Pseudemys floridana peninsularis, through binoculars
Maceo spotted her first through the window, I was too busy making paper flowers. I think this was his first turtle. His posture was hyper-alert, a cross between sitting and crouching on his haunches, with his ears pointed forward and his eyes wide. At first I wondered why the turtle was wandering back and forth around the yard - seemed like odd behavior. Then I saw her attempt a few scrapes...she's going to lay eggs! Lucky for me, she settled on a spot right outside my rear window.
I took a few photos of her through my binoculars from the window, and also through the cattle gate at the rear of the Dirt Patch. I know some people have walked right up to turtles laying eggs before and didn't seem to bother them, but how do we know it doesn't stress them out? I decided to stay about 20 feet back while outside. I was a lot closer through the window, but the screen at least formed a bit of a visual barrier since it was so bright outside (and despite the cat staring at her through the window, she still chose to dig her nest and lay there).
She dug the nest with her hind legs and I could hear the eggs drop as she laid them. The eggs take approximately 90 days to hatch, so I'll have to remember to keep a look out for the hatchlings in late March.
After a while, Maceo found he had better things to do...
Scraping dirt on top of eggs...
...and laying another (taken through binoculars).
One of her scrapes
The nest - the sand on top is surprisingly hard-packed.
Peninsula cooters are most readily distinguished from other pond turtles by the presence of what are known as "hairpin" stripes on top of their heads. This photo was taken post-laying.
Update: I never saw the hatchling cooters leave the nest. There were several holes nearby, but I couldn't tell if the dog dug them or if they were escape tunnels for the turtles. I did see a few dried up pieces of what looked like reptile eggshell. Alas!