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

Raining Hatchlings — 27 August 2001

Well, it’s not really raining hatchling, but I suspect you knew that was merely an eye-grabbing headline.  Instead, recent downpours have loosen the soil and encouraged pipped critters to make a break for the marsh.

This morning I checked the sites along Indian Neck.  Nest 048, which has been under observation since it was laid on 18 June, looked disturbed around the edges.  When I excavated the chamber to determine whether anything was amiss, I found eight hatchlings waiting in their pipped shells to absorb their yolk sacs before burrowing to freedom.

To avoid whatever predator had been scratching around the nest, I removed them to the lab for a few days until they’re ready for paludal life.  Peeping through cracks to make sure this new world was spinning on a greased groove before venturing into the wild unknown, one by one they emerged from their shells.

Overnight rains not only loosen the soil for tiny hatchlings to climb out, but they shaped the sand long enough to leave a rare telltale emergence hole in the shifting dune.  I spotted this slit on the west face of Turtle Point and excavated downward to see what might lie beneath.


Only an inch or so below the surface, I encountered Hatchling 68 scratching her way to the surface.  Typically sized for Wellfleet, she measured 2.78 centimeters long and hit the scales at 6 grams.


Thirteen of her siblings had already emerged during overnight–early morning showers, leaving Hatchling 68 as the last one in clutch.  Yet, she proved healthy and active enough to scramble for freedom into the developmental marsh of south Lieutenant Island at noon today along with several very special friends.