Sunday, October 19, 2014

Turtle tales

A Google search on the topic of turtles in the Barwon River does not prove particularly revealing, however there are definitely turtles to be found. In an earlier post I looked at the Eastern Snake-necked turtle which is found on Native Hut Creek and which is highlighted at the Turtle Bend community facility in Teesdale.

Eastern Snake-necked turtle. Image taken from :
http://www.australianfreshwaterturtles.com.au/
That being said, I am yet to spot an Eastern Snake-necked turtle in the wild and have not found specific mention of them occurring in the Barwon itself. For that matter, after spending quite a bit of time over a years on and around the river, I had never seen a turtle of any description - until this year when I saw two in a matter of a couple of weeks.
The first I spotted whilst paddling from Fyansford down to Breakwater during September. It was sitting on a log sunbaking and was quite happy to sit and watch while I snapped some photos:
Turtle on the Barwon at Fyansford
 It was clearly not an Eastern Snake-necked, so what was it? A little research suggested it was in fact a Murray River turtle (also known as a Macquarie turtle or Murray Short-necked turtle) and a fairly large one at that. So what was it doing in the Barwon? Well, these turtles live happily in captivity and I spotted this guy close to a reasonably populous part of the river. Perhaps it was an escaped pet - a one off.
Murray River turtle on the Barwon at Fyansford

A different view
But then, a couple of weeks later as I was paddling upstream above Merrawarp Road, some eight to nine kilometres from the place I spotted the previous turtle, I came across a second Murray River turtle. Like the first, this one was sunning itself on a branch, however it was smaller than the first and quite shy, disappearing back into the river before I had time to grab more than a couple of shots.
A second Murray River turtle on the Barwon
Another difference was that, this turtle was in a very rural part of the river and between this and the previous turtle is a stretch of river including the two weirs and Buckley Falls.
As with my search for information about Snake-neck turtles in the Barwon, I can find nothing which mentions a population of Murray River turtles being present either. In fact, one of the few references I found to turtles and the Barwon River did not really relate to turtles at all, rather it was a suggestion put forward that one explanation for the bunyip myth may have been a cultural memory of the extinct Meiolania platyceps or Meiolania prisca. The former being a large, horned turtle with a club tail which could measure up to 2.5 metres in length and the latter, a similarly large lizard.

Extinct giant turtle. Image taken from:
http://dinosaurs.wikia.com/wiki/File:Meiolania_platyceps.png
 All of which is interesting, however I am still none-the-wiser as to the presence of turtles of any description in the Barwon River.