Chloe and I ended our morning at the little point of land near the parking lot at Howarth Park where families go to feed the ducks. Plump geese, busy blackbirds and cheeky ground squirrels can all be found here most of the day. This seems to be Chloe's favorite part of our walks so I try to spend a little time here after each one. I admit that it's a good place for me, too. Big birds that can be seen easily without binoculars and good light make it a fun place to sketch if the human crowd isn't too big or boisterous. Oh, and on cold days it's sunny and warm.
A week ago we watched a woman feed peanuts to a ground squirrel that begged under her bench on it's hind legs. When the woman became engrossed in the conversation she was having with her companion, the squirrel leaped up on the bench to remind her to keep her priorities straight!
Today it was near lunch time and had gotten crowded by the time we arrived. Several people brought their dogs through to lunge at birds, which, of course, made the birds scatter. The ground squirrels were nowhere to be found, so I was packing up my sketchbook when I happened to notice a turtle basking on a rock beside the little island where the birds can get away from it all. I got the sketchbook back out of my pack and made a quick study of the turtle.
This turtle had no markings on it's face or shell and was probably a northern Western Pond Turtle (Actinemys marmorata), one of the three native turtles living in California. There's a different pond turtle south of San Francisco and a desert turtle, too. While trying to identify the turtle I found that tortoises and turtles are disappearing rapidly. For more information visit California Department of Fish and Game and California Herps.