Elizabeth Hall Wetland

This lucky duck got to visit Lethbridge, Alberta today and I spent a spare hour wandering around the Elizabeth Hall Wetlands.

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Western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii)

Surrounded by hilly topography lies an oxbow lake home to several wetland species including beavers, muskrats, water fowl and the Western Painted Turtle. I was worried that since it wasn’t so sunny I wouldn’t get to see any but towards the end of my walk I got lucky.

The first turtles I saw were meters away from a small floating plastic boardwalk and in my ineptitude I managed to scare away all save one who was sufficiently far away not to notice me. One of the ones I scared was a juvenile which is quite sad.

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Look at those claws! I was pretty surprised to see how long they were. Females use them (somewhat) for digging their nests and according to a few sources males use them to entice females during courtship. Huh.

DSCN4990.JPGAbove is the handsome individual that remained despite my blunderous approach. The rest of the preserve however, was beautiful. The water moved with the wind and gave a variety of species of ducks and geese a place to rest and feed.

There were of course also, more turtles.

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You might imagine my glee as I sat down in the brush and took pictures for what ended up being most of our visit. Western painted turtles, as named for their bright colouration, are easiest spotted basking on logs and warm rocks. Basking helps turtles regulate their body temperature and once they’ve warmed up enough they dive back into the pond to forage for food.

The feeding habits of the Western painted turtle change seasonally between hunting for prey and grazing on pond vegetation. They’re not immune to being hunted themselves as birds of prey and raccoons have both the strength and dexterity required to navigate their protective shells.

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Happy times. And of course, I took many videos of the near stationary emydids. (If you’re patient for more than 20 seconds a third turtle creeps up from the pond)

 

I feel super lucky to have had the opportunity to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat for the first time! They were, much like salamanders, a very patient photography subject so I am grateful for the photos I got to take too.

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