Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A different kind of camouflage

with 32 comments

Snapping Turtle at Creek Edge 8381

You recently saw — or initially didn’t see — a caterpillar well camouflaged on a Maximilian sunflower. Here a much larger animal, a snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) that I estimate was a good foot-and-a-half long (45 cm), was trying to remain hidden at the edge of a tributary of Bull Creek in Great Hills Park on October 27. The large woody vine across the upper part of the photograph is a mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis). The tangles of reddish-brown roots are from a black willow tree (Salix nigra).

If you’d like a much closer view of the turtle’s head, you can click the following thumbnail.

Snapping Turtle's Head 8380

The site of today’s photographs was no more than 30 feet from the culvert you saw in yesterday’s abstractly shadowed picture, which I took two days later.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 9, 2015 at 4:51 AM

32 Responses

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  1. The turtle was doing a very good camouflage job. I wouldn’t have noticed it!


    November 9, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    • I’d originally caught sight of the turtle slightly downstream (to the right). I think I walked over to my camera bag to change lenses, and when I got back I didn’t see the turtle any more. Apparently it had used my absence to move away from where it had been, which was a more open place in the creek, to the little hideout where I later came across it again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2015 at 7:29 AM

  2. Nice catch. It is really well hidden.

    Jim in IA

    November 9, 2015 at 8:43 AM

    • It is, so I’m glad my brain was able to pick it out amid the clutter of rocks, leaves, and roots.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2015 at 8:49 AM

  3. Did you notice the leeches? Also, is that a puncture wound in the middle of his head?

    Gena Fleming

    November 9, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    • You have good eyes, plus more knowledge about this than I do; I saw those things but didn’t realize they’re leeches. As for what’s in the center of the turtle’s head, I don’t know if that’s a depression or an outright puncture. Even with leeches and whatever the other thing is, the turtle was still able to move about, but I don’t know to what extent it was ailing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2015 at 10:01 AM

  4. Do you see them often? This looks quite different than ours up here. I was also thinking it looked damaged, poor thing.


    November 9, 2015 at 10:41 AM

    • Because of its large size I assumed it to be a snapping turtle, but perhaps I’m wrong (which wouldn’t be a new thing for me when it comes to biology). This spring I saw a large turtle and had a knowledgeable person identify it for me. He said it was a snapping turtle:


      Whatever species the turtle in today’s picture is, it does look damaged.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2015 at 10:49 AM

      • I wasn’t doubting you, only expressing surprise. I did always wonder why people insist on calling snapping turtles here “alligator snapping turtles”. Now I know.


        November 10, 2015 at 8:29 AM

        • I didn’t take your comment amiss, Melissa. I doubt myself often enough when it comes to identifying things in nature, so I’m always grateful when anyone sets me straight about something. I remain a better photographer than identifier.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 10, 2015 at 8:54 AM

  5. Nicely seen, Steve. Once it moved it would have been easy to overlook it in the new location.

    Steve Gingold

    November 9, 2015 at 6:59 PM

    • Fortunately the turtle moved in the direction that I was planning to walk in. As I went along I kept scanning the edge of the creek to see if I could find something photogenic, and that’s when I rediscovered the turtle.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2015 at 7:20 PM

  6. Coincidentally, the lake where my dad and I are shown gathering treasure in my current post is Leech Lake, in Minnesota. It was well named, that’s for sure. I found this little tidbit about the relationship between snapping turtles and leeches: “Freshwater Leeches are often seen on the legs of snapping turtles, one of their favorite hosts.”

    It’s too bad the turtle can’t apply those claws to the leeches.


    November 10, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    • What a leechy coincidence. From what you say about the lake being well named, I hope you never found any on yourself or other members of your family. I didn’t realize, but now do from your link, that most leeches “prey only on insects, snails, and small creatures.”

      I cropped the view of the turtle’s head asymmetrically so people could see those curving claws, which you conveniently noticed and commented on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 10, 2015 at 7:08 AM

  7. Your photos are remarkably sharp. I especially like it when you include some fauna. This was a special sighting as it IS hard to spot a camouflaged turtle. Thanks!


    November 10, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    • The name of this blog is Portraits of Wildflowers but I include plenty of other botanical things, as well as whatever comes my way from the worlds of insects, spiders, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Variety, and all that.

      Like other nature photographers, I do my best to retain sharp focus on the main parts of my subjects. In low light, as with this orchid on an overcast morning in the shade of the woods, that can be difficult, and not all of the pictures I took of the orchid came out well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 10, 2015 at 8:48 AM

  8. Stunning photo capture of that magnificent beauty!

    Sammy D.

    November 10, 2015 at 10:16 AM

  9. As with the caterpillar photograph, I am glad you pointed out the snapping turtle. It is indeed well hidden. I may well have stepped on it and lost half a foot. The colours and textures in this shot are interesting as well. The creature positioned him/herself well for you. The curve of the trail of leaves and the twist of the branch go well together.


    November 10, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    • If it’s any comfort to you, I don’t think there would have been much chance of your accidentally treading on or near the turtle. It’s hard to tell in this two-dimensional photograph that the turtle was a foot—oh, the play on words—or two below the bank I was standing on. For you or me to have taken a step down and ended up close enough to get snapped wouldn’t have been easy.

      Like you, I was taken with all the curves in this scene.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 11, 2015 at 8:55 AM

  10. Amazing!

    Birder's Journey

    November 13, 2015 at 8:28 AM

  11. Wonderfully camouflaged reptile. Enjoying your posts, cheers.

    Robert Ashdown

    November 17, 2015 at 3:52 PM

    • Thanks. If I hadn’t seen the turtle before it got to the position shown here, I might not have noticed it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2015 at 4:15 PM

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