Turtles “Plant Crops” in Wareham Gardens

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Painted Turtle “Plants” Egg in Wareham Community Gardens

As late May temperatures soar into the 80s, you can set your calendar to turtle nesting season when painted turtles scramble out of wetlands, ponds and rivers to deposit their crop of eggs representing the next generation of shelled reptiles.  We spotted the first nesting females on Monday afternoon and by Wednesday, nesting had shifted into high gear.  Adventurer and author Dick Wheeler of Wareham spotted a painted turtle nesting in the Wareham Community Gardens off Tihonet Road on Monday evening and immediately reported his sighting to Don Lewis, the Turtle Guy, to see if steps could be taken to protect these babies-in-waiting.

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Two Turtle Nests Protected on Path to Gardens

Sue Wieber Nourse, CEO of Cape Cod Consultants and research scientist, met Wheeler at the Wareham Community Gardens early Wednesday morning to install a nest protector over the eggs to prevent rapacious predators from destroying the nest.  While Wieber Nourse and Wheeler were engaged in protecting one nest, another painted turtle climbed out of the wetlands, crawled into the gardens and found a suitable spot to plant her own crop of six eggs for fall harvesting (that is, hatching).

Painted Turtle Sowing Crop of Eggs in Wareham Gardens

Wieber Nourse and Wheeler witnessed a fairly rare sight.  Watching quietly and carefully from a distance so as not to disturb the nervous turtle, they observed the entire nesting process.  The turtle carefully excavated the egg chamber, patiently deposited six elongated eggs one at a time, then painstakingly covered the nest and disguised its location.  Because this turtle had laid its clutch in the busiest portion of the community gardens, Wieber Nourse decided to relocate the eggs under the same protective predator excluder as the original nest to give them the best chance of survival.

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Painted Turtle Egg Sowed in Wareham Community Gardens

Wieber Nourse gently and individually excavated each egg from the tight packed soil.  She dug a new nest and carefully placed the eggs in similar fashion as the mother turtle had done.  She packed down the soil and re-installed the nest protector now covering both clutches of painted turtle eggs.

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Turtle “Crop” Overlooks Human Gardens

Both nests now rest comfortably on the sunny pathway to the community gardens where the eggs will incubate under the natural heat of a South Coast summer.  So, while human gardeners toil at weeding, watering and tending their vegetable crops, these eggs, which were buried and abandoned by their absentee mom, will lie quietly under the warm earth, choose a gender depending on the temperature at which they incubate, develop into hatchlings with a sharp pointy egg tooth to cut their way to freedom, and finally tunnel to the surface and scramble for safety in the abutting wetlands.

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The Future?  A Juvenile Painted Turtle

With a little luck and a lot of sun, these eggs will hatch in 60 to 90 days to become the next generation of painted turtles in Wareham with beautiful markings akin to this adorable juvenile Lewis and Wieber Nourse discovered nearby in mid April.  While a wild nest faces overwhelming odds of destruction by predators, these babies stand a good chance of survival … thanks to the watchful eyes and intelligent intervention of Wareham’s community gardeners who are already planning a “coming out” party for some magic day in August when “their” hatchlings emerge.

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