Hang the lanterns! The turtles are coming! And they are coming by sea.
Beginning in the summer and continuing into fall, sea turtles swim hundreds of miles (sometimes thousands) to return to the place of their birth and lay their eggs.
With a migration pattern that stretches thousands of miles, it is no surprise that Massachusetts is home to four types of turtles during the summer, all of them protected by local and international law. And while you probably know that sea turtles often frequent the Massachusetts beaches, can you identify them?
The largest of our turtles is the leatherback. The leatherback turtle gets its name from its top shell, which is not hard or boney, but is made of leathery, oily connective tissue. The leatherback turtle weighs as much as two thousand pounds and can span up to eight feet, making it not just the largest of the sea turtles, but also one the largest of the reptiles. But don’t worry, unlike other large reptiles, the leatherback will not go for your dog, as it mostly eats jellyfish and soft-bodied animals.
Despite the name, the green sea turtle is not all green. Its shell is also gray, yellow, brown, and black and their bottom shell is yellowish-white. It weighs 300-350 pounds and measures up to three feet in length, making it the largest hard shelled turtle. The green sea turtle nests in over 80 countries and the largest populations are found in Tortuguero, Costa Rica and Raine Island, Australia.
The kemp’s ridley is the smallest marine turtle of the four, weighing just 100 pounds. Ninety-five percent of the Kemp’s nesting occurs in Tamaulipas, Mexico; however, they have been documented in New England waters. What the kemp lacks in size it makes up for in organization. The kemp is one of only two species of turtles (the other being the olive ridley) that collects in large numbers off the coast and then arrives in waves. This is called the arribada, or the arrival. Scientists are unclear about what triggers this nesting habit, but it might be due to lunar cycles.
The last of the shelled visitors is the loggerhead turtle. These big headed reptiles have reddish-brown, heart-shaped shells and strong jaws that allow them to feed on conches and other hard animals. The loggerhead will swim hundreds of miles and back to lay a hundred eggs, all without stopping for food. If you are interested in where in the process of nesting the loggerhead is, you can track tagged loggerheads here.
All of these turtles are threatened, by not only pollution and land degradation, but also by boating, fishing, and trash. So make sure to keep a vigilant eye while on your boat, and report any turtles that might appear stranded to the NOAA Marine Animal Hotline (866-755-6622) or visit the EEA for more information.
2014 DAR Agricultural Calendar: September posted on Sep 12
September’s photo contest winner was Gary Kamen, who photographed Mount Warner Vineyard in Hadley. Mount Warner Vineyards is a farm-winery located in Hadley, a small town in the beautiful Pioneer Valley. Operated by Gary and Bobbie Kamen, their philosophy is to recognize the unique characteristics of …Continue Reading 2014 DAR Agricultural Calendar: September
Calling All Shuckers! posted on Sep 3
Do you know where the oysters you ate at the raw bar last night were grown? Do you know how oysters are grown? Oysters naturally inhabited the eastern coast dating back to the 1700s, but due to over-harvesting, disease, and habitat loss, wild oysters have …Continue Reading Calling All Shuckers!
2014 DAR Agricultural Calendar: August posted on Aug 25
Augusts’ Massachusetts Agriculture Calendar Photo Contest winner was Cara Peterson, who photographed a high tunnel greenhouse at Flats Mentor Farm in Lancaster.