heavy rainfall of last week and the run-off from snow will continue to have a positive effect on the level of Lake Michigan.

- Dick Purinton

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