My youngest son loves rainy days at 122. Rainy days mean the turtles come out. We have enjoyed watching and learning about the Eastern box turtles. We tend to only see them on drizzly days or just after the rain.
So far we have identified four individuals. Two males and two females. They tend to have their own little zones in our yard. Of course, my boy names everything he finds.
First, we found Josiah. Josiah was the one that launched our exploration to learn more about the eastern box turtle. His bright contrasting orange and black scales and blood red eyes were incredible to look at. Josiah had a distinctive battle scar on the back of his shell. His shell was more pale yellow with thin olive green to dark brown marks.
Next, we found Monk. Monk was a smaller male than Josiah. He had the distinctive battle scar right above his head where he had obviously been bitten by something larger. His eyes were also bright red, but his scaly orange coloration was not as distinct as Josiah’s. However, Monk had much more variation in the shell colorings.
Monk had a lot of character. He followed us around for about an hour. We found things he would like to eat. For the first time, we got to watch a wild turtle hunt down and eat things like earthworms and centipedes. We also watched it eat mushrooms. Monk fancied the zipper pull on my son’s jacket. He also tried to eat our boots. He was a lot of fun to watch. He never really seemed to be afraid of us. Eventually he went about his life. We would find him again a few weeks later.
We learned that the eastern box turtle can eat things that would be poisonous to humans, such as wild mushrooms and berries. This is why it is not recommended to eat them. Not that we ever would! Just repeating what we read in the field guide.
The turtle shells are almost like a fingerprint. They are unique with their patterns and colors. But also because they carry permanent scars on their shells. My son likes to think up stories about their lives, making up wild adventures of harrowing escape that explain the battle scars on their backs. They seem so patient and humble. We love to watch them as they explore our yard and then slowly but surely make their way out of our sight. Almost instantly they just seem to disappear, camouflaging themselves perfectly against the leaves, hidden in plain sight until the next rainy day. Also, make no mistake, they aren’t as slow moving as you might think. These that we have found can hustle their way from the yard into the wood line rather quickly!
Next, we would find a female that would gain the affectionate name of Leatherhead. Leatherhead was not afraid of us and even let my son touch her claws. She had a nearly perfect shell painted with bright yellow and olive green markings and no visible scarring. Having no scars yet, she was able to completely enclose herself inside of her shell as pictured here in my son’s hands. She was closed up so tight, she looked like she would even be waterproof.
The last one we found was also a female, and she dubbed the eloquent Nefertiti. She had some battle scars near her head, too. Similar to Monk’s scar, Nefertiti had a scar that looked like a large animal tried to bite her head. Her scar was to the right of her head, whereas Monk’s was to the left. Her deep yellow contrasted beautifully with the brown so dark it was nearly black. Some of the colorings blended together to make a lovely deep orange.
I love this picture of Nefertiti’s nostrils.
What we have learned about the eastern box turtle is that the males have brighter colored eyes, like we saw with Josiah’s bright red eyes. The females have duller, brownish or yellow colored eyes. Their coloration can vary from browns to oranges and yellows to olive green. We have noticed all of these differences in the four turtles we have found so far.
Last little tidbit of info, we read that some box turtles have been known to live over 100 years. I have no idea how old these turtles are. They could be two years old or 56 for all I know. One thing I do know, they are interesting creatures to have around. We enjoy looking for the turtles after the rain, and my boy gets excited when he recognizes one he’s already named.
When you homeschool on the homestead, everything new to you has the potential to become a mini unit. I’m pretty sure my boy is already expecting it!