April 29, first turtle, #37
April 29 #29 female, first found on May 2, 2010
May 10 #30 and #20 copulating, #30 first found May 2. 2010, #20 first found June 8,2008.
May 10, 2 #26 and #25 recovered, #25 fitted with new transmitter.
May 5 #55, a small female seen for the first time, fitted with a transmitter.
May 12 Turtle Day! See Sightings.
WHERE IS ALPHA?
May 22 A transmitter was attached to # 64 at the shale pit.
May 30 #20, June 10 #38, June 20 #25, July 5 #42. See nestings
While building a house here in 2004 one of the workmen suddenly announced that he had stumbled across a Blandings Turtle. It wasnít- so far none have been found in Ulster County- but the beautiful coloration of this creature captivated me. The following year, after we had moved in, I was bird watching in the meadow and suddenly backed over what I thought was a rock. It was Terrapene carolina carolina. From that moment on I started paying attention and taking notes.
I learned from my mentor, Joe Bridges, that I could identify my turtles from photos since each carapace is like a fingerprint, having its own distinct pattern. Since then I have taken photos of every turtle that I have found, which now total 66 individuals. These sightings have been on our 65 acres of land, plus some adjoining land. (Neighbors Jill and Ron Tosti and others keep a close lookout for the turtles.) I usually wipe the carapace with a water soaked towel to get the mud off, if necessary, and then photo it from both sides, plus the plastron. I note locations with a surveyor flag, and determine the sex. Then I check my records to see if the latest photo matches a previous one. Each new turtle receives a number, and occasionally a turtle that has distinguished itself will also receive a name :-). I also note direction and estimate distance between sightings of an individual over time. In the eight years of monitoring we have observed 35 turtles returning over the course of more than a year , observed four matings, and six nestings. (See nestings page)
Following the example of Elizabeth and Charles Schwartz in Missouri, who trained their labs to find box turtles, I began training my two Australian cattledogs to track the turtles. I donít want my dogs to disturb the turtles during nesting, but they track the turtles from hibernation emergence through the mating season. Once the vegetation grows high there is no way I can find the turtles but the dogs can easily. I began taking the dogs with me every day in 2011 and the increased number of sightings directly reflects this!
We are also using telemetry. Thanks to Beth Herr, former Program Administrator, Conservation, at Westchester County Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, we borrowed a couple of transmitters and a receiver. We were very lucky to find Turtle #25 on October 19, 2009 and attach a transmitter. We now have our own receiver and transmitters.
The overall goals of this program are twofold: 1) Establish the range of our turtle population and monitor the activity within it. 2) Establish public awareness of these turtles and their habits, and the need to protect their habitats. Oh, threefold: Fun! What can be nicer than finding one of these lovely creatures and identifying it, or more satisfying than roaming around on a late spring night and finding a female laying her eggs? Unlike many turtle monitoring programs, our turtles are not confined. There are no boundaries. We just try to observe them wherever they are.
We hold an annual "Turtle Day" in May, sponsored by the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, during which residents are invited to come help us look for and identify turtles. Up to thirty three volunteers have found three turtles in 2008, five in 2009, two in 2010, seven in 2011, nine in 2012, and ten in 2013. This is fun for the attendees and very helpful to us! Our next Turtle Day will be May 10, 2014.
# individual turtles found as of June 10, 2010: 43 as of June 23, 2011: 53 as of July 6, 2012: 66
# repeaters in 2010 : 14 2011: 24 2012: 35
# male 15 # female 23 # not sure 5 2011 : 22M, 25F, 6 not sure 2012: M 27, F 31, NS 8