Sunday, 7 November 2010

Insulating Turtle Hibernation Bath

After giving it a lot of thought , i have decided against hibernating my Emys in their pond. The reason for this is, they have only been outdoors a couple of months and i would rather monitor the pool through its first winter without them in it.
So, i captured them during the recent mild weather and before it turns cold again.
I still want to hibernation to occur but in a more controlled way......somewhere that has easy access to the turtles.
Deciding to use a plasterer's bath, some insulation was in order and 50mm thick poly foam boards proved to be ideal. One pack of these panels is just enough to completely clad a standard plastic bath.

It is shaped easily using a serrated kitchen knife, much better than normal polystyrene and a denser material too.

One board goes underneath, two others are cut to suit the sides, it can then be held together using duct tape.

A lid is made to fit, giving the tub all round protection from what could be another cold winter.

Finally the bath is covered with a portable plastic breathable cold frame as extra protection against the elements.

As i have said before, at least this way i have some control and easy access to the turtles. I may only use the lid during severe cold spells.
I will check this set up against an unprotected bath nearby and will have the option of bringing the turtles inside should it not prove successful.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Video Clips Of Emys in New Pond.

After a few weeks the Emys pond became murky due to sunlight and nutrients in the water. The good news is that it has now cleared, thanks to plenty of plants and oxygenating weed, so hopefully a balance has been acheived.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Pond For Emys Part 4

A few pics to show basking area.........they also use the decking surround.
The barrier is made from plastic roofing flashing which can be obtained from any diy store.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Pond for Emys Part 3

Before planting up the pond a couple of rubber mats are placed on the slope between deep and shallow water. This is again to aid the turtles during cold water conditions, these will provide necessary grip on what is a smooth surface.

Baskets of various plants are then added which will help to use up nutriments, so keep the water clear and also attract insect life.
Masses of oxygenating pondweed are placed all over the pond floor, this i feel is key to a balanced healthy pond. It also creates good cover for the turtles and literally fizzes when the sun is out.

Lengths of decking panels are screwed around the edge to trap the liner and underlay, making a neat finish.

Floating plants, dwarf lillies and duckweed are put in to provide some surface cover/shade.

So, nearly finished, should be an ideal habitat to these intelligent turtles and nowhere for them to get stuck and drown.
Just a basking area to be made now and next year an adjacent land zone.
Water quality will be carefully monitored, to see if a pump and filter are needed, hope the Emys like it, they could go in the weekend.

Pond for Emys Part 2

With all the hard work done, from now on it starts to become exciting as the pond nears completion.
Firstly the underlay is carefully placed over and then pushed down into the cavity, keeping the surface as wrinkle free as possible.

Next the liner is unfolded out on top and again gently pulled out evenly.

A hose is placed in and the filling begins! a dechlorinator is added at this point.

As the water level rises, creases will start to appear, these are folded and will flatten out as the pond fills.

When the water is at the top, hopefully the level will be even all the way around.....that's why a spirit level is an important tool in the early stages of construction.
Finally excess liner and underlay is trimmed, leaving about a foot of material all the way around.
Now comes the best bit......getting it ready for turtles!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Pond For Emys Part 1

Having recently obtained a group of Emys orbicularis, i needed to build a pond to keep them in.
Unfortunately where i live the ground is full of stones and boulders, so a raised pond was the only/easy option.
To save building walls etc, some concrete fencing posts were cut down to 18" long. They were then concreted into the ground and gravel boards dropped in, making sure all the top sides were as level as possible.

The dimensions are 9 ft long x 8ft wide, just big enough to enable various depths and a basking area to be created.


4" x 1" pressure treated wood was then screwed on to the gravel boards to give a good surface to attach the underlay and liner.
Some soil was then dug out to create a deeper area of 20" with a very gentle gradient up to the shallower area. This will help the turtles easily reach the surface when the water temperature is cold and especially after hibernation!

Damp building sand was added to help protect the liner, but also to profile and level the bottom of the pool .
Depths of 7" - 12" were made so, other than the deeper zone of 20", the rest of the pool is relatively shallow. This will help the water to warm up quickly, again a must in spring when turtles are at their most vunerable. It is at this time drowning can occur when cold lethargic animals struggle to reach the basking areas.

Loft insulation was then stuffed along the inside walls of the gravel boards to further help protect the liner.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Enjoying The Sun

With the recent glorious sunshine, the reps have been soaking up the UV's.
Here are a few pics....

Beware of Blackbirds.......with the ground being hard and worms hard to come by, my local blackbird sneaked in and grabbed a Podarcis while the cover was off. She escaped by dropping her tail!

Laudakia stellio x brachydactyla

Juvenile Physignathus lesueurii

Female Timon pater

Male Timon pater

Male & Female Clemmys guttata

Male Mauremys caspica

Female Emys orbicularis

Rana temporaria

Monday, 12 April 2010

'' There's A Lizard On The Garage Wall ''

So there i was sitting on the patio chatting to the other half, when she looks over my shoulder and says '' theres a lizard on the garage wall! '' I knew April Fools Day was long gone so on looking around there was indeed a Podarcis muralis giving me the stare. We caught her using nets, she showed no fear and am sure ....... recognised me.
On checking the viv i found a corner where the original sealing had broken down or possibly been chewed through by a mouse. Luckily only one lizard had worked its way down through all the logs and dried leaves to find an the way out. This was a wake up call to keep checking vivs for repair and to look for possible escape routes. It was in some sense a lucky break, as two Darevskia unisexularis were due to go in shortly. Had i not found the hole they surely would have been lost.

Below the recaptured Podarcis

Parthenogenetic Rock Lizard Darevskia unisexularis

Making Ready Juvenile Turtle Pond

Had a good clean out of the pond i use to keep juvenile turtles , the dimensions are 2.5m x .75m x . 3m deep. Although this pool is shallow and in full sun, there is no filter, by heavily planting with oxygenator (Elodea sp.), it keeps crystal clear.It is also the home to shrimps, snails, damsel nymphs and tadpoles, which all help to maintain a healthy environment for the turtles. The surface has some shade with duckweed and the leaves of a tiny water lily.

Turtles hibernate in here every winter, so to stop it freezing up, it is covered with a double layer of thick bubble wrap. In persistant cold such as last winter, i will use a pond heater occasionally.
This pool is covered in 50mm square strong mesh to keep predators out, especially a visiting heron. The mesh is bent, so as to give some height over the two basking logs.

I set up three tubs for putting out the juveniles first, so they can 'harden off ' as they have been kept in a warm garage over the winter. Water temperatures in the tubs can reach 20 deg C during sunny days presently, but cool down rapidly at night.

Pondweed and a basking spot, was put in each tub and water to a depth of about 200mm. These will be covered in mesh and will get plenty of sunlight.

Finishing Touches

Finished off the interior of the 2m x 1m x 2m high terrarium, by mixing in a bag of play sand and placing some large stones around the entrance to the underground hibernacula.When piling stones up, make sure that non can slip and damage an animal, silicon sealant can be used to hold stones in place.

This area will soon become the home of hunting spiders and will warm up in the sun to become a spot for basking . A few heather and lavender plants were then added, plus another log in front of the mesh as another basking zone. A cat litter tray of water for drinking/bathing will be placed just inside the access door(easy to keep clean).

Also topped up my other viv/terrarium with plenty of sand and planted some heather and thyme.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Turtle Ramps

When this pond was first dug out, many years ago, it was designed to hold fish such as carp & orfe. The sides are quite steep, which is fine for fish, but not so
good for turtles.
In the summer this might not be a problem, but in the cooler months, it may cause some turtles to drown. Species such as the European Pond Turtle Emys orbicularis, which are not great swimmers, can struggle to reach the surface for air.

So to convert this pond for turtle use, i needed to fit in ramps leading from the shelves to the basking areas. Fencing mesh was used to make these, which is easily shaped to suit the application, the mesh was then covered in coir sheeting.

The coir offers good footing for the turtles to climb and is eco friendly. When cutting the mesh to size, a pocket can be added to take suitable stone(s) to hold the ramp to the pool floor.

The top can then be bent to suit and tucked under edging stones, giving turtles direct access to basking spots and possible nesting sites.

I will make another ramp or two which will go from the pool bottom to the shelving zones.
Hopefully the coir will not break down too quickly, otherwise a different covering will be sought out such as pond liner underlay.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Building Underground Hibernacula

Today i decided to re-furbish one of my outdoor vivaria for when the weather warms......when ever that will be.This particular viv has dimensions of 2m long x 2m high x 1m deep and is of an aluminium frame fixed to a gravel board base.
The viv is glazed with acrylic on sides and roof, but the front is 50/50 acrylic and mesh, which gives the reptiles good access to natural sunlight and allows good airflow.

These greenhouse type structures can get very hot in Summer and cold in Winter, so underground chambers need to be built in to give the reps refuges/hibernacula.

One chamber is made from bricks with a paving slab on top which should keep cool in the Summer months. The other is a poly box which will keep at a fairly constant temperature throughout the year.

A tunnel is then attached to the polybox, which the lizards can access from the surface.

The poly box is then covered with wood or a slab to protect it from damage and the whole area is covered with a 75-100mm of a sand/soil mix.
Then various logs and stones can be placed on top for effect and basking/climbing spots for the reptiles.
I then added some large upright logs for access to the upper reaches of the vivarium, climbing plants will be grown up these. Other plants will be added over the coming weeks and maybe a few more logs/rocks.