Friday, January 30, 2009

1 more fertile egg

This morning I found one more egg to be fertile. So now we have 5 from the last clutch and 3 soon to hatch from the 2 clutches last year.
I guess I need a bigger house soon ;)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pictures of candled eggs

This was the first egg that showed fertility after 6 days

Second egg that showed fertility after 9 days

Third egg showed fertility after 10 days

4th egg showed fertility after 11 days
See how different the sizes are? They seem to grow fasted in the first few days.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fertility of the new eggs

After a few days I candled the eggs and could see one of the 6 is fertile. It had a black spot right on top. A couple of days later 2 more eggs showed sign of fertility and today I saw an other one. 2 eggs still look like buds, but nothing is lost yet. They develop in different speeds. Unfortunately the cam batteries were empty today when I candled, but I will upload pictures tomorrow and show the different growing process. The first fertile egg I found, has already a dime size spot today, while the other ones are still just a big bigger than a needle head.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cocoa laid 7 eggs yesterday

She abandoned her nest from a day before, although it looked pretty perfect for me. But little do I know what a tort mama's specific nest requirements are. She went to sleep early that day and woke up around 5am in the morning. Walked restless around and dug 2 more test holes until she finally decided to stay with one. I had some work to do and didn't watch her for an hour, and when I came back she had already everything covered!!! After only 1 hour this time. Wow.
I wanted to dig the eggs out, but she wasn't as exhausted as she usually is after egg laying and still took a sun tan and nibbled on her cuttle bone. I could not dig the eggs out while she was watching me, so I waited patiently until she finally went into her hide and fell asleep. I got a spoon and dug and damnit, the first egg cracked. It wasn't very deep like usual and I was wondering why she laid it so close to the surface. I carefully removed the soil with my hands and found a second egg. I thought that was it, because I couldn't see any more, but still removed some more soil and saw 3 more eggs some inches down. Once I had removed those, there was a 7th egg all the way down on the bottom of the pen. She must have dug very deep this time.
7 eggs, that was her biggest clutch so far, and she was not even exhausted.
I put all the eggs in the incubator and now I have 3 fertile eggs from the last clutches and the new 6 ones.
What I was wondering how she could carry all these huge eggs inside of her. They must have filled her out completely. What a wonder nature is.
I bathed her today and she feels a lot lighter than before now. Time to give the girl a good meal!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

More eggs today :)

I just saw, Cocoa is digging again. Wow, my girl is busy this year!!!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Candeling eggs

Today we are very excited. I candeled the 4 eggs in the incubator and found 3 of them to be fertile.

This is what an egg looks like when there is an embryo growing inside. See this dark oval spot on top? That is the embryo. One egg was empty, but 3 eggs should hatch in a few months.
I can't wait, this is soooo exciting!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More eggs in fall 2008

Last year, November 4, Cocoa became restless again. It was a beautiful day and in the upper 70s. I thought it might be a good idea to let my guys out for the afternoon, so they can catch some sun. I set them out on the patio and when i looked a half hour later for them, they were at the left side of the house beside the A/C unit and Cocoa was digging an other nest. Georgy was sitting right beside her and watched her. Daisyboy was appr. 5 feet away under a flower and slept.

left side is Cocoa, right side is Georgy

She chose a spot between the Black Cohosh plants (which I sell also in my store as seeds btw).

She was pretty busy to get a good sized hole, because the dirt was hard and she had to soften it with her own poop and urine several times.

It's getting deeper.

Now she's getting ready to lay the eggs. Her tail is getting bigger.

There we go. First egg is laid.

She was carefully turning the egg and moving it around, so that the second egg wouldn't fall right on top of it.
She finally found the right position for the egg just by moving it with her hint legs. She doesn't see where the egg is, she only feels it with her legs.

Here comes the second egg.

That seemed to be all this time, as she began to cover the hole up after the second egg. It was already 5pm and got pretty cool. The temperature was only in the lower 60s now and I was afraid, she wouldn't be able to finish her job. She seemed exhausted. But she cannot stop covering the nest up, she always is in a kind of trance when she lays eggs, where she doesn't seem to hear or see anything. After an other hour she couldn't move any more and that was when I carried her away. Georgy btw didn't move from her side for the entire 5 hours it took her to complete her job. I gave the girl a nice warm bath, so she could warm up and then she fell immediately asleep. She slept through 2 1/2 days, so exhausted she was.
After I brought them all in the house, I had to go out and dig the eggs up to get them asap into the incubator. In the meantime it was in the lower 50s and already dark. I had to get a flashlight, so I could find the spot again. Very carefully I removed the soil, which she had pressed very firmly around the eggs, so that I wouldn't crack them. I got them out with a spoon and cleaned them a little with a wet cloth, before I placed them in a plastic bowl, ready to go into the heated incubator.
5 weeks later onDecember 12, she laid 2 more eggs in the indoor pen and we are now incubating 4 eggs.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A day in the yard

What are we going to do today buddies?

Maybe there are some good weeds somewhere

First I need to take a bath

Mmmh, Mom has some mushrooms guys, come here..

Where, where?

This bush is a great place to hang out

That house isn't bad too

I prefer the ivy, it's cool and shady and nobody can see me (except Mom with her cam)

Let's walk a little bit

The lost tortoise

This is a copy of the original story by Kevin H., a friend of mine.

Around dinner time on September 17th some years ago, I returned from work and as is my habit walked down the path lined with blooming Hibiscus and various Heliconias to check on my redfoot tortoise, Pickles, a ten year old female I've had for 8 years. My heart sank to discover that my neighbor's new lumbering Great Dane puppy had knocked over a side to the enclosure (I found out later) and that Pickles was nowhere to be found. I searched anxiously through the fenced yard and down the path to the gate which, I was informed, had been left open that day for the landscapers monthly slash and trash and their easy access in and out of the yard. Outside the gate lay the heavily settled, sparsley lush environs of Miami's upper east side. And somewhere amidst the sound of traffic, the lacework grid of interconnected yards, the setting sun, and balmy breeze coming off Biscayne Bay, was my Pickles, lost. A quiet panic set in but I barely told a soul, thinking that the question "any news on your tortoise?" would somehow increase the chances that she would never be found.

The next day I got off work early to meet up with the little search party I'd organized. We spent 4 hours knocking on doors, putting up flyers, and poking through hedges and grassy rafts with our hands and bamboo sticks, all to no avail. I kept telling myself "she must be somewhere" but my mind wandered to awful thoughts, the worst of which entailed a hapless motorist passing through the neighborhood and, seeing Pickles, a novelty, scooping her up to live out a short miserable life in a dark box in a shed (cue soundtrack to Silence of the Lambs). In the weeks that followed I spent less and less of my free time searching for Pickles as the panic intensified then turned into a kind of hopelessness. I realized then how much of my daily life she'd become as everything reminded me of her. Collards, watercress, papya, and opuntia disappered from my refrigerator; the water saucer ran dry and thumbergia began to grow over her hide box. The thrice daily trips to check on the tortoise ended and the garden had a sad stillness to it that, at times, I could barely stand.

Rain and wind tattered the flyers so I would periodicly put new ones up but with less hope that anything would come of it. Through all this I was surprised by the interest my neighbors took in Pickle's plight and have formed some new relationships and fortified others from the support and concern I received. After 6 weeks passed, something inside me gave way and I felt it was time to take the pen down and let her go, mentally, spiritually. While I never gave up hope, I gave up trying with anything that looked like effort.

Then a phone call changed everything. I returned from work on the evening of November 4th to a cryptic message from an unidentified female caller: "I saw your flyer and I think I found your turtle.I brought him somewhere and I'll check to see if he's still there. If I find him, I'll call you back" . No number, no name, no location, no nothing. Well, something! I star 69ed and got a phone number in my area code . I called the number as if the voice on the other end was going to tell me I'd won the lottery. But no, the recorded message stated indifferently, "I'm sorry, this caller cannot be reached, please try your call later". This went on for 2 agonizing days wherein I developed a short term case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, often calling 20 times an hour. On the morning of November 6th the genteel birdlike voice of my unidentified caller answered, "this is Rose". I gulped then explained how I've been searching desperately for my "turtle" since September 17th. She explained that 6 days earlier she found Pickles traversing the streeet that runs parallell to my own, that she called Greynolds Park - a large wooded park many miles from here - to see if they would take the "turtle" but was told they wouldn't since the "turtle" didn't have webbed feet. Instead, she brought Pickles to Morningside Park, some 3 miles from me, a well manicured recreation park on Biscayne Bay of 15 or so acres. It rained heavily that Thursday with spot flooding but Rose agreed to meet up with me at 3 that afternoon and show me exactly where she released Pickles. I felt giddy.

Rose, it turns out, was a visiting professor in Latin studies who had just moved to the neighborhood and lived 6 doors from my own. Why Rose, an attractive 30-something woman, would agree to get in a car with a nice but somewhat giddy man and drive in the pouring rain to a park to look for a treasured lost object is beyond me, but she did. "Over there, behind the pools". I parked the car and wading through puddles that ran over the ankle we approached a long fenced structure that ran a length of about 500 feet but was only 15 feet from the water. My heart sank to notice that high tide tossed debris right to the edge of the fence, leaving me to think that Pickles may have drowned. To enter the fenced enclosure it was necessary to walk out onto the bay on very precariously placed iron rails then circle around inside. Once inside, we began tossing back grasses and brush, turning over the coconuts that were plentiful enough to fill a football field - and looked so much like a carapace when covered by a thin layer of grass -, and manuevering through the twisted branches of sea grape, but without any luck. An hour and a half later and soaking wet, and looking at my new friend, Rose, over my shoulder, dripping wet but still brimming with enthusiasm, I called the search off. We went for coffee and I plotted to return early the next day. November 7th, 51 days since Pickles wandered off, was a glorious day, the kind us Floridians gloat over and which make tolerable the summer heat and humidity, of brilliant sunshine, 85 degree temperature, and low humidity.

I passed two old men sitting on the bay and drinking beer, and wondered what they might think of me as I broke into the fenced area. I hoped they were too drunk to call the police. The coconuts under grass seemed to have multiplied over night but I methodically began making my way a few inches at a time, hoping that if Pickles were there, the light and warmth would rouse her and that would be the end of it. I developed a technique for tapping the coconuts with my right foot and could discern a light coconut from other hard round objects, like rocks. This went on for about twenty minutes when my foot touched upon a round grass-covered object that was noticeably heavier than a coconut and lighter than a rock. I bent down and parted the dry grasses and for the first time in 51 days looked upon the geometric, yellow and brown scutes of my lost girl. My emotions ran over. I gently lifted her from the little palate she'd made and raising her up exclaimed like a fool, "PICKLES! IT'S DADDY! I clasped her to my chest with both arms and carefully manuevered my way out. I can't remember if I was crying, but I don't think I've ever felt such intense feelings of joy and relief.

I got the girl home and into a nice bath. On inspection, she was no worse for wear though her first drink of water must have lasted a full minute. She felt heavy and had actually grown a bit. Oddly, she smelled like cheap perfume and I'm not sure what to make of that.

I phoned Rose immediately and we made plans for a celebratory dinner which, I'm certain, became the springboard for an enduring friendship. Now that Pickles is safe and sound (it would take hired construction workers to dismantle her new enclosure), I can reflect easily on the whole matter and share it with others. I have been surprised by how uplifted people are by this ordeal. Whatever moral there is to this story, beyond the obvious, escapes me, though I have been touched by the kind aspects of strangers and my love affair with my shelled friend has retuned to the honeymoon stage as I could drop to my knees with gratitude everytime I turn the corner to see her trundling quietly amidst the grasses and ferns.


Sunday, January 4, 2009


Hello, I am Daisyboy and although I am a real tort man yet, Mom still calls me babygirl. This is because she thought I was a girl, when she got me. Boy have I fooled them all. I didn't have the typical male concave plastron and got it basically over night. Anyway, I am really laid back and take it easy. I love to stay in my tort house during hot summer days and come out, when I hear Mom walking around.

I would walk miles to hang out around her feet. I am a foot fetishist. Love my Mom's toes and will sit just right on top of them, if she lets me. but I also love to explore things in the yard.
Everything is so interesting.

Not sure yet, I may go back to the house until it gets a bit cooler.

Yeah, see ya later. I am a bit tired now and need to have a nap.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


Hello, I am Georgy the Wild one. I was believed to be the only male in this family and had a lot of fun with my 2 girls, Cocoa and Daisy. Then one day Daisy entered puberty and showed us to our all surprise that she was a boy. He did not only fool Mom, but also myself! Well, Mom called him Daisyboy then, because she couldn't adjust to an other name any more.

I am the tort with no fear and nothing is too high for me to not climb on. When Mom built us our new outdoor pen at our new place in Decatur, I was pretty soon bored exploring it and found out there was a huge yard around our enclosure, which was basically wasted space, if I couldn't have a peek into it. So I looked for good place where I could climb over the brick wall and make this yard my own.
After many tries I finally found out how to climb up and land on my feet on the other side

Mom didn't see me first doing this and one morning I greeted her at the patio, when she was looking out the door from her office. I guess she almost got a heart attack when she first saw me, because she brought me quickly back into the enclosure and I had to do my climbing exercise all over again. I did this several times and she always brought me back until Daisyboy also tried to climber over the wall and was successful. We both now marched through the big yard and Mom finally accepted, that this enclosure wasn't suitable for us any longer, that we need more space. She knocked the walls down and we were free. How we enjoyed to have half an acre yard all for ourselves. There was so much to explore. Bushes, shrubs, flowers, weeds, it was like being in a paradise. We walked around, always together, following each other.

We had a wonderful summer and loved to hide under these plants, when it was hot. They gave us lots of shade and the best thing was, Mom had to search us all the time.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Kiwi's first months

Kiwi started to eat and drink 7 days after he was hatched. And boy did he eat! He would come out twice a day from under his hubba hut to look for food.

He quickly tripled his size, and enjoyed the warm summer outside in his plastic pen. I could see his pen from my office window and be immediately there, should he get in trouble. At night I brought him in the house. Kiwi learned all kinds of things and one day he discovered, that he likes to swim. He obviously didn't know that Redfoot tortoises are not supposed to swim. He jumped from my hand, when I held him into the plastic pool for the adults just so much to cover him half with water.

He swam like a pro and from that day on, he was used to swim for 5 minutes every day. Sometimes I let him walk a little bit on the patio, so he could explore his surroundings.

Uncle Daisyboy inspecting this little pooping monster.

Kiwi had lots of fun, but eating was his favorite.