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

Treks — 23 June 2001

As tides align more favorably for the turtles, nesting runs are once again on the upswing.  This afternoon’s high came around 1:30 and a handful of terrapins took advantage of the tidal boost to begin their trek inland and upland on Lieutenant Island.  An old friend, #363, was among them.  She’s a 14-year-old turtle who has been under observation for the last five nesting seasons.


Number 363 paddled against the incoming current in Blackfish Creek, scaled the imposing foredune on the north shore, trudged through high grass and flooded marsh, and climbed the bearberry slope off 5th Avenue to reach her traditional nesting spot.  At the halfway point in this epic round-trip, she still faced a tough challenge.

The site Terrapin 363 chooses to nest is at the top of a slope in the east track of a heavily traveled dirt road, the center strip of which has been asphalted to prevent rutting.  She must claw through hard-packed dirt and pebbles of the consistency of concrete to reach a moist layer of sand a few inches below the surface, into which she deposits her hatchlings in waiting.  We located the nest as we saw #363 scrambling on her way back to the marsh and marked it for follow-on observation.


For three months, these eggs will be run over daily by SUVs and pickups, and once weekly by a tank-like garbage truck.  Yet, the fates willing, come mid-September after a late summer shower softens the ground marginally, a parade of quarter-ounce hatchlings will tunnel to the surface and scramble into the nearby nursery marsh of south Lieutenant Island.