Autumn Turtles at Blackwater NWR

I came across the last of my turtle photos taken during two visits at Blackwater NWR from the end of October to the first week of November.

With our delay in Autumn, temperatures were still high enough, allowing the turtles to delay winter hibernation and continue to do what they do best……basking.


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Eastern Painted Turtles


Our temperatures haven’t surpassed 50°F degrees much the past several weeks, so the turtles are now hibernating.  They bury themselves in mud up to three feet deep, in water no more than seven feet deep.


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Eastern Painted Turtle


For the first time in all the years I’ve been going to Blackwater NWR, I spotted a new-to-me turtle species, a pair of Red-bellied Cooters.  They are the largest recorded basking turtle in the Chesapeake Bay region.


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Red-bellied Cooters


Red-bellied Cooters are extremely shy and easily scared, so they are rare to sight up close.  I felt lucky to see this pair on both visits on the same log perch.


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Red-bellied Cooters


Both Eastern Painted Turtles and Red-bellied Cooters can live up to 40-50 years.


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Eastern Painted Turtle



37 thoughts on “Autumn Turtles at Blackwater NWR

  1. That’s a big turtle! It’s amaz that these creatures can survive like they do so far under water and deep in the mud! 🤔😯

  2. I love turtles and all of these are beautiful! I have seen them in the past sleeping under 14 inches of ice on a farm pond here and find that incredible.

  3. We don’t see many turtles around here. I wonder why. Yours are truly impressive. How on earth do they manage to survive buried so deep in water and mud? Amazing stuff. Thanks for the lesson. ❤

    • Hmmmm….I wonder why you don’t see any either. Indeed amazing! Once a hibernating turtle gets gridlocked in ice & the water oxygen levels drop, turtles survive, partly because they store a sugar called glycogen in all its organs which gets broken down & used as an energy source without using oxygen. Generally, breaking down glycogen produces lactic acid, which is toxic at high levels. Turtles counteract the effect of the acid with minerals released from their shell & bones. Today’s turtle lesson! 😉 Thanks Gunta! ❤

  4. In their proper habitat they look really neat! Not native in the UK we are starting to see more as kids who grew bored of the teenage mutant ninja thing decided to ‘relocate’ them.

    • Our Eastern Painted Turtles are like ‘decor’ on the logs around the waters. 😊 Oh boy, TMNTs, they are still trying to bring them back here in popularity. My son grew up with them 25 years ago. Never did understand the creation of that ‘turtle power’ stuff, lol.

  5. Nice captures, Donna, and what fun to see something new, twice! You’ll be looking for them in the spring. Nice detail in the last image of the claws—always surprising how long they are,

  6. You certainly have some beautiful turtles Donna, and you have captured them so well. When you catch them sunning themselves is the best photo of them as they do not show many features in the water.

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