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Jun 27, 2017 10:13 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

June Sightings

Jun 27, 2017 10:57 AM

Topping the list of sightings reported to me over the month of June were those of turtles, and the majority of those were of snapping turtles.The most unusual of the snapper sightings was one seen in the surf just east of Main Beach. With the aid of a stick, it was prodded out of the water and onto the beach. It was a medium-sized specimen, its shell length measuring just over 12 inches.

Snapping turtles can withstand some limited exposure to the high salinity found in ocean saltwater, but it is very unusual for one to wander into the surf of its own accord. This was not the first time a snapping turtle was seen in the ocean at this location, which is quite close to the large diameter culvert that connects Hook Pond with the ocean, and my guess is that they somehow manage to get in at the pond end and exit into the ocean. I moved that one up onto the dune where it made its way north back toward the pond.

The other snapper sightings were most likely females moving to or from their favorite egg laying sites. Another Hook Pond individual stopped traffic on Ocean Road as it traveled west onto a gravel driveway and made its way into a very well maintained garden bed. A third was seen several days later in Main Beach’s parking lot #1 where it traveled along the lot’s northern bulkheaded edge looking for a way to access the sand dune on the other side.

Richard Poveromo sent a photo from Scallop Pond in North Sea where a diamondback terrapin was in the process of excavating a nest in the sand. And last week a pair of box turtles was caught in the act on the shoulder of Louse Point Road. Many turtle species, including the Eastern box turtle, do not have a specific time of year for mating. Rather, they mate whenever they encounter a suitable individual of the opposite sex. Those encounters are apparently not all that frequent, as the sperm remains viable in the female for up to four years, enabling at least three consecutive Junes of laying fertilized eggs.

Another egg layer that’s been busy this month is the horseshoe crab. I spent much more time this month on the ocean beach than on the bay beaches where this unique creature deposits its tiny eggs in the sand. Yet I did come across mature females on two separate occasions partially dug into the ocean beach sand at the high tide line. There were no males in the vicinity. I’m not sure what prompted this errant behavior.

Earlier this month, in a farm field north of Town Lane, Amagansett, I spotted my first monarch butterfly of the year.

Unfortunately, this remained my only monarch sighting so far this year. None have taken advantage of my backyard milkweed patch to deposit eggs, and it looks to be another bad year for this incredible insect.

Not so for the acorn eaters. With two consecutive big “mast years,” our local populations of white-tailed deer, Eastern chipmunk, white-footed mouse, wild turkey and gray squirrel are faring quite well. I don’t recall seeing so many chipmunks in my neighborhood as I have this month.

Deer often venture onto the ocean beach during their nighttime travels, but this month they’ve often been spotted on the beach at midday. I’m not sure what prompts them onto the beach where there is little in the way of forage for them; perhaps it is the only possible route to move around deer fencing and other obstructions found on oceanfront lots. Most pregnant does will have dropped fawns by now, adding to the already large population of deer in our area.

I’ve gotten lots of reports of this being another big year for voles, most of those comments coming from frustrated gardeners who are finding that the withering leaves on their flower and shrub stems are the result of missing roots. In some cases entire vegetable plants have gone missing overnight. The culprit is often the meadow vole, a herbivore that spends much of its time underground in shallow tunnels, not to be confused with the Eastern mole, an insectivore that consumes many of the soil grubs that can create problems in your garden. Personally, I don’t mind the look that this prolific tunneler leaves on my backyard landscape.

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