Monday, August 28, 2017

If There Be Hatchlings. 8-25-2017

Andrea and I both took Friday the 25th off in an attempt to elongate our 14th Anniversary Wedding celebration. (It was August 23rd.) Our plan was to go to the Cape and try to see a Diamondback Terrapin or two, a species that we rarely get to see in this state. Being that hatchling turtle season is almost upon us, we had visions of being heroes and actually seeing sand moving in a protected nest and reporting it and having everybody happy with us and naming turtles in our honor and maybe even making a new holiday in our name. Maybe that was just my fantasy. I don't recall.

At any rate, we got deep into Barnstable County at a reasonable hour considering it's a 2 hr. plus drive. The weather was beautiful and, unfortunately, the parking lot was full. We weren't going to be the only ones enjoying the day. We entered the sanctuary and took a quick peek at a man-made pond inside. There were plenty of Bullfrog noggins poking out of the duckweed.

Andrea had a very cooperative model.
As she is wont to do, she booped him.

Another pond, also freshwater, had a stack of Painted Turtles, plus one.

Out to the dunes and the surrounding marshes we went, but no Terrapins were in view. It is rare to see them up basking but we have in the past. We contented ourselves with mantids and crabs.
Just so I can remember this fact in the future: I was in the middle of a Guy N. Smith killer crab novel at this time.

We walked the trails, always peeking into the nest protectors to see if any movement could be detected. This turtle garden was not yet sprouting.
Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. No terrapins for us this day.

We relaxed for a bit then went into Tim's Box Turtle Woods™ for a look around. Tim, the caretaker of this population, had told us that they hadn't been active lately; the weather and temp fluctuations had been keeping them quiet. We didn't expect to see much but gave it our best. We didn't want to disturb the habitat, so we contented ourselves with just peeking into leaves, hoping to get lucky. Amazingly, we did.
I was pretty surprised to see how small this guy was when we uncovered it.
We noticed it wasn't notched, so Andrea immediately called Tim and left a message. Would they want to catalog and notch it? Only 3" long from tip to tip of carapace.

We put that little guy back where he was and walked the path a bit further. Andrea saw another small Box Turtle trucking through the brush, this one a bit larger.
This guy was a tank, just bashing through the leaves and sticks. He had many scars on his shell and was a feisty one for sure.

Tim called back at this point and told us that he sees this second guy every time he steps into the woods. "Not exactly stealthy." Of the first one, he asked if the shell seemed calcified enough to notch. We are not experts in such matters (yet); it felt nice and hard to us but we shouldn't make the call. He told us to take it up and have someone determine if it is ready to be notched. We headed back to its hiding place.

On the way, we saw a quick, tiny squiggle in the leaves. There was a new Ribbon Snake wriggling through the leaves. It wasn't easy for a 200 lb. oaf like me to throw myself in front of it to gently corral it, but we managed.
That is our third neonate snake of different species seen within a week... all live-bearers. It makes me wonder when the oviparous babies will pop out.

We got the first Boxie into Andrea's camera bag and took it up to the lab. We had two staff members taking care of things. The usual "notchers" weren't present so it was up to one technician to try it for the first time. We got the measurements (they very kindly let us help).
Oh, the humiliation! 50 grams of carolina cuteness.

It turns out the shell was indeed calcified enough. In fact, notching was very tough going. This one is around 4-5 years old and the tough shell and flailing legs made it a real challenge but the notch was successfully made.

Before taking the turtle back to its hideout, the kind people in the lab threw us a bone... some of their incubating Terrapin eggs had hatched and are being held until the yolk-sacks absorb. They showed us a couple of brand new babies.
My heart skips a beat every time I see that picture.

We put of Boxie friend back, said our goodbyes and hit the road.

We had some lunch and headed back off of the Cape while the throngs of cars slowly made their way to the Cape. It was a bit after 3 PM and we figured it would be close to 4 by the time we hit Plymouth County, so we made plans to make a quick stop at the State Forest there, taking a look at some favorite spots within.

Our first spot was herp-dry, but Andrea the tracker noticed what was probably a Racer trail going through the sand. Looks like a big 'un... I wish we'd seen it.

Just as interesting were these beetle tracks. Beautiful, precision footwork.

Our next spot produced some newly awakened Fowler's Toads.
I didn't notice it at the time but that second guy's front foot looks massive.

Admittedly, we were staring to fatigue a little and the shadows were getting long.
It was time to head out.

Peeking into a pond on the way to the car, we saw a small Bullfrog who sat in the muck for a photo.

We noted with equal amusement and revulsion that the Knicker Tree is in bloom.

Back in the car and on the road, I noticed a Milkweed Tussock caterpillar walking up my leg.
Milkweed Tussock

One last stop before the highway... we can't say no to Toad Rug. Underneath, a sleepy Fowler's vowed his revenge on us with just one look. Soooon...

And that was our Friday. No work, time together, seeing animals, being in nature and getting a chance to feel like we helped a little bit. Every Friday should be so worthwhile.


  1. Great pics and I am happy that you got to see some young specimens. We currently have two adult, radio tagged turtles hiding in a salt marsh. I wonder if they are feeding on those fiddler crabs?

  2. Our anniversary is August 22nd, not 23rd.