Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Wednesday: 19 March 2014

About Those Box Turtles  -  @ 10:02:37
It's been 138 days since I caught 2013's last box turtles, Austin and Torri, on November 1, in a compromising position. No Supreme Court nominations for you!

Those who have followed this story know that 138 days isn't just an idle number - it's a number fraught with significance, because scouring for box turtles is part of what I do on an ongoing basis. For four months and eighteen days box turtles have been slumbering underground, but some kind of alarm is about to wake them up.

Last year I took note of the first emergences of box turtles in the spring. With three years of reliable observations, I noted Mar 19, 20, and 22 21 as the appearance dates in previous years 2013, 2012, and 2009, respectively. I also noted that the wildly varying weather surrounding those dates didn't seem to have much effect, at least in the medium term.

I think it's cool that these first appearances coincide with the astronomical start of spring, pretty much regardless of weather.

We'll see how that holds up this year, but we certainly won't break any records. So far, I haven't seen any box turtles, and we had some really warm and pleasant days in the last couple of weeks, some dry and some wettish, and all seemingly seductive to warmth loving reptiles.

At left is my day to day recording of temperatures and rainfall in Wolfskin.

Red is for last year and blue is for this year. The dots are individual data and the lines are 25 point running averages. The dark green rainfall bars are actually at 1/10 the y-axis numbers, in inches, while the light green cumulative rainfall numbers are as indicated. The purple is the daily mean temperature average over 30 years.

This year our weather has been up and down since February. January was unusually cold, February about average, and we've been on the cold side so far in March. Still, we've had some warm excursions in the last two or three weeks.

Spikes in the weather temperatures at this time of the year aren't all that odd here. What our northern friends see as frequent snowstorms, we typically just see as rainfall followed by a drop in temperature for a few days.

We're just coming out of such a pattern, and will be warming up after a good 1.5" rainfall. I'm totally expecting to see a box turtle today or tomorrow, and will be out looking.

Of course, I said that last week too, and the week before, hoping to break the first emergence record.

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