Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘hatchlings’

Providing a Safe Haven for Diamondback Terrapins

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
A Closer Look at Project Terrapin, a Growing Initiative that Focuses on Diamondback Terrapin Conservation

by Kiran Sinha, 2015 Project Terrapin Field Team Member and Wildlife Conservation Intern

Terrapin Hatchlings by Kiran Sinah

Terrapin Hatchlings by Kiran Sinha

Diamondback Terrapins are a species native to coastal marsh areas in New Jersey. Terrapins are an interesting species, in part because they are the only native New Jersey turtle that has adapted to marsh habitats. Diamondbacks have been spotted all over the Great Bay area, increasingly so in the Manahawkin-Long Beach Island area. Although their shells are extravagant and beautiful, sometimes it is hard to notice them in the water, especially when it is dark and murky. Terrapins can travel by water and land; neither is safer than the other in the busy water and road ways of Barnegat Bay.


Diamondbacks in New Jersey have had a high mortality rate due to impact from cars and boats. In fact, only one in fifty hatchlings survive to a full-grown adult. One teacher and terrapin conservationist is trying to change that. Dr. John Wnek is a teacher at M.A.T.E.S High School in Manahawkin. Dr. Wnek is an avid terrapin conservationist and he incorporates it into his schoolwork as much as possible. For the past few years he has been rescuing terrapins in the Barnegat Bay area. Whether they are hit by a boat, a car, or trapped in a net, Dr. Wnek is there to help. He has many terrapins in his classroom, mostly those that he rescues. He introduced his love for terrapins to his students and they have joined in to help with a growing initiative, Project Terrapin.


For this project, Dr. Wnek and his students distribute over one hundred terrapin hatchlings to coastal high schools and colleges in New Jersey. These students and teachers keep their turtles in the classroom and take care of them for almost a full school year. At the end of May every year, the students and teachers from each school join at Island Beach State Park to release the hatchlings into the Barnegat Bay. When the turtles are hatched in the wild, they sometimes do not even make it to the marsh water or bay. Predators, such as seagulls, can pick them up easily when they are so small.


With the help from the schools, the terrapins are well fed and kept clean from diseases so they can finally be set free in their new homes. A very important part of maintaining the hatchlings while in the classroom is keeping track of them after they are released. Since the little turtles are too small to tag, we perform a procedure called notching. This process is like filing a human finger nail; it is quick, simple and painless. To notch a turtle shell, we use a filer to leave indents in the shell. As you can see from the pictures below, turtles have keratin plates that make up the shell, called scutes. In order to mark them accordingly to the year, we correlate each scute with the letter of the alphabet. This year we used the letters N and O, you can see the scutes that are marked on the hatchling and turtle. Once this process is complete, we finally set our little buddies go to where they can thrive and reproduce. The goal of this project is to help replenish the diamondback terrapin population, with the help of Dr. Wnek and his students, the next generation of terrapin conservationists.

Photo by Kiran Sinah

Photo by Kiran Sinha

Learn more:


Kiran Sinha is a summer 2015 Wildlife Conservation Intern with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey and a 2015 field team member for Project Terrapin.

Twins! Two osprey eggs hatch overnight!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Overnight two osprey eggs hatched at the Osprey Cam nest inside Edwin B. Forsythe NWR in Oceanville on day 40 of incubation. Ospreys exhibit asynchronous hatching or they hatch in the order they are laid. This ensures that the oldest and strongest young survive if there would ever be a shortage of prey. The third egg should hatch within the next 2 days.

You can tell when osprey eggs hatch by the behavior of the sitting adult. They sit higher, with their wings down and they are a bit more concerned with the young that sit beneath them. Young are born semi-altricial which means that they are downy and can open their eyes, but they require very close parental care.

Two osprey eggs hatched overnight on May 25-26th at Forsythe NWR in Oceanville.

Two osprey eggs hatched overnight on May 25-26th at Forsythe NWR in Oceanville.

Three little hatchlings!

Monday, June 2nd, 2014
Eggs hatch at Osprey Cam nest in Oceanville

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Three eggs have hatched at the Osprey Cam nest at Forsythe NWR in Oceanville.

Three eggs have hatched at the Osprey Cam nest at Forsythe NWR in Oceanville.

It’s been a hectic spring (to say the least). I’ve been swamped with field work since early April. Time has been flying by!!

The osprey pair nesting at the nest with our Osprey Cam on it has successfully hatched three young. The eggs hatched at ~37 days and in the order they were laid. Ospreys exhibit asyncronous hatching, which helps make sure that only the strongest young survive to fledge. In years with a good supply of fish then all young will survive. When there is harsh weather or a lack of prey (fish) then the oldest and strongest will survive, this is often called natural selection. The last two catches, from the male, have been very large white perch. There has been so much food that the young all get their fill. Sometimes the runt won’t get fed right away, but if he peeps a lot and begs for food, then he will get his share too.

Regarding the trash in the nest:

We are watching the plastic in the nest and will take action if necessary to remove it. Our policy is only to act when a bird is in a life threatening situation. Us entering a nest creates disturbance which might cause even more harm (more so when a bird is potentially entangled). Extreme care (and patience) must be taken in these types of situations. Trust us. We’d LOVE to not see the trash in the nest, BUT this is a teachable moment for all who are watching the Osprey Cam. Please share our post on social media and encourage your friends to pick up the next piece of litter they see or to not release balloons! If we all act, then we can all make a difference!