Friday, July 10, 2009

a week in photos

It's been crazy here, as always, so here's a series of photos showing what I've been up to....

This is Heidi, she's nested as BHI for at least 6 years now and this was her second nest for the season. Fortunately we had a camera crew here from a Wilmington tv station so we were able to take pictures with the light from their red lights. One of the camera guys rode with me on patrol to film some of the interns in action, so I think I'll make my tv debut in the next couple months (be sure to watch for shots of the back of my head as I drive and the blank stare of an intern on turtle patrol).

The BHIC hosts an annual picnic and fundraiser on the 3rd of July. One of the highlights for the interns (and executive director Dr. Dorsey - who has been grooming her team since day one) is the pie eating contest. The Gator Gurgitators (the BHIC intern team) faced off against the Hungry Hunks (the team from the police dept) and of course we dominated. I'll spare you the pictures of them shoving their faces with pie, but here's a victory shot. After watching this I may never eat pie again.

On the 4th, after my night of patrol, I woke up early to watch the parade. As the Dalby side of my family knows, the 4th just isn't the 4th without a parade. Tons of islanders decorate their golf carts - this was an intern favorite. Later that night we watched the fireworks over the island from the UTV on patrol. Nothing like working on a holiday...

On the nights with no turtles I keep myself awake by looking for other cool things on the beach. Sometimes I come home with a beautiful whelk shell or pictures of an alligator. A few nights ago this made the 5:00am run exciting. Apparently cannonball jellyfish and spider crabs have some sort of mutually beneficial relationship and the crab hangs out under the cover of the jelly's lid. I had no idea, but it made for an interesting find.

So I made a new friend this week, this is Mary Ellen, the bird lady of Oak Island. Every once in awhile we find an injured bird on the beach or we get a wildlife call from someone on the island. This was a particularly special bird because everyone on the island has watched two baby red tailed hawks grow and learn to fly this summer. Well, one of them had an accident and the two Merediths and I were able to take this big guy to visit Mary Ellen who gave him a once over. Her diagnosis was positive, but she took him to a vet for x-rays the next day. As it turns out the hawk only has a pinched nerve in his shoulder and with a few weeks of rehab should be ready to come back to the island. Point for the interns!

Since the three of us made the trip all the way to see her, Mary Ellen took the time to show us around and introduce us to all of her birds. We arrived right at pelican feeding time so we got to see her feed three juveniles (I would equate this experience to letting loose a bunch of hungry teenage boys on a table of food). She also showed us a Cooper's hawk, a baby tern and this loon, a bird she's especially proud of right now. I had no clue, but loons are particularly finicky birds that often die of shock in rehab. This guy is doing really well and will be released soon.

Only five more weeks here for me! It's amazing how quickly the time has passed. Unfortunately the turtle count is still low (23 nests and 37 false crawls now), but I still try to rush out at every turtle call. I've seen hundreds of turtles now and I still can't get enough.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

turtle, turtle, gator

It's been a busy couple of weeks - not much time to do anything other than patrol, eat and sleep.

But in that time we've had nine more false crawls and ten more nests! A couple of these recent nesting nights were particularly exciting because we had two females nesting on the same night. Last week we even had two females come out of the water within ten minutes of each other. Jake and I were driving to see the first turtle and on the way found our own. These are by far my favorite moments because the turtle walk went to watch the first turtle nest, so Jake and I were able to do all of our tagging and measurements and then just sit and enjoy. This night was also really special because one of the mommas was Thomasina who was nesting for the second time, two weeks after her first nest. Unfortunately we rarely get shots of the turtle nesting, but here's a photo of Thomasina's first nest.

She laid another huge nest - 175 eggs - and we hope she'll be back in a few more weeks.

Earlier this week Meredith and I had another unique wildlife run in on the beach. Normally, if we see red eye shine while we are patrolling there is a red fox sniffing around somewhere. This time we saw red eye shine and then after driving closer saw a big, long body. Turns out one of the island's gators decided to go for a swim in the ocean and was hanging out there on the beach. One of the wildlife interns told us that scientists believe these odd trips to the ocean help kill fresh water parasites living on their skin. Regardless, we were thrilled and surprised and over the course of the night watched him walk at least 3 miles down the beach. Meredith and I were also nervous, late night beach walkers never expect to run into an alligator, so we stopped everyone we saw in that area to give them a heads up. Granted the two of us don't know a ton about gators (everything I know I can attribute to Dr. Wheeler's Comparative Vertebrae Morphology class), but we guess that this guy was about 6 and a half feet long - pretty big for this island.

In other island favorite UTV has died an epic death twice in the past week. This time around I don't know if Lola is salvageable. Also we have a team of three people here from Oceana to photograph the nesting process, so we've been hanging out with them this week. As much as I enjoy the company of the other interns it is always nice to have visitors and Emily, Carrie Lynn and Jeff have been great to have around.

Things are going well here, the weather has been gorgeous and the time is flying by. Until next time...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

beginning of the season

It seems that our turtle season has finally started. Thank goodness.

Since I wrote last we've had two more false crawls and one more nest - all in the past two nights. The turtlers have a four night on, one day off schedule rotation. So, Sunday night, my last night on, the two other patrollers were lucky enough to see the female on the beach, even though she didn't nest. They had about two minutes with her, which was long enough for them to scan for a PIT tag and record her metal tag code. Turns out this turtle's name is Heidi and she was one of the loggerheads that was satellite tagged in 2006. So, this afternoon I looked her up on to see where all she stopped the year she was tagged. You can check out Heidi's information here:

Then a few hours later Jacob and I were cruising East beach and saw a second set of tracks. We went straight into work mode and shut off the UTV, grabbed our stuff, ducked and ran up before we realized that we actually missed the turtle. Still, it was exciting because based on track measurements we could tell that this was her first time to come up on the beach this season.

All of that would have been enough for us (some nights our highlight is picking up trash...), but while we were doing our last run at 5:30a Jacob and I stopped to look at something at the waterline. We had looked at this "dark spot" all night and decided since it wasn't moving that it wasn't a turtle and never stopped. Turns out the "dark spot" was a flipped horseshoe crab. Neither of us had ever seen a live horseshoe crab, so we took a bunch of pictures before letting the big guy go.

It was huge, it's belly side looked alien and each leg had a claw sort of thing. Definitely one of the craziest looking animals I've ever seen.

And then we flipped him over and watched the beast crawl back in to the ocean.

Last night I was off, but around 2:00a I got a call saying that there was a turtle on the beach right off of beach access 42. She had already been there awhile so I hopped on my bike, rode furiously to the access and then sprinted down the beach to the group watching. Fortunately we didn't have to relocate this nest, but unfortunately that means we won't know how many eggs she laid till they actually hatch. I made it there to see her for about the last ten minutes she was on the beach. She was another beautiful, big turtle and after looking up her information the turtlers found that this one was also a satellite tracked turtle. Her name in Thomasina and she was tagged in 2006. You can check out her migration here:

Heidi and Thomasina laid 4 and 3 nests respectively and both had pretty high egg numbers and relatively successful nest, so I'm looking forward to seeing them both again this season.

I'm back out on the beach tonight and hoping for more exciting news for you soon!

Friday, June 5, 2009


I know it's been awhile, but I'm gonna skip over details of the normal work days to bring you this exciting news:

We finally saw our first turtle! Our full work schedule started this week, so the turtlers have been out in full force (9p to 6a). Unfortunately, our nest count has remained at two since the last weekend and our turtle siting count at zero. Last time I blogged I wrote about our first nest and then later that afternoon we were called about another set of tracks that had been nearly washed out by the incoming tide. So, Sunday afternoon in the heat of the day the whole crew tramped out to relocate the nest. Because we were a bit late in moving them we had to be careful to shade the eggs on the beach as we worked.

As you can see we looked ridiculous. Yes, that is actually all 12 of us under a huge tarp worked to excavate the nest.

Here's a shot from inside. Between the fierce wind the tight quarters it made for quite an adventure. She must have been a hefty momma because she dropped 161 eggs.

Considering we then went four days without anything, even a false crawl, the turtlers have been disheartened. Especially because each morning we hear from the surrounding beaches that have reported two or three nests a night this week. To make matters worse we looked through previous data and it seems that this time last year they already have 14 nests! Anyway, four of us went out to patrol last night at 9 and at 9:12 I got a cell phone call from another intern screaming "we have a turtle! we have a turtle! 25A! 25A!". I thought she was kidding until her patrol partner called with the same enthusiasm. So, Jenn and I raced across the beach, hopped on the road, parked at 25A and went sprinting to the beach. And it was probably the coolest thing ever. Meredith and Jacob spotted this loggerhead as she was crawling out of the water and when I got there she was still digging her nest. It was absolutely phenomenal to watch her scoop out the sand with her cupped hind flippers, gently set it aside and the dip the other flipper in. It seemed like she dug for forever, but finally she started laying and we were able to get to work without disturbing her. We found two metal tags and a PIT tag and took all sorts of measurements. This big girl had a straight (measured with calipers) carapace length of 113 cm and straight carapace length of 79 cm. In other words - her shell alone was about 3.7 feet long. Incredible. She was also an interesting turtle because she had a huge gash across her carapace that was likely caused from a boat accident and she had bites out of both of her rear flippers. Nevertheless, she was gorgeous and it was so amazing to see her nest from start to finish. This momma dropped 182 eggs, which is within BHI top five largest nests, and took a surprisingly long hour and 40 minutes from exiting the water to swimming back home.

Of course this experience would have been mind blowing all on its own, but it was made better because all 11 of the interns, Brett and Maureen were there to watch together, along with three families that had signed up for a turtle walk.

Nine hours patrolling on the beach can be really brutal, especially when you live in a tight space with others with the opposite schedule, but last night we cruised along happily all night long.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

BHIC home to 127 new babies!

It's been a busy few days on the island!

Friday morning Meredith A, Meredith W, Jen and I all went out to Middle Island to meet with Becky, a biologist who is part of a painted bunting tagging program. On BHI there are a couple bunting feeders and then to capture the birds they replace the feeder with a similar feeder and trap. Then when the birds feed again they squeeze through the cage to eat, but can't get out. The program bands the buntings with a series of four colored id bands so the birds can be easily identified in other areas. Of course we mostly wanted to hold one :). Unfortunately while we were out there with Becky no bunting flew into the trap, but we did catch a yellow throated warbler, which is a beautiful, very small bird.
Becky is the collections manager of birds at Raleigh's Museum of Natural Sciences and also, obviously, an avid birder, so she pointed out tons of birds for us including Carolina Wrens and a Cuckoo.

Later that afternoon we met with Dr. Matthew Godfrey who is the coordinator of North Carolina's sea turtle program. He runs workshops to teach groups how to do necropsies, so he brought a small green with him to practice. The program keeps and freezes freshly dead sea turtles just for these workshops, so we actually worked with a juvenile that was caught in a fishing net in 2007. After the necropsy I talked with Matthew for a while about potential projects of my master's thesis. We came up with a few great, feasible ideas and I hope that I'll get all the logistics worked out to look at multiple paternity in loggerhead clutches on BHI.

Now for the really exciting news! We had a big storm Friday night so patrol was mostly non-existent due to all of the lightening, which made it kind of surprising to find we had our first nest that night! Brett and Meredith went out for the morning patrol and Meredith came back on the UTV from east beach, tore into the house, shook all of us awake and we all drove back to the nest. Unlike other mornings someone only had to say "turtle nest" and I popped right out of bed and threw on clothes. The momma left a beautiful set of tracks and 127 eggs (we all guessed, I was closest at 125).

We relocated the nest higher on the dune to prevent loss of the eggs due to erosion or inundation, put a huge wire cage around the nest and marked it. Hopefully 50 to 60 days from now (late in July) we will release a bunch of little loggerheads.

This is the turtle crew with our first nest!

Jeff, one of the conservancy's educators, invited all the interns over for barbecue so later Saturday afternoon we all made the trek across the ferry to Southport. We all had a great time playing games in the backyard and then with another trial round of pie eating.

This is our last weekend "off" so other than patrols we've enjoyed lazing around the house. Today we all volunteered to take one hour shift in Turtle Central, the gift shop, but otherwise I've done little chores around the house to ge ready for the next week. Later I'm going to read out on the beach and tonight we are celebrating Meredith's 22nd birthday!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

frogs, turtles and NC shells

I wasn't scheduled for patrol last night, so instead I went with Maureen and a few other interns on an amphibian survey. We stopped at a series of 8 locations around the island and sat for five minutes at each spot to listen to and identify any calls. According to Maureen it was a quiet night, but we heard at least three different species of frogs and toads. All of us enjoyed the ride and we got to check out a few new spots, like the pond behind the village's community garden. But of the eight my favorite was the Gator Overlook because we saw Bob, a six foot gator, and a ton of yellow bellied sliders.

This morning I woke up for 7am patrol (barely...) and headed out with Eric in order to give Brett, the sea turtle biologist, a morning off. While we didn't find any real turtles it was a pleasant and fruitful patrol in its own way.

Some kiddo left this turtle for us to find and while it's not quite the same as a nesting female it was fun to find. We also found a couple beautiful whelk shells.

Later this afternoon someone called the conservancy from the marina to say there was a small green sea turtle floating around. All the interns were in a short training session, but we were so excited about finally seeing a live sea turtle that we were let out long enough to take a trip to pick the little guy up. It was exciting to see a little juvenile green and even though the poor thing was covered with barnacles and tons of tiny shrimp he kicked when picked up and I think with rehab will be fine.

Since Maureen had to make an impromptu run to the mainland with the green in order to pass him off to another biologist the rest of our afternoon training schedule was thrown off (another kayaking trip, I know, rough), so we have had the night off. Today was a beautiful day so I took a long bike ride and walked on the beach to look for shells. There are so many species of bivalves and crabs native to North Carolina that are new to me, so I really enjoy picking up new shells like the olives, mermaid's toenails, augers and angelwings.

Today the interns also had pie eating contest try-outs take one. As it turns out, at the 4th of July there is a pie eating contest and last year the BHIC intern team beat out the island's fire department team. Needless to say there has been a lot of talk between teams since and the BHIC staff is already encouraging us to form a team. So, the BHIC executive director Dr. Dorsey bought a couple pies and today the bravest of the interns tried their hand (or belly) at eating pie. Fast. Really fast. This was the before picture.

The after was way messy.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

spa day

And by spa day I mean mud baths. And by mud baths I mean traipsing through thigh deep mud and muck in the salt water marshes.
A group of us went out to seine the salt marsh to find diamondback terrapins, a species of turtle that lives in brackish water, to mark and release. Instead we netted tens of thousands of young shrimp and other assorted juvenile fish like flounder and drum. While it wasn't quite productive the way we intended the six of us had a blast and were soaking wet up to our armpits. I've never seine netted before and walking 500 meters or so up creek, right through mud and oyster beds was a bizarre sort of adventure.

Over the weekend I also got to follow along during the beach combing biology class and the crabbing and casting class. Initially I thought the beach combing program would be mostly about identifying shells, which would have been great - I love combing the beach for shells, but Maureen went out into the surf with another seine net and pulled in all sorts of little fish, hermit crabs and sea anemones. We sorted through the contents of the net with the little kids and at the end took a bucket with some fish and crabs back to the classroom to stock one of the tanks. I think, though, that the highlight (or lowpoint depending on your perspective...) was when we watched one of the sea anemones snag one of the fish we also put in the bucket. I think most of us thought it was really cool to see the tail end of a fish sticking out of the anemone, but it may have been shocking for some of the kids.

The next morning more of us went out to the dock at the creek for crabbing and cast netting, something else new to me. All of the interns got really into cast netting, even though we collectively caught only five very small fish. I had a blast and was relatively good at tossing the net after a bit of practice. Only once did I have a mishap, I got the net caught on a button and got a front full of mud, and after that was fairly fearless. People asked if I had fallen in the creek by the end...

Yesterday all the interns had Turtle Central (the BHIC gift shop) training in the morning and we all took an afternoon ferry to the mainland. It was nice to get off the island and grocery shop and we all met at Provisions Co. for dinner before coming back home. Oddly enough however, the highlight for most of us was buying ice cream more cheaply, which required significant planning and packing in ice to make it back across the ferry and all the way to the freezer. I can't wait for Rocky Road ice cream tonight :)

All day today the turtlers spent in First Aid and CPR training with the fire chief on the island. It was a long day inside and when we finished up Maureen took the whole crew out to the beach to respond to a call about a stranded loggerhead. The poor thing had been dead for awhile and was extremely bloated. BHIC is cleared to do necropsies on dead turtles here on site, so we all watched the necropsy and then helped bury her on the beach. Maureen removed one of the front flippers to send off to the lab, something new I learned today, apparently they can age a turtle by looking at the humerus bone.

Still no turtle nests, actually we haven't even had another false crawl. But we are still patrolling and this time around with the UTV. Unfortunately however, with the Groins (which are essentially huge, long sand bags that stretch out into the ocean and are supposed to prevent some beach erosion) so exposed from the recent, extremely high tide and erosion we have to walk the western portion of the beach. So, Meredith and I walked west beach last night, but we had slide down these huge sand bags to lower ourselves to the next section of beach. As these got gradually taller we essentially ended up sliding down best we could before falling down into the sand and getting soaked by the waves. Needless to say when we finally finished with patrol we were pretty well soaked (at least on our front sides where we had fallen face first into the sand) and very sandy. Looks like high tide is going to be an adventure all season long.

It's dinner time here. And then I'm off to bed, I'm exhausted from a short night and long day, before 7 am patrol tomorrow morning. Ciao.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Training Day #3 and #4 and day off #1

Ok I know I'm way behind, but these past couple days have been so busy I've barely had time to sleep. So, here we go...

Thursday morning we took a wonderful three hour hike through the Maritime Forest. One of the really cool things about barrier islands is the unique set of environmental niches. Here you can walk across the island and see all the distinct flora and fauna of the beach, a maritime forest and a salt marsh. So, during our hike we identified tons of plants found along the trails of the forest. The great thing about hanging out with such a nerdy group is we repeated the names till they stuck and then quizzed each other the rest of the way. I think, with about 80% certainty, I can identify a good chunk of maritime forest trees and shrubs here on the island (red bay, red cedar, laurel oak, carolina laurel cherry, live oak, yupon holly, american holly....the list goes on...)

Then Thursday afternoon we took a historic tour of the island with the guide from Old Baldy. It's amazing to look out at the island from the top of the lighthouse and see the beach, forest and salt marsh and it was so neat to learn more about the historic role of BHI. We learned all about Stede Bonnet, a pirate who used BHI as a home base, the various lighthouses and the forts that were once here.

Later that night the turtlers (sea turtle interns - hence the blog name...) did our first beach patrol shift. Ok granted we only did a three hour beach walk, but we were loaded with equipment (a backpack, a cooler with tagging supplies and calipers), walking in almost complete darkness and shlepping through sand. Though I started out almost skipping with excitement and anticipation the pace quickly slowed and when we dragged back in at 12:15 am we were seriously disappointed in the lack of turtles. I had no idea ten miles could be so exhausting.

Friday morning I woke up just in time to have a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal before our hike through the salt marsh. It was really awesome to see such a distinct niche and Maureen identified all sorts of other plants and animals for us (sea pickle - edible and salty, fiddler crabs, periwinkle snails, salt marsh elder....). And Brett caught a glass lizard, a legless lizard native to this area, for us to see, which he later marked and released.

Friday afternoon after lunch we all took a quick birding trip to the Ibis pond and Middle Island and we, thankfully, were given the rest of the afternoon to rest up before the turtlers went on another patrol. Turtle patrol can be a really great experience when you actually see a turtle. But, when you see nothing but darkness for hours on end and all you can think about is how much your knees and feet hurt, can take quite a toll. The 7 of us, 6 interns plus Brett, stumbled in late last night rather disheartened and completely exhausted. Fortunately this weekend we only have a few optional activities like beach combing and crabbing classes that are open to the public. Both of which I ideally will be at, but we are supposed to start full nights of patrols this weekend, so I may be resting up instead.

In other news I've already started (or rather attempted) to collect data for my summer research project that involves measuring turtle tracks and correlating these measurements to turtle size and carapace length/width. And I'm shooting out emails to see if I can use previously collected turtle biopsies to get a jump start on my Master's research (woohoo higher education!). And I have a lead on housing in Fort Worth for next year. All good news.

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Training Day #2: birding and potluck

This has been the most bizarre training. First thing this morning we all met with Brett and Dr. Dorsey to talk about our summer research projects. Of course I'll be going something sea turtle related so the morning discussion was exciting and inspiring, hardly like other tedious trainings I've been through (though I keep preparing myself for a day that will be more tedious...). Afterward Maureen and Brett took us on a beach walk for a bit of birding, then we broke for lunch. This afternoon we cover UTV training, so the interns went out the beach one on one with Maureen and took a little drive - again, nothing but fun.

I've never been really into birding, I think mostly because I want to see the animals up close, but I went out this afternoon with Brett and a couple other interns who are big birders to try to find a Painted Bunting. When we finally found one it was a huge feeling of success. The Painted Bunting is a very tropical looking blue, red and green bird and is just beautiful. I hope I'll be able to learn more about the native birds while I'm here.

Then tonight we had a special potluck with the board members and volunteers to welcome all the interns to the conservancy. We had great food and met a ton of really great people. Here's a picture of the whole crew, 11 interns, Maureen and Brett.After we ate and cleaned up all of us played ultimate frisbee, walked on the beach, watched tv and headed to bed. Another great day on the island.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Training Day #1: the grand tour

Today was our first day of real training, though I suppose from our schedule you wouldn't actually know that we were training. The whole intern crew had a pow-wow with Maureen, Jeff and Brett this morning to go over general house and conservancy rules. But then the rest of the morning and early afternoon we took a tour of BHIC facilities, the island and parts of the beach. To hold everybody we took a caravan of four golf carts and we made it to the UPS shed, the mail box, the recycle drop off and various other intern chore related spots. By about 4 we were all done so I was able to walk on the beach for a bit before dinner.

Some of the crew are in the midst of planning an elaborate two week dinner schedule for us. I definitely enjoy eating and hanging out with everybody (tonight a couple interns grilled), but I think they might regret the decision when they begin to realize the extent of my cooking skills. To those of you who followed my blogs from past summers, think smoke alarm without a battery....

Tomorrow we will continue with training, but the highlight of the day will most definitely be the potluck dinner with all the staff, board members and nest monitors. It will be nice to eat someone else's cooking and meet the conservancy's extensive volunteer base.

So far there have been three false crawls, one of which may have been an Atlantic Green sea turtle. Three more people are going out for a morning patrol tomorrow and then tomorrow night all of the sea turtles interns will spend a "half-night" (9 to midnight) on walking patrol. Fortunately the rain has stopped, but the weather is still cold and cloudy with a vicious wind, so walking the beach after dark will be an adventure.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Today was another wet, cold day so the bunch of us spent the morning sitting around reading. Fortunately the rain stopped by lunchtime so when we walked over the BHIC classrooms for Dr. Paul Hearty's seminar we stayed dry. The next two weeks I'll spend in training with the rest of the interns and listening to Paul's talk on the islands aquifers and water conservation was a great way to kick off our island lessons. I learned a lot about the drilling process and the layers of limestone, clay and sand his team found on various parts of the island. Geology has never been my strong point, but it was a fascinating lecture and I look forward to learning more from Paul this summer.

Afterward the interns all layered on more clothes and went to Gator Overlook that looks out on a small pond. Brett has been netting and marking turtles around the island and we all wanted to help out. Granted in 60 degree weather it's not an ideal activity for people or turtles, but we had a great and fairly successful time. We marked the yellow bellied sliders by notching specific marginal scutes (the ones that go along the edge of the top shell) as they correspond with the alphabet.

The id assigned to the first turtle we caught was K O, who we then named "Knock-Out". Then we notched his K and O scutes with a file, dotted his carapace with white out, photographed him and returned the little guy to the water.

While it was fun to mark the turtles (the group caught enough for each of us to notch one), it was probably most fun watching the group try to actually catch the squirmy little things with nets.

After the slider adventure the 11 of us came back to the house to meet Meredith, the final intern, and then the whole crew went to Eb and Flo's on the island for dinner. I'm starting to feel like I'm part of a huge family with 12 kids :).

Tomorrow morning we start bright and early with tours, talks and lessons in the island's flora and fauna. Can't wait!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Bald Head Island Choppers

Today all but one of the interns made it here so we were all able to sit around and really start to talk for the first time. And of course what better way to bond than to ride our bikes around the island. Between seven of us we managed to hobble together a mostly functional group of bikes from the conservancy bike rack. Our little bike gang ran into rain almost immediately and our attempt to ride on the beach was a struggle, but once we hit the roads all of us had a soggy, but great time.

When the group made it back to the dorm we met two more interns who had just taken the tram over and together the eleven of us had dinner. I can still hear voices downstairs from my bunk bed upstairs, but we are all drained and I'm going to bed earlier than I probably have in months.

Today was also interesting because I made my first solo trip on the ferry with my load of groceries - I still have a lot to learn about basic BHI life.

Tomorrow is our last free day before training, but all of us plan on attending a seminar offered by the conservancy and then helping Brett mark and measure a small population of fresh water turtles in a pond here on the island. Undoubtedly, adventures will abound.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New summer! New island! New turtles!

I was the sort of kid who chased down frogs in the backyard, sang "Born Free" when I released grass snakes and kissed my minnow before baiting the hook. So, I suppose it's no big surprise that today some of my greatest life passions are sea turtles and marine conservation. The past two summers I worked as a sea turtle intern at Sea Turtle, Inc., a sea turtle hospital on South Padre Island, Texas. This year I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology and Spanish and made my way to Bald Head Island, North Carolina for another sea turtle filled summer. The Bald Head Island Conservancy where I'm now working offers a ton of great educational programs for kids and locals, but I think it's nice to share some of the behind-the-scenes action as well. I hope you follow along and enjoy the stories from my summer adventures!

One thing I love about working with wildlife conservation organizations is the daily adventure, there is never a slow or uneventful day. My dad and I have had a few days to vacation (a biologist on a true vacation....HA!) on the island before I start training, but true to my biologist-on-vacation theory our days were non-stop. On our first full day we went out with Maureen Dewire, BHIC's Director of Education, for a 7:00a turtle patrol. Within minutes it started raining and we were all soaked, but we were all so excited to be out on the beach that we kept on anyway. We finished about half of the patrol when it began to pour so we decided to put the rest of the patrol on hold. As we pulled up to the conservancy two police cars were parked in the drive. It turned out one of the officers found an injured red fox pup and brought the little guy over to see if we could help.

After the rain finally stopped the three of us went back out to the beach to finish out the patrol and we found the first false crawl of the season! The momma turtle didn't actually nest, but it means the turtle season has started on Bald Head.

This morning Brett, my dad and I patrolled again and found a second false crawl, so we are all hopeful that there will be a nest soon.

I've also celebrated "biscuit payday" with Amanda and Maureen with the Market's breakfast biscuits, tried my hand at a bit of birding and walked the paths along the salt march. It's amazing how eventful these past few days have been.

Over the next few days all of the interns will be moving in to the conservancy dorm and Tuesday morning we all start training. I'm looking forward to meeting the new crew, starting work and seeing my first BHI loggerhead!