Photo of the Week – December 4, 2014

When I photograph small creatures, I often try to position myself so I can look right into their eyes.  I like face-to-face images because they feel very personal.  One of the most important catalysts of conservation is the personal connection people feel with nature and the species we share the planet with.  It’s one thing to see a caterpillar from a distance, but when you look into its eyes…  well, they’re just so darn cute!  It’s a lot harder to step on something or plow up its habitat once you’ve met it face to face.

One of the most charismatic species I know is the snapping turtle.  It’s not hard to photograph a snapper in  way that evokes personality and character.  Here’s a photo of a small snapping turtle we found earlier this year while exploring one of restored wetlands.  We picked it up for just a minute to examine it more closely.  Before I set it down, I took this portrait.

A small snapping turtle.  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies.

A small snapping turtle. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies.

In case you missed it a few years ago, here is a link to a previous post about a snapping turtle that was causing consternation among the cattle at our family prairie.  That one had some character as well…

On a somewhat related topic, I’m starting to put together my annual “Best Of” slide show of photos from 2014, just as I did in 2013 and 2012.  If there are any photos from this year’s posts you want to lobby for, feel free to do so in the comments section of this post.  Otherwise, I’ll just choose my personal favorites.

An Unexpected Traveler

My sons and I were at our family’s prairie and farm this weekend.  At one point, we noticed that the cattle seemed agitated and were making a lot of noise and milling around.  We walked up to see what was going on, and when we got close enough, we could see that the cattle were focused on an animal of some kind that was slowly making its way through the grass. 

A snapping turtle and some very agitated cattle.

I’m not sure if they’d ever seen a snapping turtle before, but it was clear the cattle weren’t happy about having it in their pasture.  They took turns charging at it and making angry sounds that would have intimidated most creatures.  Whether because it was unworried or just figured the best way out of the mess was to keep going, the turtle just kept steadily moving through the short grass toward the distant pond. 

After watching for a few minutes (from a safe distance – agitated cattle can be unpredictable), I took pity on both sides of the dispute and hauled the turtle off toward the pond.  I’m not sure what it’s going to find for food there – maybe some of the countless tiny leopard frogs we saw along the banks – because I don’t think there are any fish.  Maybe it’ll just enjoy a short respite from its bovine tormentors before setting out across the landscape again.

I wish him luck.  The cattle, on the other hand, probably have less charitable thoughts…