Blog Post By: Karoline, Sea Turtle Intern
On June 23 around 2 pm, Leah received a call from a worried beach goer about some turtle eggs that were exposed on the scarp at the inlet. After asking for some more information before going to check it out, she received a video of the nest, and sure enough there were exposed eggs! Turtle patrol is always ready for action, so we jumped in the turtle cart and headed to the scene of the crime. But, after a once over of the inlet, there were no eggs to be found…
Feeling confused, we looked again more closely, and this time found some tiny little white ovals exposed on the scarp. We then realized that the perspective on the video had made the eggs look like they could be sea turtle size (which are about ping pong ball size), but in reality the eggs were much too small to be from a sea turtle. After our revelation that these were not sea turtle eggs, we came to the conclusion that they must be eggs laid by a diamondback terrapin! Diamondback terrapin eggs are oval shaped, pinkish-white, leathery, and about 1 inch long. Though the eggs weren’t laid by a sea turtle, Turtle Patrol is always ready to help a turtle nest in need, and these eggs had to be moved out of the sun ASAP! So, we grabbed our relocation bucket and got to work. This was definitely the quickest relocation I have ever been a part of, since female diamondback terrapins are about nine inches long, compared to our female loggerheads that are about three feet long. Diamondback terrapins nest May through early July at night, similar to our sea turtles that nest May-August at night. Sea turtle nests are about 18-24 inches deep, so it was light work for us to dig a new diamondback terrapin nest in a more secure spot in the dunes with a depth of 4-8 inches. A typical diamondback terrapin nest will also have about 4-8 eggs in a clutch, whereas our loggerhead sea turtles have about 120 eggs per nest. Our nest in need of a relocation had 8! After moving the eggs, we cut up a small section of our sea turtle screens and used some sticks as posts to hold the screen. We then put some orange tape around our little nest and bid it farewell!
Typical egg incubation for diamondback terrapins is about 60-85 days, depending on soil temperature and nest depth. Loggerhead incubation is a bit shorter, about 45-60 days. So, in a couple months or so, we will hopefully have some healthy diamondback terrapin hatchlings make their way from their beautiful new nest to some brackish creeks! If there was to be a prolonged cold snap within the next 60-85 days, however, the hatchlings may decide to “overwinter” in the sand and hatch next spring!
Like our loggerheads, females can lay several clutches during one breeding season, so let’s hope this diamondback terrapin’s next nest is in a better location! We loved working on this nest and can’t wait to see the results of our miniature relocation. Thank you to the person who reported it to us!
Sea Turtle Specialist