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

Neighbors — 19 June 2001

After a nesting pulse probably instigated by the remnants of Tropical Storm Alison, Wellfleet Bay enjoyed a brief and relaxing interlude.  Two old friends came ashore with the morning tide, but they were the exception rather than the rule.  The lunar phase has high tides coming at inopportune times, around noon and midnight, and I anticipate a few days of slow action while moon and stars realign.  The evening’s high tide saw no nesters at all.


This break gave us a chance to reassess our widespread nesting grounds and follow tracks to see if we could detect (and protect) viable nests before they’re preyed upon.  One was discovered by chance in the midst of a heavily vegetated, bearberry slope; others were in more traditional locales.  With the sudden avalanche of nesters, we quickly ran out of protectors, so as weird as they may look, we’ve resorted to marking and covering sites, and using natural predator control until more excluders can be quickly constructed.

With the din manageable in Wellfleet, we could hear turtle voices from our Cape Cod neighbors.  In Eastham, just down the road about 8 miles, a nesting terrapin was discovered in the window well of a newly constructed cottage behind First Encounter Beach.  Relying on unfailing site fidelity, she came back to her traditional nesting spot to find it had been occupied — by humans — since last season.  Unharmed physically by her encounter with marsh-side development, she was rescued, marked and released — hopefully to find another not too distant locale to deposit her eggs.

On the other side of the Cape, near the southern approach to the canal, lies Wings Neck and Pocasset Harbor on Buzzards Bay.  Last year, with the help of a local colleague, we rediscovered a breeding population of terrapins in this densely developed coastal community.  As in several Wellfleet locales, these turtles must now nest in marginal sites between wrack line and landscaped uplands.

Yesterday our colleague captured the first two marked terrapins from this population.  The first was a 9-year-old female on the cusp of pubescent, while the second was an ancient turtle of 20.3 centimeters length and 1500 grams weight.  If she was not an exceptional turtle, but representative of the Pocasset population, then these Buzzards Bay terrapins may not suffer the same diminutive status as their Wellfleet Bay counterparts.

In appearance, both seemed cleaned and polished and ready for Sunday school, in contrast to the terrapins of the Land of Ooze proudly adorned with their mud and muck and algae.