As a wildlife photographer, every day brings the possibility of capturing unique moments in nature. On June 20, 2023, I had the pleasure of photographing a fascinating reptile, a Red-eared Slider, right in my own backyard here in Arkansas. Join me as I recount this unexpected encounter and delve into the captivating world of Red-eared Sliders.

A Red-eared Slider's Journey Through My Yard

A Red-eared Slider’s Journey Through My Yard

The Discovery:
On a sunny morning, my good friend and fellow photographer, Mia McPherson, came to visit from Utah. We were completely focused on taking pictures of the beautiful birds that visited my yard while sitting comfortably on my deck. We had no idea that another incredible creature would appear and make our day even more special.

Mia’s sharp eyes first spotted movement amidst the greenery, and to our delight, we discovered a Red-eared Slider slowly making its way through my backyard. This stunning turtle was a sight to behold, with vibrant red markings on the sides of its head, the distinctive feature from which it derives its name.

A Mystifying Journey:
Curiosity sparked within us as we observed the turtle’s purposeful movements. It was heading southeast, seemingly with a clear destination in mind. Where did this Red-eared Slider come from, and where was it headed? These questions remained unanswered, leaving room for speculation and wonder.

As an experienced wildlife photographer, I knew that Red-eared Sliders are highly adaptable and are commonly found in various aquatic habitats across North America. They are native to the Mississippi River Valley and can thrive in ponds, lakes, swamps, and even slow-moving streams. Considering the turtle’s path, it seemed probable that there was a nearby water body awaiting its arrival.

The Enigmatic Red-Eared Slider:
Red-eared Sliders, scientifically known as Trachemys scripta elegans, are among the most recognizable turtle species in the world. Their distinct red patches on the sides of their heads make them instantly recognizable and contribute to their widespread popularity as pets.

In the wild, Red-eared Sliders exhibit intriguing behaviors and possess impressive adaptations. These turtles are strong swimmers, thanks to their webbed feet and streamlined shells, allowing them to gracefully navigate through water. They also possess the ability to regulate their body temperature by basking in the sun on rocks or logs, a behavior often witnessed in their natural habitats.

Interestingly, Red-eared Sliders are omnivorous, displaying a diverse diet consisting of both plant matter and small aquatic creatures. They are known to consume various aquatic plants, algae, insects, fish, and even carrion. This adaptability contributes to their ability to thrive in different environments and reinforces their survival in the wild.

Encountering a Red-eared Slider in my backyard was an unexpected and delightful surprise. Witnessing its determined journey toward an unknown destination reminded me of the mysteries that nature holds and the importance of preserving the habitats that sustain these fascinating creatures.

As wildlife photographers, we are privileged to capture these fleeting moments and share them with the world, fostering a greater appreciation for the wonders of the natural world. Through our lenses, we offer glimpses into the lives of creatures like the Red-eared Slider, encouraging others to embrace curiosity and seek their own connections with the wildlife around them.

So, next time you find yourself immersed in nature, keep an eye out for the unexpected. Who knows what marvelous creatures might be passing through, on their own mysterious journeys just beyond our backyards.

Note: After our encounter with the Red-eared Slider, Mia McPherson graciously shared her photo of the stunning turtle on her blog, “Red-eared Slider Turtle Portraits in Arkansas.”

Equipment Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon RF 100-500 mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM

Technical Details:

  • Location: Lavaca (Arkansas)
  • Date and Time Taken: June 20, 2023 (8:12 A. M.)
  • Exposure Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: f10
  • Shutter speed: 1/800
  • ISO: 6400 (Auto)
  • Exp. Comp.: +0.7
  • Focal Length: 500 mm