Archive for May, 2013

Sunset with Dinosaurs in SouthCoast Wetlands

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Dinosaur-Like Snapper Nests at Sunset

An exquisite evening in SouthCoast wetlands on the last day of May.  Steaming hot with a brilliant sunset.  Bullfrogs bellowing, wood frogs croaking, red-wing blackbirds screeching … and dinosaur-like snappers nesting.

Dinosaur at Sunset in SouthCoast Wetlands

In a calm trance state fueled by oxytocin, this beautiful gal allowed us to lie beside her within inches to photograph her chiseled profile and to document the nesting process.  And, yes; I know.  It’s deuce difficult to distinguish between video and still.  They’re that slow and deliberate.

Snapping Turtle Posed to Deposit Eggs

We remain in awe of the power of these living fossils.  This lass dug through layers of rocky gravel to create her nest, using her tail to anchor her body.

Gorgeous Nesting Female Snapper

Some say a face that only a mother could love.  Heck no.  This lovely lass is a mother herself, and any self-respecting dinosaur would find her perfectly appealing. 

Painted Turtle Nests at Sunset

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Painted Turtle Nests at Sunset

As the Turtle Journal team explored a sunset bathed wetlands off Sippican Harbor on the Massachusetts SouthCoast, we spotted this small painted turtle, completing her nest.  Facing directly into the setting sun, she slowly carved the egg chamber, deposited her eggs and carefully covered the nest.

Painted Turtle Nest Covered

Except for discoloration caused by mixing moist bottom soil with dry top sand, the nest completely disappears.  Somehow she even managed to place a piece of plastic debris over the egg chamber.  This color change, of course, fades in a short while, making the nest invisible to mere mortals.

Five Pink and Perfect Painted Turtle Eggs

Excavating the nest, we quickly discovered the “sweet spot,” the entry hole for the egg chamber, and harvested five perfect pink eggs for protection.

Eastern Box Turtles Nesting on Massaschusetts SouthCoast

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Eastern Box Turtle Peeks through Mostly Closed Shell

Joining snappers and painteds and spotteds, Eastern box turtles are now nesting on the Massachusetts SouthCoast.  This gorgeous lady, in her peek-a-boo pose, comes from Hammetts Cove in East Marion.

Female Eastern Box Turtle #66

Hammetts Cove hosts a terrapin nesting site where we have usually found the first Sippican Harbor nester each year.  When we begin checking for terrapin nesters, we often encounter box turtles on nesting runs a day or two before the terrapins arrive.

Eastern Box Turtle in Marion’s Hammetts Cove

When Sue Wieber Nourse and Rufus investigated the Hammetts Cove site this morning, they discovered an ancient female box turtle crawling through the area after completing her nest.  As you can see in the photograph above, despite their gaudy colors, box turtles blend perfectly into their surroundings, making them extremely difficult to detect.

Female Eastern Box Turtle #66

This morning proved our first encounter with this ancient female.  We marked her #66 and recorded morphological and scientific data to track her into the future.

Eastern Box Turtle #66 after Nesting

Female Eastern Box Turtle #66 measured 14.6 centimeters straight-line carapace length, and she weighed 566 grams after nesting.

Great Blue Heron Chicks Ready to Fledge

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

SouthCoast Sippican Great Heron Rookery

They’re big, they’re noisy, they’re demanding; so, it’s probably a good thing they’re also cuddly cute.  Great Blue Heron chicks in the SouthCoast Sippican rookery seem ready to fledge … not a moment too soon for their weary parents.

First Great Blue Heron Returned to Rookery on 24 March

On the morning of March 24th, with the ground still topped with a layer of ice and snow, the first Great Blue Heron returned to the SouthCoast Sippican rookery, occupying one of the four existing nests on the shore of Washburn pond.

Great Blue Heron with Two Large, Healthy Chicks

Today, two months and a few days later, that same Great Blue Heron guards two large and healthy chicks that seem on the verge of fledging.

Two Great Blue Heron Chicks Ready to Fledge

In the next tree over, another Great Blue Heron sits with another pair of huge chicks.  Two additional Great Blue Heron nests stand on nearby trees with chicks not yet at this stage of development. 

Ospreys Hold Stolen Great Blue Heron Nest

In the other direction, an osprey pair hold a nest that they took from Great Blue Herons last Spring and to which they have returned this Spring to nest.

From Tiny Eggs, Giant Snappers Grow

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

From Tiny Eggs, Giant Snappers Grow

Might oaks from little acorns grow, and from tiny eggs giant snapper spring.  At the oozy bottom of every lake and pond in New England lies a 70 pound snapping turtle that began life decades ago as a miniature ping-pong sized egg.  That long process began today for a new generation of snappers.

Rufus Discovers Good Sized Female Snapper

Rainy, humid and murky quiet; these elements comprise the trifecta of ingredients for snapper nesting.  Soil moist and soft for digging, and conditions so miserable that humans and other mammalian predators will eschew wetland bogs.  Yet, Rufus and Sue Wieber Nourse were on hand to find three nesting snappers and to recover 58 eggs for the turtle garden.  The first good sized female snapper was found by Rufus; she (the snapper) decided the better part of valor would be to wait another day for nesting.  (And, no; it’s only an optical illusion in the photo above.  Despite these snapper encounters, Rufus still has four legs.)

Youngish Female Snapper Laying Nest

Around the corner from the first snapper, Sue and Rufus discovered a youngish, ten-pound snapper that had climbed a muddy log pile to deposit her eggs.  A bit bashful, this young lady took nearly two hours to complete the nesting process.

Rufus Guards Snapper and Her 24 Eggs

Her nest contained a total of 24 ping-pong sized eggs that were harvested for a protected nest in the turtle garden.  As is her duty, Rufus kept a watchful eye on the eggs and  the departing mother turtle to ensure their safety.

Young Snapper Female Laying Nest

About five hundred feet down the path, Sue and Rufus encountered a young, but slightly larger female snapper, slowly and calmly carving her nest into the muddy substrate.  Arteries pulsing with the reptilian equivalent of oxytocin, this moment is the one time you can safely approach a snapping turtle as she labors away in a zombie-like nesting trance.

Enormous Dinosaur-Like Tail and Powerhouse Legs

Without being able to see what she’s doing, the female snapper secures her “footing” by driving her dinosaur-like tail into the ground like a spike, as she delicately maneuvers her powerful legs, first to sculpt the egg chamber and then to lovingly tuck each fragile egg into its appropriate place in the nest. 

Thirty-Four Ping-Pong Size Snapping Turtle Eggs

This lady deposited 34 eggs into her nest.  They, too, were carefully harvested for a protected nest in the turtle garden.