Thursday, October 15, 2009


It has come to the time of year again when we get to release our headstarted Blanding's Turtles into the wild at last. (For more details about this project, check out these posts.)
As has been a common theme with most of our field work this year, it was a cold, windy, wet day.

So what better thing to do on such a day than put on the trusty chest waders and splash about in a marsh for a few hours?

OK, yes, I am a little crazy! We had some of our two year old turtles to release and also some one year olds.

As with so many other things, funding for restoration projects has been rather thin on the ground this year so, unfortunately none of our two year olds will be equipped with radio transmitters this year. We have to rely on photographing the plastron just prior to release which is not a totally fail-safe form of ID as they do gradually change over time but still it is better than nothing.

Each turtle has a number which identifies its egg number within the clutch and its mother

Before it is released this number is blacked out to make it less conspicuous to potential predators

The GPS coordinates of the release spot for each individual is recorded along with its number and then it is into the water and off to freedom and a big new world

It is always fun to see how each individual responds to this big moment. Many of them bob around on the surface for a while, gazing down into the water. Some just dive straight down and disappear from sight immediately but we had one little guy this year who really didn't seem too keen on the whole idea at all. He immediately hauled out onto a stick and didn't seem to want to swim away.

He eventually got the idea though and away he went.
Of the two year olds that we have been working with for the last year there were also some very distinct characters. Number 89 was the thug of the group, the biggest and most aggressive, always first in line for food and beating up the other turtles and stealing their food.

All characteristics which although hard to love, should stand him in good stead for surviving in the wild and he was raring to go!

On the other end of the scale was little number 1. Always the smallest, always getting beaten up by the others but still feisty enough to get enough food. In this picture you can see the end of its tail is missing, bitten off during one of the scuffles! Also a scar on the rear right leg from a particularly vicious bite it received.

We saved number 1 until last to release and we indulged in a major photo session, rather like turtle paparazzi but in true celebrity style number 1 took it all in good grace

Then it was time to say good bye and let nature work its magic

These young turtles are all well fed so all they will need to do now is burrow down into the mud and hibernate until next spring when we will wade out into the marshes once more and see if we can find any of them - good luck guys, hope to see you next year!

Photo Credits - CJT


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Awwww! I love turtles...just look at those faces and bumbling humpy bodies/shells. #1 is so darling I could just kiss him!
Thanks for sharing this. I can't wait to check back next Spring to see how many you can find.


Rambling Woods said...

Awwww...I love these little guys.. I hope they make it. It's like sending your children off in the world... Michelle

Gel said...

This is a fascinating project. I have seen birds and other wildlife tagged, not seen turtles firsthand, but understand the reasoning. You are immersed in nature and conservation. I happy to read this. I know those turtles appreciate your care. Wow.

Gel said...

Forgot to mention that closeup head shot is a beauty!

gtyyup said...

Interesting as usual. Sure hope they all make it through the winter. I would have never thought that turtles had such distinct personalities! The thug and the low turtle on the totem pole...and everywhere in between!

Louise said...

It seems like sending the kids to college. How bittersweet. I think I'd want to keep #1 forever!