Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Turtle (B)log

The ever-joyful Labrador and I went for a walk around Green Lake yesterday with a friend, and it was nice to see some signs of spring in what is proving to be the coldest April on record in Seattle. (It's officially cold, not just impatient-warm-weather-waiters cold, according to meteorologist Cliff Mass; everything is blooming late, the temperature rarely nudges above 55 degrees.)

Football-shaped coots grazed on the lawn, and a pair of hooded mergansers floated near the lake's shore. Mallards were everywhere, followed by their fluffy, tennis-ball-sized toddlers. The red-winged blackbird males staked claims to the cattail beds, flashing their crimson epaulettes and shouting.

All this activity was for the birds, in the minds of the turtles resting on logs along the west side of the lake. As soon as a cup or two of sunshine spills on our fair city, they're stacked like plates on the logs, furiously basking.

From the shore I couldn't see what kind of turtles they were--I'd always assumed they were a native species--but when I took some pictures and blew them up, I could see they were red-eared sliders, the same species that once was sold for pennies to kids who kept them in tiny plastic lagoons decorated with a pathetic plastic palm tree. The poor creatures always died within weeks of purchase. 

These turtles were clearly dumped into the lake by owners who no longer wanted the responsibility of caring for them, but fortunately their existence in this lake is not, so far as I've heard, considered a problem. (Green Lake is a natural lake, but it's been heavily modified by humans, including being cut off long ago from a creek that once drained it.) There aren't that many of them, and the lake is quite large, and they don't seem to be gobbling up endangered species or posing any of the problems that the poor pet rabbits abandoned in the nearby woods did.

We watched the turtles for a bit (not that they ever moved) and pondered the odd fact that two out of every five humans who happen upon the turtles feel obliged to say, "Mmm, soup!" and grin around at everybody as though this is a tremendously clever and original remark to make.

The dog didn't consider the turtles worth watching at all. Waterfowl were likewise dismissed, despite the fact that she's a retriever. The only wildlife worth watching at Green Lake in her eyes are the squirrels.