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Don Lewis, Massachusetts Audubon Society,
Fox Island Wildlife Management Area

The Awakening — 24 April 2001

Low tide came at sunrise, and a lone sea gull joined me wading on the rip.  He taunted, “I can find terrapins as well as you.”  And I thought I had found an easy mark.  But a southwest breeze had kicked up overnight and churned Blackfish Creek into the consistency of Turkish coffee.  My toes disappeared in inch-deep water.

I watched one large female float toward me, then plunge into the murk along with my disembodied toes somewhere down below.  For nearly an hour I watched and waited, but nothing broke through the haze.  Then, as tide reached maximum ebb, a head snorkeled about fifty feet ahead.  I checked the current and positioned myself within depth-charge splatter of where I thought she might surface.  Seconds passed . . . a minute . . . two minutes.  Had she slipped through the camouflaging muck?

Nope.  A whisper of a shell tumbled toward me and I netted Terrapin 1048, a 13-year-old female of nearly 18 centimeters carapace length and 1114 grams.  Most terrapins have not yet emerged from brumation, and #1048 showed signs of recently burrowing out of her winter hibernaculum.  Her rear quarters were caked in muddy brown pigment.

Well, she may have just woken from six months sleep, but she was anything but groggy.  Described as aggressive and feisty, she let me know in unambiguous terms that she did not appreciate having her maiden swim spoiled by a visit with Turtleman.