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Georgia Department of Natural Resources Report Wading Bird Nest Colonies

– Steering clear of terrapins
– Help map wading bird rookeries
– Prescribed fire: less risk, less smoke
– A backyard bird you’ve likely overlooked

While nesting sea turtles are making headlines, nesting diamondback terrapins are lighting up road signs.

The nesting season for loggerhead sea turtles in Georgia began May 1, with the first nest found on Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The same day near Tybee Island, two message boards along the Tybee causeway (U.S. 80) started flashing warnings for drivers to keep an eye out for diamondback terrapins crossing the busy highway.

From May until mid-July, for up to two hours before and after daily high tides these saltmarsh turtles with the lipstick mouths crawl for higher ground to lay their eggs. The roadsides of U.S. 80, which bisects marsh between the Bull River and the Savannah River’s South Channel, are a magnet for adult females.

The Georgia Department of Transportation runs alternating messages on the causeway during the nesting period, with timing synced to a tide gauge at nearby Fort Pulaski National Monument. DOT Ecology Section manager Chris Goodson said one script tells drivers to watch for turtles. The other cautions against following too close.

“The first is awareness about possible wildlife on the roadway,” Goodson said. “The second, typically it’s not the car out in front (that hits the terrapin), but the one following too closely behind. The second message is really about if you provide space, you’re more likely to avoid it.”

DNR Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd said the use of flashing turtle-crossing signs along the Jekyll Island Causeway, another diamondback terrapin nesting hotspot, contributed to significantly fewer road-killed terps. “A scientific study showed that it really does reduce mortality.”

The hope is the Tybee signs – along other efforts at Jekyll and elsewhere – continue to help drivers steer clear of these declining turtles, a high-priority species in Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan.

To view the whole newsletter visit: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/GADNR/bulletins/3598150

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