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

Continuity — 2 July 2001

The Light Family has been a charter member of the Paludal Posse before we knew there was such a thing as a Paludal Posse.  Pat Light has supported the Wellfleet Bay terrapin research project for over a decade, introducing her children and now her grandchildren into turtle conservation.  So, it’s never a surprise and always a delight to receive a call from the Light house telling of another terrapin sighting on Indian Neck.  This morning’s find was Turtle #266, first and last seen on 19 June 1992 when she was 18.4 centimeters carapace length and 1150 grams.  In the nine intervening years, she grew less than a half centimeter and dropped nearly 150 grams in weight.  Three Light grandchildren helped in processing the turtle — under Pat’s watchful eye.

The afternoon brought a call from Lieutenant Island that a terrapin was spotted on the second or west island.  When I reached the location, a young man waved me down to apologize. “I loss sight of her and she’s disappeared into the brush.  Sorry.”  After 15 minutes of futile search, I decided to drive down slope to the main, lowland road to intercept her as she headed back into the marsh after laying.  It’s frustrating to miss finding a viable nest, but it was the best chance to at least identify the nester.  Standing along Turtle Pass, I heard the unmistakable rustlings of an animate tank plodding through marsh grass.  Sure enough, first one and then another terrapin poked out of the marsh and sprinted across the road for the uplands.

After examining, recording, and marking these turtles, I thought I’d give the hill one more shot for the missing terrapin before heading back home.  As I reached the Murphy’s driveway, I saw #120 finishing up her nest only a few feet from where Terrapin #888 had nested in this same driveway last year.  I called Tom and Pam this evening to tell them about their impending new arrivals and suggested they begin plans for a repeat of last year’s hatching party when the whole neighborhood gathered to meet and greet the next generation of Lieutenant Island terrapins.  The clocks ticking: 90 days... 89... 88...

One turtle I found returning to the bay after her nesting run showed some interesting contrast to her last sighting.  Terrapin 959 was last observed on 15 October (see the Ides of Ooze) as she sluggishly passed through the Blackfish Creek rip in 12.5° Celsius water temperature.  Admittedly, since then she has deposited two clutches of eggs, but nevertheless she recorded a weight loss of more than 150 grams from 1140 grams in October to 973 today.  The image on the left is October 15th; the right is 2 July.