Archive for April, 2012

Turtle Journal Presents “Turtles Gone Wild” at Wareham Free Library @ 6:30 pm on May 3rd, 2012

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Massachusetts Turtle Bouquet

Through the magic of digital media, Don Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse — the Turtle Journal Team — will transform the Wareham Free Library into a reptilian paradise, so kids from 5 to 105 can experience first-hand the hair-raising excitement of adventure and discovery. You’ll cast off the ordinary world of bricks and mortar, climb inside a dazzling sound and light show, and unleash your inner explorer.

Turtle Journal Team:  Don Lewis and Sue Wieber Nourse

You’ll watch as turtles wake from winter slumber, bask in bright spring sunshine and turn thoughts to creating the next generation of reptiles. You’ll hide in camouflage to observe female turtles trek across impossible obstacles to reach nesting sites and deposit egg clutches representing the future of threatened turtles on the SouthCoast. You’ll fast-forward as hatchlings emerge from the sand to take their first breath as they scramble to safety. You’ll uncover secrets about what makes these shelled critters such wild and wonderful telltale species of our natural world. As turtle populations tumble, so goes the quality of life around us. As turtles prosper, so does the richness of our own world, too

One Ton Leatherback Sea Turtle Entangled in Buoy Line

Along our ocean coast, you’ll come face to face with five species of sea turtles that frequent Massachusetts waters. You’ll rescue a half ton leviathan, a massive female leatherback, entangled in buoy lines and fighting for her life. You’ll patrol storm tossed beaches to rescue hundreds of the most endangered sea turtles in the world

Turtle Commentary (Male Diamondback Terrapin)

Psst! Listen up, humans. The Turtle Journal Team will be presenting a virtual extravaganza called ‘Turtles Gone Wild’ at the Wareham Free Library on May 3rd at 6:30 pm. I even hear through the reptile grapevine that a couple of my turtle pals will be on hand to make sure these mammals get things right. You know mammals. Some say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Others like us know that beauty and intelligence are intrinsic qualities inherent in all reptiles and sadly lacking in younger, less developed species like mammals. It’s not really their fault. How can you blame youth for immaturity? We reptiles have dominated Earth for hundreds of millions of years, while modern humans have barely seen 100,000 trips around the sun. Still, it will be amusing to see how Don and Sue tell the exciting story of turtles of the SouthCoast. ‘Turtles Gone Wild,’ indeed. Listen to these characters and judge for yourself who really represents the intelligent species.”

Don Lewis serves as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Districts. Also known as “The Turtle Guy,” Don’s research and rescue exploits have been featured on National Geographic TV and his work has been profiled in books on global animal rescue, endangered wildlife management and habitat preservation.

Sue Wieber Nourse, research scientist and master educator, is CEO of Cape Cod Consultants, an environmental solutions company specializing in wildlife management and critical habitat assessments that protect nature while expeditiously enabling client objectives. An intrepid adventurer, Sue led underwater research projects from the Canaries through the Caribbean Sea to the Hawaiian Islands, and from the Florida Keys through the Bahamas to Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod and the Gulf of Maine.

Their original nature stories and professional wildlife photography have appeared in newspapers, magazines and broadcast media locally, across the nation and around the globe. Don and Sue document the nature of coastal Massachusetts on their web site, Turtle Journal (, and they share real-time adventures directly from the wild on Twitter (

Of Butterflies and Moths

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

While roaming woodlands and wetlands in search of hard-shelled reptiles, the Turtle Journal Team often encounters other interesting critters along the way.  Yesterday offered us a glorious peek at a couple of intriguing moth and butterfly specimens that we’d like to share with our friends and colleagues.  In the pine-oak woodlands near the Great Blue Heron rookery, we nearly stumbled over this magnificent butterfly, which we later identified as a question mark.

Question Mark Butterfly in Marion, MA 

No, not a questionable identification.  Yes, definitely a question mark!  I feel as though I’ve fallen through the rabbit hole and find myself in an old Abbott and Costello skit.

Abbott:  “A question mark butterfly.”

Costello:  “I don’t know, you tell me the name of the butterfly.”

Abbott:  “Question mark.”

Costello:  “Yes.  What is it?”

Abbott:  “Question mark.”

Costello:  “Okay.  I give up.  You tell me.  What’s it’s name?”

Abbott:  ‘Question mark.”

And so it goes.

Giant Leopard Moth (Hypercompe scribonia) Caterpillar

On the path to the abandoned Goldwitz Bog also in Marion, Turtle Journal discovered a very large caterpiller, overwhelmingly black with orange-reddish stripes visible as it coiled into a ball when disturbed.

 Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar in Marion, MA

Ignoring those bright warning colors, we picked up this interesting specimen to examine it closely and to get a sense of its relative size compared to other caterpillars.  Luckily for us, this species is not poisonous.


Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar — Bottom Up

We also like to document the undercarriage of specimens for ease of subsequent identification.  Research confirmed that this critter is the caterpillar of a giant leopard moth.

Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar near Abandoned Bog

We watched as the moth zigzagged through needles and leaves, occasionally burrowing under the ground cover for a peaceful interlude.

Giant Leopard Moth (from

Back at Turtle Journal headquarters, we searched the internet to find a photograph of the mature giant leopard moth.  We found this picture on, but we look forward to encountering a live specimen to capture on film.  The giant leopard moth has a wingspan of three inches!

If Claude Monet Painted Painted Turtles …

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Painted Turtle Hatchling

Yes, it’s true.  The Turtle Journal Team is composed of hard-nosed scientists, the kind of just-the-fact-ma’am investigators that would have made Sergeant Joe Friday proud.  Still, no matter how focused our researchers may be, we have the privilege to spend our days in the most beautiful habitats in the world, observing the most exquisite species that Nature has devised.  So, who could be surprised when our morning began with the discovery of a gorgeous, half dollar sized painted turtle hatchling hiding in a wetlands path?  Then, as we walked along the swamp pond bordering the Great Heron Rookery, it seemed as though Claude Monet had spent the night splashing the morning canvas with Impressionist colors contorted in Daliesque shapes.  Enjoy!

 Three Painted Turtles


 Two Painted Turtles

One Painted Turtle


Snapping Turtle Mating in Full Swing on SouthCoast

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Adult Male Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

Torrential rain and mild temperatures swept the SouthCoast on Sunday night into Monday morning.  After weeks of drought, humid air offered a welcome break for wildlife.  Turtle Journal walked out to the Great Blue Heron rookery this morning.  As Sue Wieber Nourse and Rufus followed the narrow path between mucky wetlands and swampy pond, they spotted a broiling underwater commotion obscured in the brownish murk.


Mating Pair of Snapping Turtles

Barely identifiable in the image above, a pair of snapping turtles explored amorous intentions.  Tails fully entangled in the bottom of the photograph, and heads faced each other with mouths agape, the twosome undulated a foot below water surface.  The male snapper whom we encountered later on the pathway was recognizable on top through the bumps on his carapace.

“Smiling” Male Snapping Turtle after Mating Engagement

A few minutes later, when they returned from a survey of the distant edge of the pond, Rufus bolted to attention and alerted Sue to a large still object at the edge of the path.  Sue identified the adult male snapping turtle who a few moments earlier had been engaged in an energetic Texas two-step with a young female. 

Sue Wieber Nourse and Rufus Discover Mating Snappers

This male snapper weighed about 25 pounds and he seemed to be taking a snooze after the passionate exchange.   He sported impressive claws nearly as thick as human fingers and he reared up high in powerful display of his dominance.  “Leave me alone!”

Male Snappng Turtle Celebrates with Break Dance

Somehow our snapper friend got flipped over in his exuberant display of fierceness.  As he used his noggin to right himself again, the sequence looked like a comical cartoon break dancer.  Turtle Journal couldn’t resist putting the moment to music and motion.

Male Snapping Turtle Returns to the Water

Once right-side up again, this snapper had had enough of human and canine interaction.  He furiously stiff-legged his way back to the edge of the path and took a nose dive into the pond.  Within seconds, he had disappeared into the dark murkiness, a bit like Jaws escaping Quint by diving deep into the ocean darkness.  It does give you pause, though, about what might lie beneath the placid waters of your local swimming hole.  You remember, of course, the tag line for Jaws 2:  “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”

The Land Time Forgot: Modern Pterodactyls and Dinosaurs

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)  — Click to Enlarge

Welcome to pre-history.  Welcome to a time before time when giant reptiles ruled the earth and fury little mammals shivered in the reeds.  Whenever snapping turtles rise from winter brumation, time quakes and it seems to Turtle Journal as though dinosaurs rule once again.  I defy you to examine the tail of this splendid specimen without envisioning an ancient dinosaur.

The Land Time Forgot (in Marion, MA)

Today Turtle Journal ventured to the Land Time Forgot in Marion, Massachusetts.  Even in full sunlight, this area conveys a sense of  claustrophobic forboding as dense canopy melds with thick underbrush.  The opaque murkiness of the water adds to the allusion of a place frozen in a forgotten time.

Modern Day Pterodactyl:  Great Blue Heron

Reinforcing the mood of a lost time, modern day pterodactyls (great blue herons) glide through the air while serenading the wetlands with raucous “frahnks” that echo through tree tops and ripple across the pond like the imagined calls of extinct dinosaurs.  The rich odor of fetid swamp, accented with blizzards of gnats, nails the scene as straight out of a classic 1950s horror script.

Giant Snapping Turtle Claws through the Murk

As we slipped expectantly down the path, the moment got trapped in paralyzing stillness, the same sense that besets films whenever something really dreadful is about to occur.  And on cue, out of the murky blackness, a behomoth clawed the water to reach the brambled bank underneath our feet. 

Snapping Turtle in Marion, MA

We stopped … walking and breathing … as this large snapping turtle wedged himself under the bank, waited a few minutes and then pushed off toward the depths, disappearing into total blackness within just a few feet of the bank.  Turtle Journal loves snapping turtles; they are a direct linkage to a world we only know through fossils and imagination.  Turtle Journal respects snapping turtles; they are truly awesome, especially when they appear and disappear as if by cinema magic.