Terrapin Nesting Season Edges to Early Close

Wareham Diamondback Terrapin #824

Diamondback terrapin nesting on the SouthCoast of Massachusetts is edging very close to an end … almost four weeks early.  Normally, second clutch nesting lingers through the first three weeks of July.  This year, an unprecedently warm spring spurred early terrapin emergence from winter slumber nearly a month ahead of schedule.  Turtle Journal’s Sue Wieber Nourse observed mating behavior in mid-April, nearly four weeks earlier than previous years.  Sue documented first terrapin nesting in May when we had never recorded SouthCoast nesting in that month before.  So, here at the end of June, only a few female terrapins are straggling ashore to deposit their second and final nest of the year.

Terrapin Nest at Edge of Asphalt Hamilton Beach Causeway

On Wednesday afternoon, June 27th, female Terrapin #824 crawled ashore along the Hamilton Beach causeway in Wareham and scratched out a nest in the shoulder of the asphalt road.  Karen Spinks drove by the spot and saw the turtle working on her nest.  She walked back to ensure the turtle remained safe from evening commuter traffic, while the terrapin finished depositing her eggs and meticulously covered her nest. 

Karen Spinks Holds Ten Terrapin Eggs She Rescued

Karen called the Turtle Journal team to inspect the turtle and to protect the eggs.  We had recorded 8 depredated nests along the causeway just last week.  Because of the extreme vulnerabilty of nests in this area and the impossibility of installing a predator excluder along the narrow asphalt causeway, we harvested the eggs and removed them to a safe turtle garden.  When hatchlings emerge in September, Turtle Journal will return them to their natal nursery salt marsh.

Rufus Guards Freshly Laid Terrapin Nest

Rufus, the Turtle Dog, still finds an occasional nest during her morning patrols.  Once she confirms the nest, she stands alert and motionless until a researcher arrives to protect the eggs.

Terrapin Nests in Gravelly Spit at Aucoot Cove

A female or two like the one above still come ashore to nest on the Aucoot Cove barrier spit.  Available nesting spots are not too promising as illustrated by the gravelly substrate this female terrapin is trying to penetrate to shape her nest.

Injured Terrapin Expels Four Eggs

With Fourth of July approaching, the busy-ness of the tourist season escalates on the SouthCoast, increasing risk to wandering terrapins.  This female was run over near heavily trafficked Route 6 as the road crosses the Weweantic River at the Marion-Wareham line.  She was grievously injured and brought to Turtle Journal HQ.  She expelled her eggs without digging and before expiring from the trauma.  Her eggs were relocated to a protected turtle garden where they will safely incubate.  Once they have hatched, these babies … preserving the mother’s DNA … will be released into a nursery salt marsh in the Weweantic estuary.

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