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!

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