Waties Island Nest Count

Monday, September 2, 2013

Triple Inventory!

Just as tourists flock to the beaches for Labor Day weekend, apparently baby sea turtles hurry to the water at the exact same time. Our nests have been showing lots of signs of activity this past week, leading us to this multiple-nest inventory on a Labor Day no one will ever forget. Three nests were scheduled for inventory today, giving us so much "labor" that groups were sent to each nest simultaneously to keep it from being an all-day event. The Monday walkers and other devoted volunteers were joined today by the Turtle Club of Coastal, helping to make the day an even more exciting experience.
Unfortunately, everyone had to choose just one nest out of the three, but nest nine proved to be an excellent pick. This one had it all.
We rode out on the truck with a large group of turtle club members, and were greeted by this mellow morning sun over the sparkling waves. The breeze was wonderful--but we had to get to work.
Diving eagerly into the nest, we started tunneling for the eggs. The digging took a little while, because the hole was fairly deep and we wanted to be very careful, only scooping out sand with the sides of our hands to keep from harming any eggs or possible hatchlings.

Steve supervises us as the eggshells are counted. Half or more than half of an eggshell, as most of us turtle-folk know, is counted as a hatched turtle. Smaller pieces are put aside, and of course, unhatched eggs are counted as such.
But of course, as exciting as it to observe any turtle activity, even eggs...most of those on the island are hoping to find some live babies in the nest...
And we do! Two baby turtles are soon excavated from the sand, looking at us with the innocence only a hatchling can have.
"I'm confused...I didn't think there was any such thing as giants."
Accompanied by a fellow walker and a lucky turtle club member, I tote one of the tiny turtles to the water. It squirms in my hand and lifts its head, a good sign that it's ready to swim.

When released, however, the little turtle tries to turn to the left, dazed and confused by the golden glow of the sun. Steve blocks the light from the turtle...and the turtle from the light...by putting his foot between the hatchling and the sun.
The rest of us follow his lead, and the turtle makes it slowly but surely to the water.
And off he goes!
Meanwhile, back up at the nest, more exciting discoveries are being made!
First, a perfect whole egg that doesn't show the signs of discoloration that a dead egg shows. When the nest is refilled, this egg will be put back at the top, for there is a VERY slim (but still considerable) chance that this could be a late bloomer.
And oh the joy! The Turtle Club president pulls out another sea turtle, one of four more babies to go to the water!
This is a happy turtle enthusiast.
A sad but fascinating shot. This is a half-formed turtle, still in the egg and attached to its yolk sac. 
Then there's this little guy! Though it's withered, for most of the nourishment has already been utilized, the yolk sac is still attached to his stomach and is being dragged along like a bridal train! (Never fear, the sac did come off once he dragged it over the wetter and grabbier sand.)
 We all watch like a group of proud parents as the final turtle finds its way to the water.
And the inventory is complete! The statistics for nest nine: 84 hatched, 19 unhatched, and 6 live turtles. Successful and certainly a miracle to be a part of.

Nest number 8 (which I sadly have no photographs from) was also quite successful, with 84 hatched, 23 unhatched, one live hatchling and one dead. Nest number ten's inventory was canceled. When the volunteers began digging, they immediately came in contact with four live turtles. Those turtles were helped to the water, but the rest of the nest was covered back over, deemed to still be in the process of hatching. The inventory is being rescheduled.

All in all, in the sea of Labor Days to come, this one will surely stick in the minds of all who were fortunate enough to share in this experience. Special thanks to Barb and Steve, Steve H, and Paulette for organizing this wonderful adventure, to Valerie for being our official turtle paparazzi, and to the turtles, for giving us a memory that will last us the rest of our lives. We are all thrilled that the turtle club was fortunate enough to enjoy this magical day with us.

Happy Labor Day!

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