Chesapeake Quarterly
Poplar Island Success
Ryan Trimbath kneeling near a terrapin nest

POPLAR ISLAND NEARLY VANISHED from sight before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began building dikes for storing dredge material dug out of the shipping channels of Chesapeake Bay. Now the man-made island with its new wetland cells is becoming home to thousands of terrapins who are finding safe nests for their offspring. To keep track of births on the site, field technician Ryan Trimbath (above) and another assistant patrol the island during nesting season. When they find a nest, they dig it up, count the eggs, then cover them again, and flag the site. Fifty days later they ring the nest with aluminum flashing, creating a little terrapin corral to keep hatchlings from wandering away. When the hatchlings finally crawl out, Trimbath captures them for weighing, measuring, and tagging. The survival rate for these nests is running in the 70 to 80 percent range — happy news for biologist Willem Roosenburg (below) who releases hatchlings back into the wetlands. Photographs by Michael W. Fincham.

Willem Roosenburg holding little terrapins
December 2008
vol. 7, no. 4
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