Nature Notes – A surprise visitor

This is the first time I have joined Ramblingwoods for her weekly meme about nature.

I have written about some of the wildlife in the garden from time to time; I gardenin an  environmentally friendly way; I don’t use any chemicals in the garden to allow beneficial insects to do any pest control for me.  I leave plant debris for creatures to hide, hibernate and nest.

I had no idea what I would share with you today until I went outside to put the washing line away and saw a creature I’d never seen in the garden before!  I had seen them in other people’s gardens but never, never here, quickly I dashed inside to get the camera; I know they are famous for not moving very quickly but that isn’t actually always true.  So what was my visiting creature?

A tortoise, Hermann’s tortoise to be precise (Testudo hermanni).

Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), he was quite shy and pulled his head in when I passed by

Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) but was quickly brave again

Described in my ID book of Mediterranean Wildlife: Has yellowish, domed shell, comprising horny plates.  Head and legs are retractable. Viewed from the rear end, tail shows large scale at tip; two symmetrical plates lie above the tail base on shell margin.  Locally common in warm dry areas including meadows and scrub-covered slopes.  Occurs around coastal regions of Italy and Greece; also on Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, and Ionian Islands.

After I had taken the photograph I returned to where I had seen it with some nice crisp cucumber (as if it needs food!) and it was nowhere to be seen.

I think one reason I was so pleased to see a tortoise was that, when I was a child, I had one as a pet; my first pet, I know it is frowned on now to capture this ancient species from the wild, and quite right too, but it used to be common for a child to have these extraordinary reptiles as a pet.

Do you have any reptiles in your garden?

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28 thoughts on “Nature Notes – A surprise visitor

  1. What a wonderful surprise for you! 🙂 The occasional frog, salamander or garter snake might show up in some people’s gardens here in southern Alberta, but I’ve never seen any in mine. Just furred wildlife and insects….

  2. Oh he is gorgeous!! No tortoises in my garden but plenty of toads and we even spotted a frog last week! I’m sure we used to have a ‘pet’ tortoise when I was really young? They are ever so cute!

  3. Such a nice treat to see this revered creature. This summer I’ve seen two Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina), one up close and one spied from the window, but as you mentioned it might be years before another is seen.

  4. What a lovely chap! We don’t get any of these but have lots of snakes, frogs, toads and lizards which are great to watch and very useful as they keep the mice and moskitos and flies at bay.

  5. How beautiful. You are very lucky. Here we get snakes regularly, mostly garter snakes that are after the frogs. However this spring a painted turtle paid a short visit. The nicest snake we have is the green snake which is small and emerald green. Best of all, for a gardener, it eats slugs!

  6. I’d call it wrongly turtle, what is the difference with a tortoise?
    Anyway we have some tortoises around here too, they have a darker shell though. Not long ago we nearly drove the car over one of them, it was crossing the road on a very dangerous spot, cars passing by and it was stubbornly crossing in slow-motion. I picked it up quickly and we freed it in a nearby large natural pond. It was very hungry with me and I was scaring because it tried to bite my fingers and then finally pissed on my shoe. I felt a better person after that moment (the rescue, not the wee-wee).
    They are fascinating creatures anyway, something unexpected somehow.

      • OMG. Fortunately I left it BY a pond and not IN a pond, so that it could decide whether it will become a turtle or a tortoise as a grown up. In italian there’s only one word for both turtle and tortoise, now I understand why you name them differently, it could save a tortoise’s life…

        • Whew! Actually in English there are three words, Tortoise, terrapin (fresh water small) and turtle. English is a very precise language so a word for everything, but a nightmare to learn!

  7. I have seen tortoises here before, but not this year. I am always delighted to see them, though I once witnessed a battle between a large one and another that was much smaller. I confess I stepped in so that the little guy could escape. More commonly I see an assortment of lizards and salamanders. They are very common. When my boys were young, they would catch them. I would let them visit for a day, and then they had to go home!

  8. What a wonderful discovery! I recall that a tortoise showed up in our California backyard when I was a kid. Our guess is that it had belonged to one of our former neighbors, had gone somewhere to hibernate, and had been forgotten or abandoned. He stayed with us for a time and then disappeared – we weren’t able to discover where he went. At my current house, all I’ve seen in the reptile category are lizards – but we have zillions of them. Visitors of the furry variety – squirrels, raccoons, skunks and coyotes – are also common.

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