Neighborly Nest Watchers Aid Terrapins

If you are a gardening enthusiast and have a nice, big yard, why would you let it become a desert of weeds? Maybe because you want diamondback terrapins to nest there.

As a Wellfleet Bay terrapin volunteer who covers Indian Neck, I have been impressed by some of the neighbors who not only care about the turtles–they in effect turn their property over to them for the summer.

Two homeowners in Wellfleet’s Indian Neck neighborhood have turned their backyards into turtle nesting gardens–that is, sandy areas where turtles can dig easily. Bill Meister on King Phillips Road has nine nests in his yard and has become proficient at spotting the nest sites that the mother terrapin carefully camouflages. He eagerly awaits the arrival of the volunteers to tell us how many terrapins he’s seen and where there might be a nest. We check out the site, make sure there are eggs there, and put a cage-like predator exclosure around it.

Bill Meister of Wellfleet’s Indian Neck stands in his yard which has become one big turtle garden! (photo by Dianne Ashley)

Lillian Greenberg who lives on Anawan Road has 3 nests, one that she protected herself. Until our team could get there,  she improvised by placing a  carton, boxes, and rocks over it to prevent the even the most determined raccoon or fox from digging it up for a tasty meal of eggs.

Lillian Greenberg of Indian Neck displays the temporary nest protector she devised until we arrived to install our standard predator exclosure. (photo by Dianne Ashley).

One of the first times I met Lillian she met me and my fellow volunteer, Barbara Brennessel, with a dead terrapin she had recovered. But along with the turtle, Lillian had also arranged a lovely bouquet of flowers from her garden which she gave to us. Lillian has a beautifully landscaped garden which she takes care of when she’s not looking for terrapins. And, like Bill Meister, she has developed a talent for finding terrapin nest sites.

They may not realize it, but Bill and Lillian have become terrapin volunteers!


This post was contributed by Dianne Ashley, a diamondback terrapin volunteer as well as an exhibit hall docent. Dianne has also been a trail naturalist at Wellfleet Bay.


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