It was a pleasant morning in June. With the early sunrise, there were many songs from the local breeding birds. And as I walked through the yard out to the road, I heard from robins, chipping sparrows and phoebes, all nesting here.
From the nearby woods, early morning songsters continued with several warblers, a couple of vireos, a hermit thrush and a catbird.
When I got to the swamp, I paused to look at the movements of a family of ring-necked ducks hiding in the shallows, while further out, the growing Canada geese clan fed.
The woods are shady and spring wildflowers that were so dominant a few weeks ago now are faded, leaving only the shade-tolerant clintonia, starflower and wild lily-of-the valley still in bloom.
The flowering scene has shifted to fields and roadsides. Here, I see daisies, hawkweeds, buttercups and lupines producing plenty of color welcoming in the solstice.
But as I look at this floral display along the road, I see something else as well. A large, dark object, looking almost like a rock is present, and it is moving. Upon a closer approach, I see that I have come across a large snapping turtle laying its eggs at this site.
We tend to think of turtles as aquatic animals. Most of their life is spent under or near water, maybe coming up only to bask in sunlight. But each year, usually in June, turtles change their lives a bit and females climb up on land to lay eggs, normally in the cover of darkness.
Sometimes, this ritual is acted out a good distance from water. I have found them depositing eggs a quarter-mile or more from water. And this one is choosing a location similar to what I have seen before: along the road. (I once found a turtle of a different species laying its eggs right in the center of a gravel road.)
I see danger in such a nest site, but the snapper finds there are advantages here, too. Unlike the nearby woods and pavement, the roadside plot is easier to dig in. She does this with her hind legs.
Holes may be more than a foot deep. Here, she drops her clutch of eggs, usually about 30-40; I have seen as many as 75. With hind legs, she covers the eggs with the displaced soil and she begins the trek back to her wetland home.
The nest is buried, but not totally safe. Skunks, raccoons and dogs use their keen sense of smell to locate, and with an omnivorous appetite, they open and feed. And, of course, there may be danger from passing cars.
But if was left undisturbed for about three months, the heat from the summer sun will help their development, and finally, one day in September, maybe close to the equinox, the young will emerge. Looking like miniature versions of the adults, the little snappers have a rough-looking shell, a long tail and head with jaws needed to live. They survived growing in the nest; now they need to survive the trip to water.
And this is what I witnessed recently as I came walking by and saw the little turtles on the move. Mostly unable to deal with predators at this time, they travel quickly - faster than we might expect from turtles. They appeared determined to reach water.
Though some do not make it, others will, and next year, another nest will be here in June, with young emerging in September.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including "Butterflies of the North Woods," "Spiders of the North Woods," "Webwood" and "In a Patch of Goldenrods." Contact him c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.