A Place in the Sun

When I was a boy, I often kept wild-caught turtles. These were the days when there were stores we called “dime stores”, and they had names such as “Woolworth” and “Kresge”. One could buy baby turtles with various things painted on their shells (with real paint). These stores also sold containers of dried flies to feed the turtles. Unfortunately, few turtles survived very long after some child took them home.

Before my wife and I were married we cared for several small wild-caught turtles of several species. They were easy to keep if you gave them proper food and plenty of sun. My wife also helped me with a turtle maze-learning experiment I did for one of my college classes. We used wild-caught adult turtles, and released them after the experiments were over. The results were good. Wild-caught Eastern Painted Turtles could learn a simple maze well. Their transit times would go steadily down until they could make every turn without much hesitation. So we have a long history of admiring turtles.

The lake behind our house has several species of aquatic turtles. Since turtles are cold-blooded, they have to regulate their body temperature by moving to a suitable environment. In the Spring, they love to bask in the sun on some convenient log to warm up.

Eastern painted turtle

Eastern Painted Turtle

The photograph above shows an Eastern Painted Turtle basking in the shallow part of our lake. At our end of the lake, the water is deeper, and there are few convenient places for turtles to haul out to bask. The only thing they are able to use are a few small trees that have toppled into the lake, but are still attached to the bank.

Launching a turtle basking platform

Launch of the turtle basking platform

We have wanted to make a turtle basking platform for several years, but never got around to it. However, during the recent visit of our grandchildren Katie and Jack (reported in a recent photography post), they built a turtle basking platform for me.

Securing a turtle basking platform

Securing the turtle basking platform

They had to return to Atlanta before we had time to anchor it in the place I wanted, so my son helped me with the placement.

So if you see an odd-looking structure floating in the lake behind my house, with PVC pipe poles, it is our turtle platform. I may have to add some natural wood slabs to persuade the turtles to haul on our decidedly unnatural-looking platform. However, I truly hope that “If you build it they will come”.


A Place in the Sun — 5 Comments

  1. Great story, Gary! Have the turtles come? Would love to see them on the platform!

  2. Your platform is bigger than our pond! Good idea—I hope you get some takers.
    Our poor turtle didn’t have any way to escape what would apparently have been his eventual death. I’m glad for your help in educating us!

  3. No turtles yet that I have seen. I will photograph and post if any turtles get enough nerve to go up and bask.

  4. I really enjoyed the thought that went into the “turtle raft.” My father had wanted such a raft for the last twenty years, and it was really great to see the raft finished. I am waiting for the first picture of a turtle sunning at the new “Turtle Hilton.”

    • Thank you for all the help, Eric. Securing it in place was definitely a two-person job!