Habitat for Pond Turtles: Turtle Sofas!

There’s a stream that runs through our property and into Wildcat Creek, close to where our bridge resides. Though the stream is officially nameless, we’ve always called it Phillips Creek, because it ran through the Phillip’s place; Belle’s Creek, because our neighbor’s dog loved to play in it; and Penn Creek, so named by the ODFW who showed up (without notice) to count fish one day. Whatever the name, the stream tended to cause flooding in the pasture in winter, so we put in a pond. How that was done is a blog for another day.

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At first the pond dried out in summer, but once the beavers noticed it, they routed more of Phillips Creek so that it flowed into the pond year-round. We installed a bigger culvert along with a fence to keep the beavers from clogging it up, and had ourselves a nice pond we called Buddy’s Lake, after our beloved Swamp Puppy, Buddy.

We had seen pond turtles in various wetland areas on our property, but were amazed at how fast they discovered Buddy’s Lake. They first appeared on a log that we’d left out, sunning themselves in the spring chill. When that log began to sink, as logs are often prone to do, we decide to make turtle sofas.

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Previously we milled up a few logs for various projects and had kept the sides for benches or whatever. So why not a turtle sofa? And to keep our sofas from sinking, we screwed on strips of rigid insulation we also had left over after building our house. The material isn’t toxic for the watershed.

turtlesofa11After launching the first sofa, we noticed that it tended to hang out close to the shore where a turtle might feel vulnerable to land animals, especially the two-legged variety.

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This turtle is game to try anything new!

So we tied an anchor to a rope attached to the sofa and tossed it out so the log would float more in the middle. We also roped the sofa to a tree on shore so we could haul it back in if need be. And, we added measuring sticks as a fun way to see how big the turtles were. A full grown pond turtle gets to be 6-7 inches long.

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Jeep, Buddy’s predecessor, wonders why we threw such a big stick for him to fetch.

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We added windjammers to a couple of sofas to help stabilize them. Probably not necessary unless you have beavers who like to knock them over and use for their dam.

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This is a turtle favorite, probably because of the moss that has grown on it. Without the foam underneath, this old log would have sunk by now.

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Six is not a crowd!

We’ve seen up to nine pond turtles at once on Buddy’s Lake. We’re happy that our turtle sofas are a preferred place for them to hang out. Or do whatever it is turtles do.

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Wildlife Shelters

Birdhouse I’ve built a lot of bird houses over the years, following one basic design and using cedar when I have it, and only varying the size a bit. The box is easy to make and installs with a screw on the inside back and one into the bottom of the back. I hinge the front with a bent nail or other metal device, making the house simple to hang as well as clean out in the winter. I have these all around the garden and on posts throughout the pasture. Cavity dwelling birds are for the most part insect eaters. Nice to have around in the summertime!

nestboxThis is an illustration from my spousal unit’s book The Complete Backyard Nature Activity Book which has a few other designs for houses and feeders as well.

I’ve also built a number of houses for our duck pond and have had wood ducks, hooded mergansers, and the occasional screech owl make use of them. A wooden hinge on the back of the box attaches to a rope or cable around the tree (run inside hose or plastic pipe). I loosen the rope/cable up every few years as the tree grows.

These larger boxes are pre-loaded with wood chips as ducks and owls don’t bring in nesting material other than their own feathers. I also add a piece of hardware cloth to the entry so the little ducklings can climb out easily.

I built a larger, deeper box especially for the flying squirrels that kept trying to live inside the roof vents of my old house. I blocked entry to their caves, then I figured I owed them an alternative. It SquirrelBoxStuffworked well, both for flying squirrels, Douglas squirrels, and chipmunks. A honeybee swarm also took it over the year I was selling the house. I let my bee-keeping neighbor take it away and when he convinced the bees to move into one of his structures, I got the box back and hung it at our new place.

We’ve had fun knocking first then sticking a camera inside a box to snap a photo. We like to see if it’s being or has been used, and several times we’ve found someone at home. Here are a few photos for your amusement. If you have questions just give me a shout. Meanwhile let’s do what we can to enhance what’s left of the wild areas so these critters can keep on keepin’ on.

Pictured: Hooded merganser, box interior with eggs, wood duck hen and baby, wood duck hen about to bite the camera, tree swallow babies, screech owl and baby.

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Images, diagrams, and text copyright 2016 by Marvin Denmark unless otherwise noted. Please do not copy and post my content anywhere without my permission. Thank you.