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

Home Brew — 15 October 2001

Foul fall weather arrived in the Land of Ooze.  The sun disappeared and temperatures dropped.  But to confirm that terrapins have actually slipped into cozy winter brumation requires direct observation, not merely surmise.  So, Sunday afternoon, with winds sweeping off the Atlantic dumping spits of briny frosty fog onto the creeks, I stood once more in the Blackfish Creek rip, surveying all the missing turtles.  Yes, Virginia, the season is over . . . or at least in the wild.

On the home front, though, things are still stirring.  Nest 130, which began pipping on 5 October (see Summerís Last) now resides in my garage lab.  On the 11th, I found flies buzzing around the nest site, and with a predicted cold snap in the forecast, I decided to harvest the eggs and incubate them inside.  Maintaining its same orientation, I transferred the entire egg chamber into a large bucket and moved it to Connemara Cottage.

As I waltzed through the garage at 2:00 P.M. Sunday to head to the creek, I spotted the telltale sign of a soon-to-be hatching nest.  A slight concavity appears in the form of a faint circle where hatchlings begin squirming to escape their egg shells.  A smaller, but marginally deeper indentation (above the tiny black debris in the photo) shows where a turtle is digging toward the surface.

On cue and hitting her spot precisely, Hatchling 422 emerged at 8:00 P.M.  In keeping with the smaller size of second clutch babies, she measured only 2.48 centimeters and weighed just 5 grams.  She still sported a large, but firm yolk sac.

With the weather too cold to release hatchlings right now, the lab has been converted to fall/winter mode to hold the Nest 130 clutch until a propitious warm spell arrives.  Hatchling 422 is adjusting to her new surroundings and seems particularly pleased at the 78-degree temperature.  Nothing like fall in Connemara.