A Tale of Two Turtles

This not a fairy tale or Aesop’s fables. This is an authentic record of two real turtles. Today I will take you on armchair travel to Gerritsen Creek Salt Marsh Nature Center in Brooklyn where the turtles reside. Both are my best buddies, part of my morning walk beat.

The Nature Center is located on Avenue U and east 33rd Street. On the left is Marine Park. Imagine yourself walking thru the tall majestic oak trees lined up in a circle around the periphery of the park. As you cross over Avenue U, you enter the Nature Conservancy Center overlooking Gerritsen Creek. Around the bend of the creek is the picturesque nature trail. This creek is home to diamond back terrapins, these are turtles with webbed feet, the only salt water terrapins in USA. All other salt water turtles in America are sea turtles, and have flippers. On a sunny day, one can see several terrapins on the piles with their head raised basking under sunlight.

Besides turtles, the creek is home and habitat to a beautiful pair of swans, ducks, geese, gulls, and bobbleheads. and myriad birds including cardinals, blue jays are tweeting and singing all day long. If you are lucky, you will the catch the rare glimpse of upsy daisy swan fishing for food.

The two turtles in question are from two different species and were residing at the opposite corners of the Center. The diamond back terrapin’s aquarium is on the backside facing the creek and Eastern box turtle Charlie‘s aquarium is located on the front side facing Avenue U.

The 7 year old diamond back terrapin with green shell and black dotted white body is a cutie pie. His name is Pepper and he is the center of attraction. He is well aware of his importance and is a very friendly soul. His aquarium is close to the window facing the back lawn. When I knock at the window in the morning, he invariably rises up from his deep slumber, opens his beady eyes, stretches his neck then raises his head up as if wishing me good morning. If I am fortunate, I get to see his wide yawn, oh it is so adorable, what in the world would I not give up for that yawn. When he gets tired of swimming he climbs up on the perch to rest. He sleeps on his perch and happily swims around when he is awake.

Now I’ll tell about the other one. The 30 year old box turtle Charlie on the other hand lives in mud aquarium and sleeps in a hollow trunk of the tree, like reverse U shape carved like an igloo. Eastern box turtles live in woods instead of pond; they are the official State Reptile of North Carolina and Tennessee. Charlie has a thick, fat, short neck, his expressions are ferocious, and his head looks like a snake.

At some point the park rangers decided to place them side by side and that’s how the fun started. In the beginning they were aloof to each other. I don’t know what transpired, but one morning I noticed that they’ve turned into long lost buddies. I saw that Pepper was swimming only on one side of aquarium facing Charlie. It was almost like he was prancing and was swimming just for Charlie. While Charlie’s snout was sticking to the glass surface of his aquarium, as if he was set to fly out to hug Pepper. I observed this had become their daily routine. Their love fest was in full swing. It was such fun and so encouraging to watch these two turtles from different species fall head over heels in love. It gave hope for otherwise my dying faith in human race.

Charlie and Pepper were silly together lost to the whole world. Until the thoughtless park rangers, these villainous park rangers meddled in their affair. They put barriers in the form of food tray, water tray on the way so Charlie can’t get close to Pepper and they’ve moved Pepper’s perch so it’s hard for them to see each other. They looked sad and I was equally sad at their separation. This weekend I witnessed an amazing sight. Charlie was standing on his hind legs on a huge stone by the edge of his aquarium, gazing fondly at Pepper and Pepper was swimming again only for Charlie. I was overjoyed to see how the creative creatures have surmounted all the barriers which shows love is supreme and prevails above all. I would encourage you to visit the Center on weekends from April 1 to Oct. 31 between 10 am to 4 pm and meet Pepper and Charlie, take a walk down the nature trail and savor the serene surroundings then share your thoughts with me.

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