Friday, July 8, 2016

Independence Turtles. 7-4-2016

The Fourth on July. A time for celebration, family, barbecues... or getting to Cape Cod to try to finally see some Terrapins. Our postponed Cape trip started very early and we got to our destination a little after 9 AM. Since we didn't see a Diamondback Terrapin all last year, we were really set on seeing one this fine Monday. The weather was good. Sunny and hot. The timing was good... females heading up to lay their second clutches. But would the turtles themselves cooperate?

On the way to the marsh area, we peeked into some freshwater spots to see if anyone was up. Despite an influx of young campers, we still saw a few things. Like a bunny.
My call... Eastern Cottontail, not New England, the latter of which is very rare but might be in the area.

Just one Painted Turtle was brave enough to bask amid the din of howling campers.

A Bullfrog metamorph and a young adult.

As we headed through the marshes, towards the beach, crabs skittered into the safety of their holes. Some bravely stood their ground.

We saw some volunteers working with Terrapin nests. The gals had been busy for the past few days. Here is an as yet unprotected nest. Note the little turtle footprints.

A friend with whom we had done sea turtle work was also there and he mentioned that the upcoming high tide would bring more terrapins in. Evidently, they ride the current up and tend to hang around for a bit... a worthwhile piece of info. So, we went down to the beach to watch the tide. On the way, we heard many screaming Willets and were surprised to see some shouting from the tree tops.

Slowly, the tide came in...

We saw another hiker there who said he had seen a turtle in the water as it churned in. We watched the tumultuous water and sure enough, every once in a while, a small brown turtle would poke its head up, grab a breath and pull back into the drink and get whisked away. I became obsessed with trying to get a shot of it but it just wasn't going to happen. We decided to head to the boardwalk so we wouldn't get stranded out there.

I have seen the tide come in on the beach before. Waves splash in and the shoreline gets smaller. I had never witnessed the slow encroachment of water into a marshland, however. It was fascinating. Water just slowly creeping in, gurgling as it filled crab holes, slowly bringing in millions of small fish.

It's like someone left the bathtub water on and it was slowly spilling out, flooding the hallway.

When I say millions of fish, I mean it. There were countless little striped guys all over in the shallow, incoming water. Millions of mummichogs. (Thank you, James Jeffery)

We got up above the tide line and walked along, keeping our eyes peeled. We took a different path that we know Terrapins nest on. Sure enough, many protective cages were set up. They had been there, but nobody was nesting at the moment. A Mockingbird sang endlessly to the point of being comically annoying.

After a short rest in the shade, we headed back to the open marsh to test our luck once again. I went up a trail ahead of Andrea just to scope it out. Nobody was up nesting. But in the distance, basking on the side of a marshy pool, was a turtle. It could only be one kind in this habitat. Sadly, I got two miserable shots off before she saw me and slid into the water. This, I'm sad to say, is the better of the two shots.

Unfettered, I tried to get a better look at that pool from a different route. That is when the Chelonian Gods smiled down on me and I spied a small (male?) 5ish-inch carapace Terrapin hiding in the edge of a puddle.
Mission accomplished. First Terrapin in two years. A guy and his kid had seen another one basking but scared it in before I got there. Oh, well.

Still, this iridescent bug applauded our tenacity.

By this time we were exhausted. Hanging out in the sun all morning, getting burned to a crisp (I have a burn on my neck so bad that it is still blistered... 2nd degree sunburn?) and walking the marshes and dunes had taken its toll on us. We were ready to go get lunch... and ice cream. But wait. What about Box Turtles? We actually know some of the population here.

OK, we decided to take a very short stroll through Box Turtle Woods even though it was 85° and dry as a bone out there. We didn't really expect to see any turtles but if we didn't try, we'd have wondered all day. Again, the God of Turtles (and Rock and Roll) threw us a bone and we saw this...
If we were going to see just one Box Turtle, we are so happy that it was our dear friend Old Warrior (#64)!
This dude has been in this field for longer than I've been alive and has seen some serious action. Now, he lives his peaceful life every day, slow and worry free. I envy him.

Gee... only four species of herp today. What a failure. Hardly! We worked our butts off to see what we did and we have no regrets. Beautiful animals, one and all. A happy 4th indeed.


  1. i love that little guy.....what a face........
    and what were those fishies?

    1. I don't know... I was hoping someone would tell me!!