Published on September 14, 2022

Terrapin Team Shares Summer’s Memorable Moments

stormy sky

It’s been a hot, dry field season for Wellfleet Bay’s Diamondback Terrapin team and the nearly 100 volunteers who’ve been monitoring nests from Orleans to Wellfleet. And despite too many maggot and ant-infested nests, the summer, as always, offered a number of uplifting moments.

One of our busiest nest sites, Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet, is challenging not only because of high tides that can cut the island off from the rest of town for several hours, but because of the island’s wide-open spaces. As a result, it’s important to check the radar before heading out, says terrapin team field technician Dylan Marat. 

“Storm fronts can come in quickly and we don’t want to be the tallest thing on the marsh when they do. To witness the sky get noticeably darker over the course of about a half-hour and to hurry back to the car before the wall of rain engulfs you is awe-inspiring. Taking a minute to stop and look at the marsh and the sky is one of my favorite things to do while I’m out there.” 

Finding a Hatching Nest

emerging hatchling_SashaM

Monitoring nests on Lieutenant Island can also bring some less than pleasant moments, such as depredated terrapin nests or battling the island’s fierce green-head flies in July. Despite all the time they spend in the field, teams rarely find a nest in the process of hatching. Field tech Sasha Milsky says one of her shifts got lucky recently and came upon a nest just as the first hatchling was climbing out. “To see it happening in real time was remarkable-- the little guy peeping out of the emergence hole and seeing the world for the very first time!  

Shared Enthusiasm

Sasha also recalls an evening when a group of people approached as her team was opening a nest.

“The group was so fascinated by what we were doing and asked tons of questions as we removed 10 beautiful hatchlings. A few days later I ran into the same people. One man said he’d become so interested in terrapins that he’d done some research and learned that males are smaller than females and that they eat crustaceans when they are adults living in the marsh!” 

The man also told Sasha that his group was impressed by the enthusiasm of the terrapin team. But Sasha says it was his interest and desire to learn more that stays with her. “Seeing that group’s excitement and appreciation for what we do was humbling.”