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

Mixed Bag — 10 July 2001

The dawn didnít break so much as yawned as sultry conditions smothered the Land of Ooze.  Fog slithered along the marsh, engulfing creeks, coves and eventually all of Wellfleet Bay.  Even an army of fiddler crabs seemed lost in the haze, uncertain where the sea began and the sky left off.

We began the day canoeing Chipmanís Cove with dip nets in hand.  Visibility on and under the water proved challenging, but we managed to capture one young female, 8 to 9 years old, in the shallows off Shirt Tail Point.nbsp; She had cozied up to an oyster bed and Maureen was able to pick her out from the white backdrop as we paddled overhead.  Spending so much of her time in these rich, warm waters, #1163 was encrusted with slimy green algae.

While we would have enjoyed a full day in the cove, a call came about a leatherback sea turtle beached at the tip of Jeremy Point.  With no vehicle access, it meant a five-mile hike out and back again across beach and dune to reach her.  As we trudged along the Great Island path, we managed to discover a hatched terrapin nest from the 2000 cohort in a new location.  We also reflected on the coming sea turtle stranding season, which arrives as inevitably as the shortening days of autumn and often sees us walking these same shores under slightly less user-friendly conditions (sleet, snow, and gales).  To increase local awareness about cold-stunning in Cape Cod Bay, the Best Read Guide for Cape Cod recently printed an informative article on our sea turtle rescue efforts.

Approaching Jeremy Point, we spotted the large female leatherback in the far distance, near to, but just outside, the piping plover enclosure.  With no suitable scale in hand, we estimated her weight at about 750 pounds.  And we arrived in the nick of time.  Pressures were building in her decomposing body, accelerated by the steamy weather.  Bob released the pressure as we examined her for possible indications of her demise.

Back on Lieutenant Island, a couple of nesters slipped in before the storm front.  Both turtles were spotted by the Paludal Posse and both nests were identified for follow-on observation and protection.  As I turned my jeep onto 5th Avenue this evening, I caught the familiar profile of a terrapin nesting in the dirt road.

She had already entered the egg laying trance, so I managed to circle around under cover of the pitch pine woods to watch her complete the nest and dance a turtle jig atop it to rid all signs of its presence.


And now thunderstorms roar overhead, dropping torrents of rain on these newly laid nests and hopefully disguising their scent from a host of hungry predators that patrol the island as diligently by night as your correspondent does by day.