Turtles of Cape Cod Field School 2010: Day Two

Morning — Radio Tracking Eastern Box Turtles

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Bob Prescott Retrieves Female Eastern Box Turtle

The second day of the Turtles of Cape Cod Field School began with radio tracking tagged Eastern box turtles on Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.  The sanctuary hosts one of the more robust populations of Eastern box turtles in the state, and under the leadership of Director Bob Prescott, the sanctuary has conducted a 31-year longitudinal study of Eastern box turtles in the South Wellfleet area.

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Field School Participants Begin the Box Turtle Hunt

Following a brief tutorial, Bob Prescott brought participants into the field on a glorious summer day to find a female Eastern box turtle that he had tagged the night before.  This turtle had been found by the field school on Monday roaming through the parking lot looking for a suitable place to nest.

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She Went That-a-Way

Handing over the antenna and radio direction finding equipment to first one student and then another, the search began in the field adjacent to the Nature Center and the camping grounds.

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Zapping the Instructor!

After a little good humored ribbing from the instructor and ample “return fire” from students, the tracking signal was acquired and the game was a-foot.

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Searching for the Elusive Radio-Tagged Box Turtle

Participants spread across the field in the direction of the sanctuary camping grounds, hand-checking every possible turtle hiding place in the line of bearing from the radio receiver and pointing off to the east-northeast.

Radio Tracking Eastern Box Turtles

With able instruction, both in the classroom and in the field, students closed in on the turtle, getting a powerful signal under some leaf clutter beneath a low oak tree.  Bob Prescott crawled on his hands and knees to the perfect turtle spot and eyed the transmitting antenna protruding from a pile of leaf debris.  After locating this turtle, students turned their attention to another tagged turtles on the eastern edge of the sanctuary, finding this one and four more untagged Eastern box turtles during the morning expedition.

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