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Jul 15, 2009

Diamondback Terrapins on the Eastern Shore of Virginia


On our 'day off', we launched from Gargatha Landing on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, to paddle to a seaside barrier island for a Sunday of beachcombing and swimming in the Atlantic.

Along the way, we began to see little black and white noses poke out of the water, then pull down on our approach. Bill said they were diamondback terrapins, once endangered due to their tastiness, now a “species of concern” in Virginia.

Looking ahead along the marshy shore we saw more and more of them, little black dots that disappeared. There were dozens, perhaps hundreds.

Then I looked ahead at the shoreline and saw it shimmering in the sun, then moving! Enmasse the turtles were slipping into the water as we approached. The ground was literally covered with them, all sizes ranging from about the size of a teacup to a dinner plate. There must have been thousands all told.

We landed on the backside of Metompkin Island at what used to be channel marker 71. Tropical storm Ernesto 3 years ago washed over the island and actually filled in the channel, creating a deadend. The markers are sticking up out of sand, kind of a crazy sight.

When you land here this time of year there are signs stating the island is closed due to nesting of least terns, oyster catchers and piping plovers. The signs do allow for a pathway across the island where the wash-out occurred, so us hunmans can get to the beach and take a dip in the Atlantic and beachcomb. Just please don’t venture into the island’s interior: stay on the beach.

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