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

A VERY Good Year — 20 August 2001

A violent storm front, dawn and low tide all converged on Wellfleet Bay like a Dupont Circle traffic jam, washing out this morning’s turtling.  Yet, as soon as the tide flooded back, negating capture opportunities, the sun shone brightly and winds dropped to a gentle breeze.  A familiar refrain?  Is this mere chance or perhaps a collusion of mysterious natural elements?  Enquiring conspiracy theorists want to know.

In the meantime, I received a friendly alert from our colleague in Rhode Island that hatching activity had commenced in that locale.  Our friend and colleague in Long Island has reported emergence holes for over a week now.  So, I jeeped over to Turtle Point to spot check a bellwether nest with perfect sun exposure.  Nest 026 contains 15 very large eggs relocated from a vulnerable beach on Crescent Island on 14 June, four days into our 2001 nesting cycle.  The eggs remain viable and have begun to exhibit purplish veining.  So, I expect we are fast approaching the kick-off of our hatchling season, probably within another week.

An early dinner was scheduled to permit an expedition to Blackfish Creek for the sunset.  As I loaded nets and oars into the jeep, the heavens opened once again, and the torrents came.  The yellow thunderstorm blob with a tint of orange lies nearly atop Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet Bay.  The match was engaged: frustration versus stubbornness.  I sat in my wind-pelted Wrangler and willed the clouds to part, which they did — in their own good time.  And with darkness, the storm lightened, and I launched my kayak into the stillness of a thunderstorm interlude.

Turtle heads could barely be discerned as the boat bobbed among them, drifting aimlessly with wispy zephyrs.  Terrapin 919 surfaced, scanned the horizon, but only too late did she recognize the large shadow hovering above her.  Scoop . . . and into the net.

First and last observed just one year ago on 29 August 2000 when she was a mere 4-year-old lass, Turtle 919 appears to have had a VERY good year.  Her 2001 annual growth band looks like a superhighway compared with previous years.  In 2000 she measured 9.7 centimeters and weighed only 176 grams.  Today, she is more than 11.5 centimeters long and has gained an astounding 106 grams — a 60% increase in body mass!  No wonder she smiles.

The storm interlude lasted about as long as a hurricane’s eye and lightning once again ringed the creek.  With a 10-foot aluminum pole protruding into the sky, I decided to surrender the field to the better competitors: the turtles and the elements.