Diamondback Terrapins Gather in SouthCoast Mating Aggregation

May 15th, 2015

Beautiful Female Diamondback Terrapin #601

Thursday morning, May 14th, broke beautifully.  A gentle breeze nudged southerly temperatures into Buzzards Bay. Unfiltered sunshine did the rest, baking low tide drained mud flats into steamy saunas. Unquestionably a day for turtles!

Lucky Female Terrapin #7

We launched kayaks from Town Landing and headed for the major Sippican Harbor mating aggregations. Paddling through flat waters, we observed gorgeous female and handsome male diamondback terrapins gathering. Clearly, numbers were still light as many ladies and gentlemen lingered in oozy shallows, preferring to bake in soft mud baths rather than bask in the open air.

Handsome Male Diamondback Terrapin #28

Guys were snorkeling in the main channel, waiting for damsels to arrive. We spotted a few females on the bottom under mud mounds and gently tapped them on the shell, interrupting their sauna dreams. Needless to say, they were NOT amused … by neither the tap nor the dip net that quickly engulfed them.

Lucky Female Terrapin #7 Snorkeling in Shallows

One of the captured turtles had a very interesting story to tell. Female Terrapin #7 had been rescued in Central Massachusetts last year and released in Sippican Harbor on July 5th.  When we examined her yesterday after a summer and full winter in Buzzards Bay, she proved in great condition, having gained 162 grams (14% increase) and having found her way into the most popular mating aggregation in the area.

Juvenile Female and Adult Male (Right) Terrapins Sloshing in Shallows

None of the terrapin females yet shows palpable egg development, but the season is young, and mating aggregations are just beginning. We also spotted a number of very young juveniles playing hide & seek in “quick mud” tidal flats in water depths less than 2 inches.

Baby American Eels Arrive in SouthCoast Estuaries

May 6th, 2015

American Glass Eel (Elver) [Anguilla rostrata]

On Sunday, May 3rd, the Turtle Journal team observed the first baby American eel (elver) of the season on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts. Transforming from the nearly invisible glass eel state, elvers remain difficult to spot as they swim and wiggle upstream through estuaries, rivers, creeks and streams to reach fresh water wetlands where they will grow to adulthood. As the week progressed more elvers appeared.

Last year, Turtle Journal documented the odyssey of American eels, in the article titled:  Saving Elvers on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts. Eels are the only catadromous fish in North America … as opposed to the anadromous salmon and herring.  That is, they are born as plankton-like critters in the Atlantic Ocean’s Sargasso Sea, float with currents toward the coast, transform to glass eels and then elvers as they make their way upstream to estuaries, swamps, ponds and lakes where they reach adulthood, and then swim back to the Sargasso Sea to mate and die. The opposite of salmon and herring (anadromous fish).

Elvers Fighting Gushing Water

We found elvers backing up at a local culvert. Spring flood waters augmented by snow melt seemed too strong for most of the elvers to make the passage upstream. Last year we observed thousands of elvers backed up at this culvert during the apex of the spring run in mid-May.

Elvers Resting in Backwater behind Culvert

On both sides of the culvert, a quiet backwater was created by the swirling creek. Elvers took refuge in these calm waters before making repeated attempts to traverse the culvert to reach the ponds and reservoirs upstream.

Elvers Take Shortcut to Wetlands

IF YOU HAVE AN iPAD AND CAN’T SEE THE VIDEO, CLICK HERE.

While elvers are extremely difficult to spot in the babbling creek water and even more challenging to capture, the Turtle Journal team scooped a small bucket of elvers and “crossed” them to the upstream side of the culvert.

Releasing Elvers Above the Culvert

No, we can’t personally save them all, but we can definitely save some of them; and we can lobby to have an elver passage created to save even more American eels on the SouthCoast.

OSPREY LOVE ON THE FAST TRACK

April 29th, 2015

Osprey Pair Prepare for Love on the Fast Track

Tuesday afternoon we happened to walk quietly by the recently reconstructed osprey nest in the SouthCoast rookery. As we stealthily approached, we spotted a male osprey that dove with clenched talons towards the female perched on a branch a few feet from the nest. No question; this pair had love on their minds.

Luckily, we had with us a camera with fast zoom lens because osprey love, as documented in the time stamped photos, takes ten seconds flat from landing to take-off.

In life, timing is everything.  The digital time stamp will be posted under each photograph.  Click on each image for a full version.

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TURTLE ADVENTURES @ EARTH DAY 2015

April 26th, 2015

Children Admire 9-Year-Old Diamondback Terrapin

The Buzzards Bay Action Committee sponsored an Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 25th in Fairhaven on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts.  The Turtle Journal team presented all local turtle species, marine & fresh water, that have already awoken from winter slumber to the delight of children from three to eighty-three, offering a great hands-on learning experience about turtles and nature for Earth Day 2015.

Don Lewis Demonstrates Female Diamondback Terrapin

Diamondback terrapins, spotted turtles and painted turtles greeted visitors and became a central attraction as folks spread out on the floor to get up close and personal with these reptilian guests.  Guests learned about turtles’ life history, their habitat, their predators and their survival status.

Earth Day Children Learn about Threatened Diamondback Terrapin

Using actual field research gear, kids measured and weighed turtles as junior researchers, and found out about obstacles to their future survival.

Turtle Hunt:  Male Spotted Turtle Makes Break for Freedom

Turtle Hunt:  Joy, Delight and Amazement

The highlight of the day came when the male spotted turtle decided to make a break for freedom.  He nimbly scurried under tables, around chairs and made a bee-line for the exit.  Like a western posse, children crawled on all fours to follow the turtle’s movements and to make sure he was safely apprehended.  The sheer joy of discovery and delight of this adventure glowed brightly in their eyes.

Kids Learn about Hard Shells, Soft Skin and Warm Hearts

The experience proved awesome.  Kids who had never seen a turtle, began by wondering if it were real or a toy.  As children touched her hard shell, stroked her soft skin and felt her sharp claws, they gained a first-hand understanding of the nature of turtles, and hopefully the nature of Nature itself.

All Photographs Courtesy of Sue Wieber Nourse of Turtle Journal.

OSPREY PAIR REBUILD WINTER DESTROYED NEST

April 22nd, 2015

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Rebuilding Winter Destroyed Nest

Ten days ago, great blue herons began rebuilding their nest that was destroyed by last winter’s brutal storms (See Rebuilding Destroyed Nest and Loving Bonds). Today an osprey pair began to rebuild their nest that had been completely blown away by winter gales.

Osprey Nest Completely Destroyed by Winter Storms

In early April we documented the 2014 osprey nest in the SouthCoast rookery that had been destroyed by the harsh winter. To revisit this osprey nest in all its glory last year,  see Ospreys Engaged in Nest Building at SouthCoast Rookery.

Osprey Brings Branch to Rebuild Nest

This morning, 22 April, the osprey pair busied themselves in ferrying branch after branch to the destroyed nest to restore it for the 2015 season.

Osprey Waits for Mate with More Building Material

With the arrival of this pair, all elite waterfront accommodations at the SouthCoast rookery have been claimed for the 2015 season by a mix of ospreys and great blue herons. We’ll be watchful, though. On occasion, ospreys callously evict heron pairs to claim the nest for their own. See Aggressive Ospreys Evict Great Blue Heron Nesting Pair.