Waties Island Nest Count

Friday, July 5, 2013

Two Nests And A Stranding!

Every day is a beautiful day on Waites Island...but this one was especially fabulous due to the mass amount of activity! Excitement was palpable when walkers discovered two separate crawls, one on the long end and one on the short. The first find for those of us on the long end, however, was less pleasant.
This unfortunate small turtle, believed to be a Kemps Ridley, was discovered dead near the tideline, with a large wound to the shell and an obvious hole at the neck, shown clearer in the photo below.

No one knows if the hole is the wound that killed the turtle, or if it was simply the scavenging of ghost crabs, as there is a ghost crab hole seen very near the wound.

Not but a few mile markers further, we discovered tracks! :)

The day just continued to get more beautiful as it progressed:
....and soon Steve and Paulette arrived, bringing the walkers from the short end and the news that another crawl had been sighted in the opposite direction!
Steve began the process of probing the crawl site, and soon arrived at the pit! This was, in fact, a turtle nest. :)
 Alyssa and I began to dig for the egg chamber, cautiously (but ecstatically) edging through the sand with our gloved hands...
....and located the eggs!

Of course, we had to take turns posing with the prized treasure, our egg for DNA research,

 (I would totally steal it back if Alyssa weren't just as crazy over turtles as I am.) ;)
And then it's time for us to cover the nest back up, just like the proud momma turtle imposters we are.

I'm sure these pelicans were wondering why humans insist upon pretending to be sea turtles on their beach...
But they flew on without voicing this judgment.
 After covering the nest, Alyssa worked with Steve and the egg for DNA testing, harvesting the shell for the study.

The tiny yolk was quickly gobbled up by a seagull. Let's hope that's all the turtle they get from this nest.

Finally, a stake was grounded to mark our sacred little patch of sand, and our part of the work was complete. Now we just have to watch and wait for this natural miracle to unfold.

Next, we proceeded to the dead turtle, to mark it so that it wouldn't be rerecorded.
 These pictures give you a good size estimate, and a nice view of the plastron.

 The turtle is spray-painted red...
...and then is to be carried back to the dunes and discarded. Steve offered to let me do the deed. I declined, but thanked him for the offer.

After that, we proceeded to the happy task of surveying the next possible nesting site. Steve again went to work with the probe, and located the area of the pit. Of course, I was first on the ground, with Alyssa not far behind...

Soon came the magic moment of discovering yet another egg chamber! The second nest of the day! Happy doesn't begin to cover it.
Time for yet another bit of DNA study, with an egg that was already cracked for us. (Apparently the probe, or heaven forbid, our own fingers, may have punctured the shell. Fortunately, we needed to break one anyhow.)

Have you ever seen anyone look that gleeful over dumping out a yolk?

After a long morning of turtle expeditions,
 Everyone posed for a group photo! :)
 Well, almost everyone. Dave's arm holds the place for Paulette, who so graciously volunteered to snap this...*ahem*...winning photo.
 Thanks to Dave, Valerie, Chris, Linda, Alyssa, Arlene, Steve, Paulette, my mother (Keela)... and a tiny bit to myself...this Friday Turtle Walk was exceptional.
Of course, most of the credit goes to the turtles, and the One who put them here. :)
Always a pleasure!

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