Dateline – July 2020 – Carrollton, Texas

A quick stop by the neighborhood turtle pond this past weekend revealed a plethora of activity. This spot is actually just a wide spot in Carrollton’s Dudley Branch. A bridge passes over the small creek here, allowing for a bird’s eye view of the going-ons in the clear, shallow water below.

A large Common Snapping Turtle

I stop by for a look-see whenever my morning dog walk route takes me by the bridge. On recent visits I quickly noticed something a little unusual. The normally wary and shy Red-eared Slider Turtles that lived here were not so wary and shy anymore.

As I stood next to the bridge railing the resident Red-eared Sliders started popping up to the surface and swimming my way from nearly every corner of the open water. Soon these turtles were joined by a couple of Common Snapping Turtles and the occasional Spiny Softshell. Bold Green Sunfish appeared, darting through the water just below my reflection; as did a half dozen or so surprisingly large (16 inches) Black Bullhead Catfish.

A video montage of the turtle action

The turtles all gathered around just below the bridge, treading water and looking up with comical anticipation. The reason? Evidently, some of the folks in the neighborhood have discovered the fun of feeding the turtles and fish from the bridge railing. The grand aquatic menagerie has now come to expect food from anyone who happens to stop by!

And while, I certainly don’t condone feeding wildlife in this manner—habituating wildlife in this way is seldom a good idea, and some food items can even be harmful. In this case, it has certainly created an interesting wildlife viewing opportunity.

A Common Snapping Turtle reaching up out of the murk for a breath of fresh air.
He knows there is something special in the wind
He immediately begins moving toward the bridge where I was standing
Floating expectantly beneath the bridge
A Common Snapping Turtle swim-by
Hoping to be fed
The snapping turtle was soon joined by a multitude
of Red-eared Sliders—easily the most abundant turtle in the creek.
Algae is just beginning to grow on the carapace of this slider
A vividly colored youngster
In early June, I photographed these three silver dollar-sized
juvenile Red-eared Sliders basking in the sun
The much bigger adults like to bask as well
Red-eared Sliders soaking up the sun
This slider’s shell is nearly covered with a camouflaging growth of algae
Swimming over the rocky nest of a large Green Sunfish
There were several Green Sunfish nest in this part of the creek
On the bridge abutment this quick moving Green Anole caught my attention
as he hunted the abundant insects living near the creek water
Green seemed to be the theme for the day…
I caught glimpse of this Green Heron hunting the
reed beds surrounding the open water
The Red-eared Sliders were also sharing the creek
with this massive beast—a female Spiny Softshell Turtle
This was the largest turtle of them all. Her shell was
bigger around than a dinner plate!
She was in the running for longest neck as well!
Floating at the surface…
…and submerging
With her neck fully extended this turtle was approaching two feet in length
Spiny Softshell Turtles are strong swimmers
Look at those webbed toes… They make excellent paddles
Earlier in the season I found this juvenile softshell at the same location.
This little one could fit easily on a stand drink coaster with room to spare.
Quite a difference from the gargantuan adults!
A half dozen 16 inch Black Bullhead Catfish shared the water with the turtles
Just as I was about to leave, another big snapper made an appearance
This was the largest of them all, and brought the snapper grand total
at this location to three!
Notice the plump leech attached to the snapper’s carapace.

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