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

Full Cycle — 17 September 2001

Just after dawn on 27 June, Terrapin 717 swam ashore on south Lieutenant Island and began digging a nest probably her second clutch of the season on the high dune of Turtle Point.  Her concentration was disturbed by observers, and she broke off nesting activity to return to the bay.  Captured, she measured 19 centimeters carapace length and weighed 1099 grams.  Obviously she was still gravid.

Born around 1991, #717 was first observed on 24 June 1999 during another nesting run on south Lieutenant Island.  Back then, she was 18.5 centimeters and 1066 grams.




A fresh westerly breeze blew in from the bay on 3 July holding temperatures in the mid-70s.  A little after noon, Priscilla Clark and her sister Deborah Stewart began their first volunteer terrapin patrol.  They hit the jackpot.  Terrapin 717 had made another, this time successful, nesting run on the low dune just north of her earlier attempt.  Priscilla not only recaptured the turtle, but she found and marked the nest site (#122), too.  After depositing her clutch, #717 had dropped to 1034 grams.  She was immediately released after processing and a quick snapshot of the proud momma and her nest for the terrapin family album.

Subsequently the nest was confirmed as containing viable eggs and temporary field marking was replaced with a permanent predator excluder.

Today marked the 76th day of incubation, and like every morning, we patrolled Turtle Point checking known and unknown nests.  Nest 122 held a wonderful surprise.  Thirteen healthy and active hatchlings had emerged since evening rounds.  They hunkered in the shady east side of the cage sheltered beneath the Mass Audubon warning flag.  A 14th turtle waited underground in the escape tunnel.  Excavation revealed that all 717s eggs had hatched.

As an example of Wellfleet Bay's hatchlings, here are the weights and measures for the whole clutch.  Read: hatchling #, weight in grams, carapace length, carapace width and plastron length all in centimeters.



375,  5,  2.58,  2.33,  2.33 
376,  5,  2.65,  2.36,  2.37 
377,  6,  2.63,  2.34,  2.39 
378,  5,  2.71,  2.29,  2.44 
379,  5,  2.64,  2.37,  2.38 
380,  5,  2.54,  2.26,  2.31 
381,  5,  2.67,  2.31,  2.41 
382,  5,  2.61,  2.30,  2.32 
383,  5,  2.56,  2.35,  2.26 
384,  5,  2.62,  2.29,  2.36 
385,  5,  2.62,  2.35,  2.34 
386,  5,  2.62,  2.23,  2.35 
387,  5,  2.50,  2.25,  2.26 
388,  5,  2.59,  2.24,  2.25 

Only one, #383, had a noticeable anomaly.  Her rear-most marginal scutes on either side were split in half.