By Mary Reid Barrow\
Keep your eyes open and your dogs leashed at Pleasure House Point. You never know what you might run into this time of year!
Recently a female diamondback terrapin lumbered up out of the water toward the trail right in front of Kathy Spencer, who snapped this photo.
It was as if the turtle arrived to warn Kathy to be careful because it’s diamondback terrapin egg-laying and baby turtle-hatching season at Pleasure House Point!
“I thought she was going to lay eggs, but then she backed off into the creek, Kathy said.
Kathy saw another female on her walk too, but she also “scooted away quickly.”
Starting in late spring, female turtles come up from the Lynnhaven River salt marshes to dig a nest in the soft sand where they lay their eggs. Females will continue laying until midsummer.
The mere presence of Kathy or other trail walkers may deter the turtles and send them back to the water. In the meantime, trail walkers never know when they also might see recently hatched baby turtles that leave little scritch-scratch marks in the sand as they scurry to the safety of the marsh.
Anything from hikers’ feet, to free running dogs, to gulls looking for a turtle snack are dangers to these little guys.
Baby terrapins could be out and about from spring to fall. Some winter over and don’t emerge until spring from nests that were laid in late summer. Egg that are laid in early summer will hatch in August or September.
Because it has no bulkheads, Pleasure House Point is one of the few areas on the Lynnhaven River where our only salt marsh turtle can lay her eggs. The sandy beaches offer welcome access to female turtles that can’t scale a high bulkhead to reach the shore.
And then there are the people and other wildlife who also love Pleasure House Point. So, not only do females and baby terrapins run into problems with walkers and their dogs, but also baby terrapins may never enter this world, because predators such as foxes and raccoons dig up the nests to dine on the eggs.
Kathy said she often sees remnants of leathery pieces of egg shell in the sand where nests have been disturbed.
“Sad to say, more often I see nests that are dug up and eaten by predators,” she said.
Life is not easy for poor diamondback terrapins in Virginia Beach.
Since Pleasure House Point is just about the terrapin’s only nesting spot and since it also is one of Virginia Beach’s favorite nature spots, it’s up to us to keep it that way with our eyes open and our dogs leashed.
Do you have a favorite tree or plant with a story to tell? What relationships have you observed between plants and critters? Who eats whom? Who has babies where? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org