Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Red-eared slider and entourage

with 34 comments

Red-Eared Slider with Fish Fry 0766

I’d photographed a red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) several times before, but never with as attentive an entourage as I found at the Riata Trace Pond on July 30th. Everywhere the turtle went, the fry were quick to follow. What they got out of that I don’t know, but what I got out of it was a different sort of picture from my previous ones of red-eared sliders.

I took this photograph about 11 minutes before the one of the bearded robber fly you recently saw.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 31, 2014 at 5:29 AM

34 Responses

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  1. Scripta elegans sounds like a font type.


    August 31, 2014 at 6:11 AM

    • What a great association to make: it does sound like a font name. You conveniently omitted the Trachemys, but we can pretend he was the designer of the Scripta Elegans font.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2014 at 8:06 AM

      • What I can’t understand is why this Trachemys is scripta elegans and others are scripta scripta, and why any of them are scripta at all? Does it relate to the patterns on them, do you think?


        August 31, 2014 at 8:17 AM

        • What you say is plausible but I haven’t found anything to confirm it. What I did find is that the species name scripta goes back to 1792.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 31, 2014 at 8:25 AM

  2. The turtle might offer some cover and shelter. Sort of a mobile home for small fry.

    Jim in IA

    August 31, 2014 at 7:24 AM

  3. Possibly there is something or a bunch of someones that are contained or carried on the slider’s shell and of feeding interest to the fish? Whatever the reason, this is a great behavior image and pretty unique amongst turtle images.

    Steve Gingold

    August 31, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    • I’m glad to hear that you find this unique too. I hope the behavior really is unusual, rather than that you and I have led sheltered lives when it comes to turtle behavior. I did notice that some kind of aquatic vegetation seemed to adhere to the turtle’s back, but I can’t say whether that held any attraction for the fry.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2014 at 10:56 AM

  4. What fun! I’m reminded of nothing so much as a bunch of blackbirds harrowing a hawk or an eagle in flight.


    August 31, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    • I can see how this would remind you of blackbirds harrowing a hawk or eagle, but I’ll add that in the case of the turtle and the fry everything was quite harmonious and there were no adversarial interactions at all.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2014 at 1:52 PM

  5. Great find and photo. I don’t generally see this much vegetation on the shell of a red-eared slider, so maybe that explains the school of little fish swarming around it. I’d guess that generally sliders spend enough time sunning that they tend to dry out any vegetation that tries to grow on their shells. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    Cynthia, aka Gaia gardener

    August 31, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    • You’re welcome. The amount of vegetation on the slider’s shell surprised me, too. Like you, I wondered whether that had anything to do with the entourage of little fish, but I never saw any of them nip at the vegetation or interact with it in any other way, so I still don’t know. In any case, I was grateful for the chance to photograph a turtle in a new way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2014 at 3:33 PM

  6. The botanical garden has both turtles and minnow sized fish, but I’ve never seen them doing that. I have to start paying closer attention!



    August 31, 2014 at 3:41 PM

  7. According to RedEarSlider.com, pet turtles can be fed minnows and guppies. Maybe this species of fish tastes bad. I wonder if the water was low in oxygen and the fish were attracted to turbulence from the turtle’s swimming.

    Lloyd Ewing

    August 31, 2014 at 4:23 PM

    • During the ten minutes or so that I took pictures I never saw the turtle try to eat any of these little fish, and they not only showed no fear of the turtle but followed it around. As you suggested, fish of this species apparently aren’t among the red-eared slider’s prey, whether because of bad taste or for some other reason. Your conjecture about the fish being attracted to the turbulence is plausible. There were ducks nearby on the pond but I don’t recall if any of the fish followed them around the way they did the turtle. If I ever see this combination again I’ll pay more attention.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 31, 2014 at 4:32 PM

  8. Peepers and Sliders~ you and Steve G. are taking me back to my childhood!


    August 31, 2014 at 5:51 PM

  9. This looks for all the world like gulls and pelicans following shrimpers and fishing boats. Even when the workers on board aren’t culling and tossing goodies overboard, the movement of the boat stirs up the shrimp and other detritus in the water. Sometimes there are as many as a hundred birds behind a single boat, feasting on the goodies.

    It may be that the good ship Mr. Turtle is stirring things up in the same way.


    September 1, 2014 at 7:45 AM

    • Ah, ever your association with the sea, and I can understand why in this case. Here’s a question, though: several ducks were paddling around not far from the turtle, and presumably stirring things up a bit too, so why weren’t any of the fish following them? One possible answer is that the fish didn’t want the ducks to eat them. Another possibility is that some fish were following the ducks but I just didn’t notice.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 1, 2014 at 8:03 AM

      • My guess — and it’s only that — is that the nature of the movement has something to do with it, and maybe even the “hull shape.” The difference between a slow, steady shrimp boat and a fishing boat with one or two big outboards is considerable. Maybe there’s too much movement with the ducks. Maybe their feet look like propellers to the fish. Or maybe the ducks are stirring things up, but all the action is farther down in the water and not immediately visible on the surface.

        Methinks it’s time for a field trip to our local turtle-heavy wildlife refuge.


        September 1, 2014 at 8:15 AM

        • If you come up with anything on this score, do let us know. I had the idea of going back to the Riata Trace Pond to make another observation, but I think the July 30th visit was the only one in which I ever saw a turtle, so a return trip probably wouldn’t help. On the other hand, I have nothing to lose by checking it out.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 1, 2014 at 8:35 AM

          • Go for it, Steve. Even if no turtle, there will always be something else to enjoy, right?

            Steve Gingold

            September 1, 2014 at 8:45 AM

            • You plucked the words right out of my brain, Steve: I’d considered ending my comment with that very thought, because every visit I’ve made to the Riata Trace Pond has produced at least some good pictures.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 1, 2014 at 8:49 AM

              • Even without good pictures, the experience is always worth the trip to almost any natural location. I know….I am preaching to the choir.

                Steve Gingold

                September 1, 2014 at 9:00 AM

                • In this case I’d call it a semi-natural location. I suspect the pond was created by people, as is the case with almost all lakes in Texas, and I think at least some of the native plants that grow around it were planted there. Whatever the plants’ origin, I’m glad they’re there.

                  My impression is that most people who visit this place do so to get exercise by walking or jogging around the half-mile path that circles the pond. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone else taking photographs there, but I’ve always found subjects no matter what the season. One big advantage is that it’s only about a 10-minute drive from home.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 1, 2014 at 9:16 AM

                • By “natural location” I meant nature to be found. I know you often go to highway or city street intersections etc which I was more referring to. As you probably know, my favorite “go to” is a man-made reservoir just a few miles from home.

                  Steve Gingold

                  September 1, 2014 at 9:34 AM

                • And that’s a good use of the word natural, meaning ‘having to do with nature.’ Maybe someday I’ll have the chance to photograph in a few of your natural locations and vice versa.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  September 1, 2014 at 9:50 AM

                • That would be my pleasure, Steve.

                  Steve Gingold

                  September 1, 2014 at 11:17 AM

        • I hope you find something interesting regarding your turtles, Linda. What I see here mostly are the Eastern Painted and they keep a good distance usually.

          Steve Gingold

          September 1, 2014 at 8:47 AM

  10. This picture is so full of life.

    The World Is My Cuttlefish

    September 4, 2014 at 6:26 AM

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