A lazy Saturday....I didn't get up late but I surely didn't hit the Audubon Saturday walk 'on time'..... I meandered in to Forsythe around 9:30 knowing that I would pick up the Saturday Walk crew somewhere down the pike. And since it wasn't raining, the walk just had to be 'on'....
So I wandered ......Made it past the education area and down into the embankment and saw a crew of 5 walking a portion of the drive as I turned in that direction. No problem....a few birds along the way, cardinals, a gnatcatcher etc. Met up with the Audubon walkers and found out that 'no fearless leader' showed up for the walk so we were on our own. That is fine as we started walking towards Gull Tower. First thing we spotted was an immature Little Blue Heron with the body being white although a portion of the head was beginning to turn blue. Interesting eh? ....must be on it's second year as it was just turning blue. I have never seen that before, so cool.
Then past Gull Tower on into the restricted road area that the Saturday Audubon walk always takes us in. A few Caspian Terms dwarfing others terms and one small spotted Sandpiper. Two of our small group of five had decided to turn back, which just left us four ( Marian, Lisa, her mom, and Jim). We walked past the first drainage culvert on the less briny side of the road and peaked inside to see if anything got trapped, but nada....all safe. We came up to the second drainage culvert and peaked inside and saw a houseful of turtles.
Yes....a houseful.... babies.....mid sized turtles and two huge snappers. And I mean huge snapping turtles with their heads being the size of my upper arm. The video above shows what the inners of this drainage culvert looked like. From our perspective, the gates were placed in error which caused any turtle who just happened to be near the drainage culvert to be swept in with the strong current. Once inside, they were trapped for the water level was 6 inches below the water line and it was cascading with water entering. On top of that, the way the water flowed inside of the drainage, it created this spiral effect where the water current pushed all takers (turtles, twigs, leaves etc) in a clockwise direction.
We could see the smaller turtles being caught in this clockwork orange pattern and they were floundering as they made their way in this circular current. One midsize (but still large) mud turtle appeared to have already drowned but eventually we saw movement. The two larger snapper turtles had made their way to the "A" frame metal brace inside the drainage (as evident by the video), and hung on. Every once in awhile one of the smaller turtles would cling on to the backs of the large snappers before being swept away once more in circular fashion.
This set the stage.....some type of water rescue had to be done and it would appear that 'we ' were the only ones here to respond. We called the wildlife volunteer center but they had no one to spare or could provide help. Lisa and her mom walked back to the center and attempted to find a 'net'...anything? A net would have done nicely to grab the smaller turtles.
In the meantime, Marian and I figured if we could place some boards inside of this drainage culvert, perhaps it would allow the turtles to find some 'safe ground' and perhaps crawl out eventually. We tried. It seemed like the turtles could sense our gallant rescue attempt and tried to make for the boards we placed. But they could never find their way to the boards due to the constant circular rush of water.
Lisa finally returned and she started to lean into the drainage dish thinking perhaps she could pick them up as they swept by. So we removed the recently placed boards to make room for a 'turtle free for all'....That worked!.... One, two....three, four, five smaller turtles, and a 6th larger mud turtled were handed off to Marian and I .....snapping,clawing at us and once we took them and placed them on dry ground,the little guys wasted no time in finding the water once more, but safe water.
That left the two large snappers. One snapper had just plain disappeared. Where did it go? No idea.....but only one left. We managed to place the board back inside and one snapper held court near the board managed to just sit and rest. Now, given the size of these snappers there was no way that Lisa was going to grab one and I wasn't going to receive that thing either. We all enjoy our fingers. Given that the board was now protruding to the outside, this might allow the snappers to crawl up and out to safety.
So....our job done, we left........ Lisa and mom went home and Mary and I walked back up the Gull Drive. Along came a spider of sorts as a Wildlife officer's pickup came down and entered the restricted area. Perhaps someone notified our recent activity.
So Marian and I got our cars and parked near the entrance to the restricted drive and walked to where the officer now was, near the open culvert. He had of all nice things, a net!.... He immediately managed to get out one large snapper but in the process it broke the net. As we waiting for the other to come up, I removed the board in the drain culvert which allowed the officer to find the 'larger of the two snappers still left. He did and pulled the snapper to safety, again, breaking the net which he recently just repaired. The turtle was huge. I would guess the shell was near 12" in diameter, making it a snapping turtle that one doesn't want to just 'pick up and hand over' ....
Quite the morning...... it was supposed to be a bird walk of sorts but turned into a life saving moment. 5 smaller turtles, 1 midsize and 2 just plain large snappers. Below is an image of Lisa and Marian right after the smaller turtles were rescued.