I Am a Toad and I Live in a Swamp

 

Toad Hall is situated on a hill overlooking the beautiful Swartekill, or Black Creek, Swamp. Usually around Memorial Day, we have an influx of snapping turtles, and occasionally other types of turtles like painted turtles, coming up out of the swamp to lay their eggs in our warm flower beds and compost piles. Turtles, being reptiles, lay eggs that must be kept warm to incubate and hatch. My fluffy, sunny flower beds are apparently irresistible.

Yesterday, we saw several turtles in the yard. One mama got out on top of an old stone barn foundation, about ten feet high, and then fell. Fortunately she is a sturdy reptile and she landed in a flower bed, so she was fine. Here is a picture of her at the bottom of the wall. Her shell was probably about 15-18 inches or so:

Here is a closeup of her diggers — careful!:

One year, one of the turtles decided to take the shortest path from my compost pile back to the swamp. My garden lay en route, but she thought that she could scale my six-foot deer netting fence. I used some bamboo poles to get her off before she took the whole wall down with her, and then we stopped traffic to let her cross the road. She was a big one, with a more than two foot long shell.

We rarely see the baby turtles, so we’re not sure how successful the laying rate is here, but when we do see them they are teeny tiny, not much more than the size of a quarter. I once leaned over to pick up what I thought was a black plastic top and it was a baby painted turtle. This picture is from a couple of years ago, on a day when our young hens laid their first egg and I found a baby snapper:

There are 42 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Lovely post and beautiful photos, thanks.

    We don’t live in a swamp most of the time, but this has been one of the wettest Springs in history, and I’ve seen more turtles this year than for a very long time.  One of my most recent good deeds involved a snapping turtle about 8″ across that a young man, who’d halted his pickup truck in the middle of the road, was trying to chivvy across from one side to the other.  The thing was the opposite of grateful, with its neck flailing around and its jaws snapping like a piranha fit to take his fingers off.

    I had a shovel in the back of the car, so we scooped it up and carried it across, whereupon it took off into the field faster than I would have believed possible, if I hadn’t seen it myself.

    I can hear the bullfrogs chorusing loudly in several different keys as I write this.

    • #1
  2. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Having a snapper hiss at me always cracks me up. It is such a wicked sound, and they are seriously dangerous.

    Even though they destroy flower beds that have just been planted, or make one compost pile or another unable to be turned until the fall so as not to disturb the eggs (one year we even cordoned off a section in the woodchips at the base of our jungle gym because a snapper had laid her eggs in there) I am always so honored having them in the yard and talk lovey talk at them the whole time I am around them. I can’t help but find them absolutely adorable. 

    • #2
  3. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    She (View Comment):
    We don’t live in a swamp most of the time, but this has been one of the wettest Springs in history, and I’ve seen more turtles this year than for a very long time.

    One spring about eight or ten years ago, it was so wet that the roadside drainage ditch at the foot of our driveway had crawfish in it! The critters were huge — 7 or 8 inches each.

    • #3
  4. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Wonderful! I like snapping turtles, too, but I wonder, wouldn’t they make good soup?

    • #4
  5. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    That sounds kind of not exactly in the eco-friendly spirit of this post, but if you are interested in eating snapping turtles, apparently they do make good soup, but are best fried.

    A food zine put this piece out about the history of eating turtles. 

    • #5
  6. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    I was thinking of this song when I titled this post:

    • #6
  7. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Do you know how turtles make love? He goes in—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————— out.

    • #7
  8. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    We have a swamp between our front yard and the road.  In fact, the HOME location in my GPS is called “The Swamp”.

    We’ve seen snapping turtles, regular turtles, snakes, ducks, geese, herons, and . . . beavers!  Yes, we have a dammed swamp out front.  Only seen a beaver once, and they are bigger than you think.

    Deer like to come out of the woods and have a drink there, so driving down the dirt road to get to the main road can be an adventure, especially when Bambi jumps over your hood!

    • #8
  9. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    One night what looked like a nutria was in the front yard. That was the very very wet spring that I mentioned in comment #3.

    The muskrats and beaver usually stay down in the swamp… The blue herons fly overhead to their nesting areas, the foxes trot through the yard, bald eagles sometimes roost in our towering spruce tree…

    I love living here, in spite of poison ivy and ticks. Chickens help eliminate or reduce both of those problems…

    This year I have Carolina and house wrens nesting that seem intent on having vocal contests with each other. (“Any song you can tweet I can tweet better!”) They are so chatty and plump and adorable. 

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Love your post @cbtoderakamamatoad! I love all the critters we have around. We have a pond behind our house and sometimes the turtles come out on the bank to sun. We think we had a small family that were in the water near our bank. We’d see about 3-5 heads poke up from time to time. There was Tommy, Tess, Trisha–well, you get it. And all the alligators that show up, usually one at a time unless it’s mating season, are called Ralph. I’m just realizing how weird this all sounds. Oh well . . . .

    • #10
  11. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Wonderful! I like snapping turtles, too, but I wonder, wouldn’t they make good soup?

    Haven’t seen you around lately? Did your priest friend who did the ‘World is Not Your Oyster’ give any more commencement speeches? If we ever needed them, its now.  And go get some minestrone and leave those cute turtles alone!

    • #11
  12. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    We have a pond behind our house and sometimes the turtles come out on the bank to sun.

    That sounds lovely. There are several places around here that, when we drive by, we like to see turtles hauled out and taking the sun.

    The water in our swamp is mostly hidden from us by many scraggly weedy trees, although an older lady who grew up on and still lives on our road, and who went to school in a one-room schoolhouse two miles north of us that is now a fish&game club, remembers that land being under plow in her childhood.

    And an old timey farmer used to dredge the swamp regularly to make the flow better and increase the tillable land. That was at least 50 years since.

    • #12
  13. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):
    nd go get some minestrone and leave those cute turtles alone!

    Oh there once was a puffin
    Just the shape of a muffin
    And he lived on an island in the deep blue sea.

    He ate little fishes,
    That were most delicious,
    And he had them for supper, and he had them for tea.

    But that poor little puffin,
    He couldn’t play nothin’,
    For he hadn’t anybody to play with at all.

    So he sat on his island
    And he cried for a while and
    He felt very lonely and he felt very small.

    Then along came those fishes
    And they said, “If you wishes
    you can have us for playmates instead of for tea!”

    Now they all play together
    In all kind of weather
    And the puffin eats pancakes like you and like me.

    We had Norwegian waffles for supper last night, but you get the idea…

    • #13
  14. AchillesLastand Member
    AchillesLastand
    @

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Wonderful! I like snapping turtles, too, but I wonder, wouldn’t they make good soup?

    @cbtoderakamamatoad

    Tasty, yes, but make sure that it is thoroughly cooked!

    I was on a geological field trip in Caicos in 1990 (carbonate deposition), and we went to a bar restaurant for supper. One of the menu items was turtle gumbo — it was quite tasty, so almost everyone in the group tried it — and those that did paid for it the next day…

    • #14
  15. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    There was Tommy, Tess, Trisha–well, you get it. And all the alligators that show up, usually one at a time unless it’s mating season, are called Ralph. I’m just realizing how weird this all sounds. Oh well . . . .

    Not weird at all Susan. We name our backyard birds, but not very imaginatively. The cardinals are Mr & Mrs C, the orioles are Mr & Mrs O and the curved bill thrasher is Bill. A few years ago we had a regular black throated sparrow visitor who had a broken leg – we called him our buddy. Since then all those sparrows we call Buddy birds.

    No swamps here but we do occasionally have to move turtles out of intersections and back into the canyon. Don’t know what kind they are. 

     

    • #15
  16. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    You make me miss our house in Michigan, where we had a pond with fish, frogs, ducks, and herons. We used to sit and watch the kingfisher on his dive-bombing runs. One morning at 6:30 when the mist was still on the water, I watched a red-tailed hawk having his bath in the shallow water. One evening at dusk, I watched two raccoons playing at the water’s edge. I swear it looked like they were playing tag.

    No turtles though.

    • #16
  17. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    She (View Comment):
    I had a shovel in the back of the car,

    My kind of girl.

    • #17
  18. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    We had Norwegian waffles for supper last night, but you get the idea…

    @titustechera,  The Boy made them, by the way, and it was his first time doing so, and they were scrumpdiddlyumptious. The first batch he made regularly, but then he ran out of sour cream and made the last with vanilla yogurt! So delish…

    • #18
  19. Dominique Prynne Member
    Dominique Prynne
    @DominiquePrynne

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    but if you are interested in eating snapping turtles, apparently they do make good soup, but are best fried.

    Isn’t everything best fried?? LOL!  Where are all my Louisiana peeps to help out with some delicious “everything is edible” recipes for the snapping turtle?? @umbrafractus

    • #19
  20. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    Carolina and house wrens nesting

    It’s all I can do to keep Carolina wrens from nesting in my garage.  As soon as I see bird poop on the cars or on the floor, I start hunting for nests before they lay eggs . . .

    • #20
  21. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Stad (View Comment):

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    Carolina and house wrens nesting

    It’s all I can do to keep Carolina wrens from nesting in my garage. As soon as I see bird poop on the cars or on the floor, I start hunting for nests before they lay eggs . . .

    For us in the car port it’s phoebes. They drive Papa Toad distracted!

    • #21
  22. Idahoklahoman Member
    Idahoklahoman
    @Idahoklahoman

    We didn’t have many turtles, or even any turtles, AFAIK, in Idaho, due to altitude and latitude, but once growing up in Oklahoma, maybe 1968 or so, I was attending a summer day camp and I was told that I should catch a turtle and bring it the next day for turtle races.

    I thought I’d have to go to the nearby park and catch one near the ponds, which I did often enough, but Dad saved me the trouble. He came home that night with a turtle in the trunk. He found it crossing a road while out in the country making a delivery.

    It was bigger than any I’d ever caught before, and kind of strange looking. It had vicious claws that would rake your hands if you picked it up wrong. It did not seem to happy. It was so big that I could barely carry it. Today, I know that what I usually caught were box turtles, which are really tortoises, and not turtles, which live in water. This was definitely not a box turtle, and it definitely had an attitude.

    Dad put it in a box and took me to camp the next morning. I carried the box to the turtle races and proudly pulled out my entry, bigger and meaner than anyone else’s. And all the camp counselors backed away from my alligator snapper, and that was the end of the turtle races.

    They let me put it back in the box and take it home with me, but, strangely enough, it disappeared by the next morning.

    I think my dad is still laughing about it.

    • #22
  23. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Stad (View Comment):

    We have a swamp between our front yard and the road. In fact, the HOME location in my GPS is called “The Swamp”.

    We’ve seen snapping turtles, regular turtles, snakes, ducks, geese, herons, and . . . beavers! Yes, we have a dammed swamp out front. Only seen a beaver once, and they are bigger than you think.

    There are beavers building a dam down the road from us.  I’ve had a trail camera down their for weeks trying to snap a photo of them, but they seem very skilful evading it. 

    Had a little muskrat accompanying me on my walk a couple of days ago.  He was outpacing me–fast swimmer!  I think he was doing the breast stroke.  It was fun to watch him playing in the water.

     

    • #23
  24. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Occasionally I catch rough earth snakes in my yard:

    • #24
  25. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    I live just outside the Beltway from one.

    • #25
  26. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Idahoklahoman (View Comment):
    And all the camp counselors backed away from my alligator snapper, and that was the end of the turtle races.

    LOL!  There’s a good reason why they backed away.  These beasts are nasty, and they can get frighteningly large:

    https://www.google.com/search?rls=com.microsoft%3Aen-US%3AIE-Address&rlz=1I7GGRP_enUS499&biw=1280&bih=607&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=DmsNW7S4GIbVzwK0kIbQAg&q=alligator+snapping+turtle&oq=alligator+snapping+turtle&gs_l=img.1.0.0i67k1l2j0l8.28337.28933.0.32023.5.3.0.0.0.0.268.407.2j0j1.3.0….0…1c.1.64.img..3.1.264….0.zonVtrO9XTQ#imgdii=isUeRcYdcsUhWM:&imgrc=cpPjv0J77Xo_LM:&spf=1527605764568

    If you look through these pictures, you’ll find some with mouths large enough to bite someone’s head off.  They are living dinosaurs, if you ask me . . .

    • #26
  27. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Stad (View Comment):

    Idahoklahoman (View Comment):
    And all the camp counselors backed away from my alligator snapper, and that was the end of the turtle races.

    LOL! There’s a good reason why they backed away. These beasts are nasty, and they can get frighteningly large:

    https://www.google.com/search?rls=com.microsoft%3Aen-US%3AIE-Address&rlz=1I7GGRP_enUS499&biw=1280&bih=607&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=DmsNW7S4GIbVzwK0kIbQAg&q=alligator+snapping+turtle&oq=alligator+snapping+turtle&gs_l=img.1.0.0i67k1l2j0l8.28337.28933.0.32023.5.3.0.0.0.0.268.407.2j0j1.3.0….0…1c.1.64.img..3.1.264….0.zonVtrO9XTQ#imgdii=isUeRcYdcsUhWM:&imgrc=cpPjv0J77Xo_LM:&spf=1527605764568

    If you look through these pictures, you’ll find some with mouths large enough to bite someone’s head off. They are living dinosaurs, if you ask me . . .

    Whoa!

    Image result for alligator snapping turtle

    • #27
  28. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    I once considered picking up a snapper, to try to help her cross the road.

    Those diggers can reach pretty much anywhere on the shell you care to try to grab.

    I only tried the once, and I never actually laid hands on her, because I am not that dumb.

    Bamboo poles and golf clubs are more the thing. (Not for hitting with, just for herding in the proper direction.)

    • #28
  29. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):
    I once considered picking up a snapper, to try to help her cross the road.

    Why did she want to cross the road?

    • #29
  30. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    This post’s title brought back memories:

    My father has always enjoyed classic rock, and I grew up hearing music from before I was born.  Naturally, music sounds different to a child’s ears, so I heard the chorus of this classic song…

    I heard:  I’M A TOAD AND THAT’S GOOD!

    It was not until a few years ago that I learned the actual wording.  I figure I can combine my grade school version with the actual wording:

    MAMA TOAD IS THAT GOOD!

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.