Terrapin #285 Nests on Barrier Beach

Terrapin #285 Nests on SouthCoast Barrier Beach

Three days of cold rain and heavy clouds broke for a few minutes this morning; just long enough for Terrapin #285 to crawl ashore from Buzzards Bay onto her SouthCoast nesting beach.  Turtle Journal has followed Terrapin #285 since July 1st, 2005 when we first saw her nesting on this barrier strip.  She’s a very large female with an 8.5 inch long carapace and she weighs nearly 3.5 pounds.

Diamondback Terrapin #285 Completes Nest

Sue Wieber Nourse first spotted Terrapin #285 sprawled flat against the sandy beach, immediately over her still open nest.  #285 had already carved out the egg chamber and had gently deposited her eggs.  Now, just as carefully as she had constructed the nest, Terrapin #285 deconstructed it, hiding the eggs and camouflaging the site.  As you watch the video clip, note how #285 uses her large back limbs like a “second pair of eyes” as she completes the nest while protecting the fragile eggs inside.

Covered Diamondback Terrapin Nest

After Terrapin #285 moved off her nest, the Turtle Journal team moved in.  You can detect the nest because of the darker coloration of moist sand that has been mixed from underneath.  If we had waited a few minutes, the nest would have blended into the background.

Top of Terrapin Egg Chamber

Don Lewis began to excavate.  He gently brushed off the top layer of sand with the side of his hand.  He probed with his fingertips until he felt the “sweet spot,” the small circular hole that reaches down about two inches to the top of the broad egg chamber.  The pink top of the highest eggs confirmed that Don had found a viable nest.

Top Layer of Eggs in Terrapin Nest

Once into the broad egg chamber, Don began to remove, examine and count the eggs, using the tip of his thumb and index finger to extract the fragile turtles-in-waiting.

Terrapin #285’s Eleven Freshly Laid, Pink Eggs

Terrapin #285 had deposited 11 very large, moist, pinkish eggs.  However, because the nest had been placed in a highly vulnerable spot, Don harvested the eggs to relocate them in a safe turtle garden.

Don Lewis Relocates Terrapin Nest to Safe Turtle Garden

The harvested eggs, along with sand collected from the natal nest, were brought to the turtle garden to incubate.  After Don placed them into a nest he had constructed, he covered them snugly with natal sand, and then installed a predator excluder over the eggs to ensure they incubate in safety.  Once hatchlings emerge they will be released at their natal site on the barrier beach.

Diamondback Terrapin #285 Returns to Buzzards Bay

After Don and Sue took measurements to compare with our previous records, Terrapin #285 was released back into Buzzards Bay to prepare for her second nest of the season.  For local terrapins, the second clutch comes about 17 days after the first. We’ll be looking for Terrapin #285 again during the last week of June.

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