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.