June 23, 2022
- as seen by -Micah Siegel
The eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is a common sight in New York ponds and lakes. Their dark, glossy shells are smooth like river rocks polished by water and time. If you are lucky to get close enough, the edges of their shells reveal a pattern of vibrant orange or red, and behind their eyes are two yellow spots.
Something unique about this species is how the hatchlings survive the cold northeastern winters. Unlike other turtle species that leave the nest shortly after emerging from their eggs, many hatchling painted turtles remain in the nest through the fall and winter. With most painted turtle eggs hatching in the late summer to early fall, many of these baby turtles stay buried in their nests for several months. They will emerge in the spring, once the temperature outside their safe haven is warm enough.
I was lucky to find one such hatchling, or at least one that I suspect had recently emerged. Considering that it was only late May when I found them, it would be much too early in the season for it to be this year’s hatchling. This little adventurer was making their way towards water, having spent the long, harsh winter waiting for the sunshine.