Hello from the land of turtle hatchlings! We have had our hands full of hatchling turtles this month – literally. Our first protected nests hatched at the beginning of the month and the rest of our eggs (over 800 this year) have been going steady ever since. Ashley has been marking, measuring and releasing hatchlings constantly since they started to pip, which is what it’s called when a turtle (or lizard, snake or bird) begins to emerge from the egg. They will continue into September, and by the time it gets cold they will be out in the wild, looking for a good hibernation site.
As we work our way through marking and measuring hundreds of hatchlings, we had one particularly exciting hatching event. While on a nesting survey in June, Dan came across a single Painted Turtle egg being washed up and down in the waves. The nest may have been laid too close the water and was uncovered during one of this summer’s many storms, or perhaps the female who laid the egg was spooked by a raccon and returned to the water before she was finished laying. However it happened, Dan knew that the chances of this egg still being viable were very slim. Turtle eggs can drown if exposed to too much water, as the developing embryo can’t get the oxygen it needs through the eggshell if the egg is submersed. Furthermore, turtle embryos can die if their egg is turned over during development, especially during the first stages. The embryo needs to attach to the eggshell, and if the egg is turned the developing turtle can be pulled away from the shell in such a way that it won’t survive. Dan fished the egg out of the surf and took a look. He figured it wouldn’t hurt to try and save this egg, so he brought it carefully back and incubated it with the other protected nests. Much to all of our surprise and delight, it continued to look viable, and finally hatched a tiny, perfectly formed Painted Turtle! She was released last week, along with several large clutches of Blandings and Spiny Softshell turtles.