Yesterday evening, I was alerted to the squawking and clicking of ravens in the front yard. They appeared to be strutting with round white objects in their beaks, and since we don't have ping-pong balls in the yard, I thought, "Oh, they're eating toadstools." (It's rained A LOT this spring.) Then I realized the grass was cut recently-- making for a less hospitable environment for the fungus. I went out to investigate and found a hole in the lawn.
We've lived in this house for fourteen years, but it was only in the last couple of years that I witnessed a turtle laying eggs on my property. Though I always watched for hatchlings, I never did see any, and I wondered what happened to the eggs.
I poked around in the hole and felt something. I had a pretty good idea those weren't toadstools the ravens were gobbling up. I pushed back some of the dirt and found an egg. Possibly more behind it.
Since I didn't see the mother turtle, I don't know for sure, but based on previous years I suspect they're snapping turtle eggs. Snapping turtles are at risk and under special concern status since a variety of conditions could cause their quick extinction. Ontario recently permanently banned snapping turtle hunting.
Over the past few weeks, I've seen more dead turtles on the roads than I have in my entire lifetime. I don't why. Perhaps the rain had turtles going farther to look for nesting places. Perhaps motorists couldn't tell the difference between turtles and the lumps of cold-patch my municipality uses to make cheap, useless road repairs. Perhaps some motorists are feeling vengeful after the loss of their right to kill two snapping turtles a day.
I love to be around nature. When I'm out with my family and we see a turtle crossing the road, we stop to help it. Sometimes we just stop and watch to make sure they get across safely. One time we stopped to watch a mama turtle lay eggs in the soft shoulder of a rural road. We've helped small turtles and great big giant turtles. Painted box turtles and snapping turtles. (The snappers are a little tricky to help. Those claws have a long reach. Some suggest using a snow shovel to pick them up.)
What was I to do about this nest? Surely there would be more than ravens after the eggs.
I figured I could add more dirt to bury the eggs better, but I also figured the ravens would probably dig it up.
I found a rock and placed it over the hole.
It's heavy enough the ravens won't be able to move it. It's shallow enough the turtles should be able to get out once they hatch, but I'll keep an eye on it. Hopefully it will help keep the earth under it warm, like an incubator.
Once I was back indoors, the ravens returned. They clicked and strutted around the rock and then flew away. One raven returned this morning and seemed non-plussed about the rock.
I tried to get a photo, but, unlike other birds, they seem to know when I get close to the window.
Stay tuned for more turtle and raven watch.