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

Re-Awakening — 29 April 2001

Still blowing from the north, winds subsided to less than 10 knots and air temperature lingered in the mid 40s, but water over the tidal flats had climbed back to 51F by 9:30 this morning.  In short, conditions moderated just enough to allow a couple of terrapins to re-emerge from frozen slumber with the renewed promise of springtime.  Horseshoe crabs resumed mating in numbers along the edge of low-tide sandbars in the middle of Blackfish Creek.

And while sometimes I whine a bit about murky conditions in the turbulent rapids over the rip, I must admit that this morning even I couldn't find much to complain about.  Water visibility was near perfect and you could see anything that moved through and along Blackfish Creek.

A mature male terrapin, #710, plopped over the rapids and bobbed along the shallows, snorkeling for air as he paddled toward the safety of deeper water.  Last seen on the evening of 3 June coming through the same rip, this turtle looked like he enjoyed a good 2000 summer season and survived the winter quite well, too.  Already one of the largest males we have observed in Wellfleet Harbor at 13.1 centimeters carapace length, #710 managed to gain another 5% mass to reach 340 grams body weight.

A 10-year-old female (#1051) spun through the rapids at almost the same time.  She was nearly 17 centimeters long and weighed in at 844 grams.  On closer examination, I noticed she had lost all the toes on her right front limb, and several of the toes and claws on her right rear leg were also gone.

Neither injury slowed her down.  She hissed a warning as I snatched her from the rip and on release she sped toward the creek, leaving a peg hole where her right limb touched the sand.

Both turtles seemed stone cold to the touch when I first recovered them from the rip.  As I measured, weighed, documented, and marked them, they warmed up considerably.  And by the time they were released, they had become fully alert and active.  They raced from the beach to the water line and paddled off into the creek at full speed.