Archive for May, 2013

Terrapin Nesting Imminent on SouthCoast

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Sue Wieber Nourse with Diamondback Terrapin #601

The Turtle Journal team has been monitoring SouthCoast mating aggregations again this year.  Even before this weekend’s cold front, the aggregations had already been thinning.  Today, only a couple of female turtles remained in the large Sippican Harbor mating aggregation.  Most females have dispersed to their nesting locations.

Sue Wieber Nourse Examines Female Terrapin #601

Sue Wieber Nourse captured one of the remaining females for a closeup examination.  She was Terrapin #601 whom we have been tracking in the Sippican aggregation throughout May.  With most of the other females gone, we wanted to examine #601 to see why she may be dawdling.  She was not palpably gravid, which indicates that #601 is still probably a couple of weeks from nesting, which may explain why she has not yet dispersed to the area of her nesting site.

Female Diamondback Terrapin #601 Being Released

Here on the SouthCoast we expect nesting runs to begin soon; perhaps as early as the heat wave predicted for later this week.  Females will return to mating aggregations after depositing their first clutch, and then they will disperse once again to nesting areas in late June or early July.

A Perfect Ten — Eggsactly!

Friday, May 24th, 2013

A Perfect Ten

Friday afternoon reaped the first painted turtle eggs of the 2013 season in our SouthCoast wetlands.  At the end of our rounds, we had collected ten perfect eggs from two nests for protection under a predator excluder cage.

Rufus with Her Discovery (Painted Turtle and Eggs)

As Turtle Journal’s Sue Wieber Nourse and Don Lewis scoured a local wetlands, it was actually Rufus who found the first nester.  A young, smallish female painted turtle lay hidden in tall grass, invisible to mere mortals.  Rufus assumed her “pointer” pose and stubbornly refused to join us until we had confirmed her find.

Sue Wieber Nourse, Rufus and First Painted Nester

Excavating the dug and re-covered nest, Sue harvested four pink and perfect painted eggs which had been laid by this young mother turtle.  Rufus proudly protected her discovery.

Second Painted Nester and Six Eggs

About a hundred feet further into the wetlands, Sue noticed a larger female, resting in exhaustion after her nesting feat.  Don excavated the nest and recovered six pink painted eggs.

A Perfect Ten — Eggsactly

At the close of our afternoon rounds, we returned to Turtle Journal headquarters with ten perfect painted eggs, which we secured under a predator excluder to incubate in safety.

Dinosaur (A.K.A. Turtle) Nesting Kicks Off

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Medium Sized Snapping Turtle After Nesting

As predicted by yesterday’s post with the appearance of a blooming lady slipper, turtle nesting snapped into high gear this morning on the SouthCoast.  Dinosaur-like snappers, gaudy painted turtles and dainty spotted turtles laid nests in rain-softened soil.

Rufus Guards Nesting Snapper

As Turtle Journal’s Sue Wieber Nourse and Rufus patrolled local wetlands, they encountered a medium sized snapping turtle nesting on a pile of muddy dirt.  Rufus assumed her guard position to assure the turtle remained undisturbed through the nesting process.

Prehistoric Dinosaur-Like Snapping Turtle Tail

We remain awed by primitive snappers, their Jurassic tails, steely claws and cold-blooded stare.  What sweethearts! 

Rufus Examines Painted Turtle and Abandoned Nest

Earlier in these wetland rounds, Sue and Rufus discovered a painted turtle that had just crawled away from an abandoned “false” nest.

Young Female Spotted Turtle on Nesting Run

And later in the morning, Don Lewis encountered a tiny, nine-year-old female spotted crawling along a wetland roadway on a nesting run.  The storm front that beset the SouthCoast of Massachusetts this pre-Memorial week brought out three turtle species to kick off the nesting season.

Lady Slipper Presages Turtle Nesting

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Pink Lady Slipper in SouthCoast Woodlands

When lady slippers bloom in SouthCoast woodlands, turtle nesting is imminent.  This morning we spotted a beautiful flower blossoming in Marion’s Washburn Park.

Pink Landy Slipper

With lady slippers in bloom, the next burst of heat, steamy sunshine or booming thunderstorms will serve as a “Green Flag”  for momma turtles to begin the mad dash to nest.  Ladies, start your engines!

Oystercatchers in Sippican Harbor

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

American Oystercatcher “W5″ in Sippican Head of Harbor

While kayaking in Head of Sippican Harbor on Tuesday, the Turtle Journal team observed a pair of American oystercatchers foraging the low-tide-drained mudflats.

American Oystercatcher “W5” in Sippican Harbor

With closeup images of one of the pair, we confirmed a “W5” band.

American Oystercatcher “W5” Foraging in Sippican Harbor

“W5” struck a bell and a quick check of our records confirmed that we had documented this same bird nesting on Gravel Island in Sippican Harbor in 2010.  Earlier sightings of American oystercatchers on the SouthCoast can be seen in the Turtle Journal story:  American Oystercatchers on the South Coast of Massachusetts.