Waties Island Nest Count

Friday, August 2, 2013

NESTS #1, #2, #3, AND YES, #14!

We had a very busy day on Waites Island. It started as beautifully as normal, with a bright pastel sunrise and a literal ocean of promise.
Little did we know that here, a miraculous surprise was waiting. There were immediate signs of a ghost crab invasion: holes and eggshells upon the surface. But when I looked into the depression, I found something much more interesting...

 ...a baby loggerhead. This tiny turtle was saved from the jaws, or should I say, CLAWS of death by our Friday volunteers. Sitting in the depression eye to eye with a monstrous ghost crab, he would have been an excellent breakfast had we not arrived at the nick of time. Mom reached into the hole and grabbed out the ghost crab...who was nearly given the death penalty. However, after much debate, the jury instead decided on a maximum sentence of permanent exile from the island. Until then, he was forced to stay in a plastic bag until we could relocate him on North Myrtle.

The villain won't be returning to THIS evil lair anytime soon...
After the crab was dealt with, the little turtle was escorted to the water by our volunteers, given time to strengthen his skill on the walk, but sheltered from birds flocking overhead.

For awhile, we were concerned, because the turtle left no tracks. Was he not putting down enough weight? However, tracks were produced once he reached the wetter sands, revealing that the rain had hardened the sand above the tideline too much for his little flippers to leave traces in.
While Mom and I watched this little turtle, Linda and Valerie were busily scouring the dunes to see if any other hatchlings had lost their way. Sure enough, one poor little sea turtle was trapped in the hold of a ghost crab. Linda frightened the crab away, and the hatchling was allowed to journey to the water safely with his sibling.

Made it!!

Some up-close shots of our little guy:

Later in our walk, we made a few minor discoveries. Spongebob lost a mitten:

and Linda gained a ring. Just when we thought the day's excitement was through, I saw something on the beach that I was pretty sure WASN'T an ATV track...

It was a crawl! This crawl, to be exact. This turtle was a little late...but definitely appreciated.
Valerie getting a winning shot:

And here it is! Nest 14?

While waiting for Steve and Paulette to arrive, we investigated the remaining nest. Not sure if this is a depression or a footprint, but it's worth watching.

There's always that one person who doesn't stay with the group. ;) Linda loves to swim, and actually got a chance to do so this week.

 And the nest hunt begins!

 Steve hard at work, probing for the nesting chamber...
 The probe went down. So I'm goin' in.
 Linda is right there with me, feeling for those precious eggs...

 ....and finding the one that the probe broke through. Oh well, needed the shell for DNA research anyhow. After graciously forgiving me for allowing yolk to catch in the breeze and blow all over her, Paulette helped me get my eggshell into the test tube.

 Steve announced that we were going to relocate the nest further down the island, because it wasn't behind the tideline. This was very exciting for me, having never been part of a relocation before. Linda taught me that you have to place them in the bucket facing the same way as they were in the nest. We went about taking the eggs, one by one, and placing them in the bucket with some soft sand. They were so fresh, that they were still wet.

And here it is! Eighty unbroken eggs, ready to be moved to their new home.

We take our truck ride back to the entrance to transplant the eggs to a new site. Mom and I are exuberant over the find...
 ...and Valerie thinks she laid them, apparently. ;)
 Steve has also always wanted to be a turtle. With a heart cockle shell, he carves away a perfect nesting pit for the turtle eggs to reside in until hatching day.

And Linda and I reverse the process. We take the eggs from the top of the bucket first, not only because it's easier to reach, but because we want them to lay exactly like they did in the original nest. Even with all our intellects, we can't do as well as the Momma turtle did all by herself.

 Finally, the last egg is placed inside, and the nest is identified as number fourteen!

 Here they are in our manmade chamber. Now I know how the mother turtle feels. Well, sort of. Just this little pit makes us all beam with pride.

 So there it is! Nest Fourteen! Thanks to Dave (for waiting all that time on the other end of the island not knowing what in the world had happened) Linda, Mom, Valerie, Paulette and Steve for working so hard to give us this beautiful day!
And I know what you're all thinking. What happened to that ghastly ghost crab? Well, this villain was punished for his deeds: banished from the island to live somewhere far, far away.


Here's a little video I put together of the beautiful baby turtle entering the water. Such a wonderful miracle to witness. Set to "No Fear of Heights" and "What a Wonderful World." Hope you enjoy!

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