Archive for March, 2013

Slithering Salamanders Usher in Spring Congress

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Yellow Spotted Salamander

Tuesday night, March 12th, brought torrential rain, southerly winds and rising temperatures to Southeast Massachusetts.  Perfect conditions to kick off the annual spring congress of yellow spotted salamanders.  As we watched storm clouds roll in and the sky darken, we decided to check local hotspots after dark for our slithering friends.

Yellow Spotted Salamander Heading to Congress

As we bounced down backroads to the wetlands and carefully negotiated flooded puddles, we observed wood frogs and American toads hopping across the asphalt. 

Rocky Road to Congress

Deeper into the woods, our headlights captured the first yellow spotted salamander  slithering across the dirt roadway.

Congress Aftermath with Salamander Spermataphores

In this abandoned cranberry bog, male salamanders congress in shallow channels and deposit spermataphores along the reeds and leaf matter.  We returned to the bog this morning to check for congress locations in the daylight, which were easy to identify from spermatphore deposits.

Closeup of Salamander Spermataphores

Females have yet to deposit egg sacs.

Salamander Spermataphore (Closeup)

We will check these locations again this evening and through the weekend to follow the rest of the process.

Yellow Spotted Salamander Spermataphore

Turtle Journal photo-documented a spermataphore.  The image above shows one of the spermataphore deposits with a dime backdrop for perspective.  Clicking on the image will double its size.

Yellow Spotted Salamander Up Close and Personal

Turtle Journal Rescues 4-Year-Old Cold-Stunned Terrapin

Friday, March 1st, 2013

Sue Wieber Nourse with Cold-Stunned Juvenile Terrapin

To celebrate the end of February, the cruelest month in the Great White North, the Turtle Journal team traveled to Outer Cape Cod on March 1st for a pre-season assessment of the long winter’s damage.  As we patrolled the shoreline of the Fox Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on Indian Neck in South Wellfleet, Sue Wieber Nourse rescued a cold-stunned juvenile terrapin in the wrack line.  The turtle’s shell blended perfectly into the salt hay debris, demanding a sharp researcher’s eye to spot her.

Four-Year-Old, Cold-Stunned Diamondback Terrapin

Clinging to life, this stolid four-year-old terrapin was cold to the touch.  Her eyes were closed and, while she was responsive, her limbs were clearly weakened.  She was unable to crawl, and she was dehydrated.  Likely unearthed from her marsh hibernaculum by winter winds and ice floes, she was exposed to the elements and would have succumbed, had not Sue discovered her tangled in the deserted wrack.

Rescued Four-Year-Old Cold-Stunned Diamondback Terrapin

Back at Turtle Journal  headquarters, this young juvenile is soaking in lukewarm water and has begun to move her head about to examine her surroundings.  We will continue to warm her gradually until she regains health, and we will return her to the wild, once spring conditions permit.

Mature Female Diamondback Terrapin Carapace

Across Blackfish Creek on Lieutenant Island, we patrolled shorelines that had sustained substantial damage in the last series of winter storms.  Much sand has been lost from north-facing Turtle Pass and the Hook, as well as Turtle Point on the south side of the island; all critical terrapin nesting sites.  As we walked the bearberry banks above Turtle Point, Don Lewis discovered the carapace of a large, mature female that had succumbed probably in the fall.

Mature Male Diamondback Terrapin Plastron

A few feet to the west, Don found the shell of a deceased mature male terrapin.  Both turtles had been marked by terrapin researchers in better times.  Reading these markings, however, will require sleuthing because of the poor condition of the shells. The Turtle Journal team will search its database and digital imagery records to determine their history.