Waties Island Nest Count

Friday, August 22, 2014

Excellent Results for Nest 3! :D

 Waites was beautiful as usual this morning, 

...and apparently coughing up some of its treasures. This guy was still breathing, or trying to, so we put him back...though we all figured "swimming on its side" was not a sign of a healthy fish. ;)

And then we found this shark. I suggested we photograph him in the water and pretend he was large and still alive, but somehow no one thought anyone would believe that story.

 Finally towards the jettys on the far end of the island we found our destination, Nest number three. There were eggshell pieces at the top (as shown above).

Valerie helped me sort the eggshells into piles, as it was a long reach down into the hole. The real war was with the gnats (noseeums, if you're southern) that were forming an all but continuous cloud around our heads.

 Still farther to the actual pit!
Paulette helps determine the percentage of shell--

The chamber was a long way down, at one point requiring any diggers/egg counters to lie down for a good reach into the hole.

The eggs were tallied up...

...and we had excellent results! Only five unhatched eggs, leaving us with 103 whole shells--not even counting the "giblets" (meaning broken shell pieces under 50%: that is NOT a technical term, readers) that could easily compose a few hatched eggs on their own. All in all a lovely success ratio and a beautiful, if buggy day on which to have it.

Everyone say "TURTLES!" :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nest #4 Emerged!

Nothing new to report about Nest 3 this morning, but Nest 4 emerged sometime overnight right on schedule. It was 58 days old. You can see lots of tracks heading down to the ocean in Linnea's photo (thanks, Linnea). It did rain last night and the hatchling tracks are not quite as clear as they are sometimes, but there is no mistaking those lines on the beach. Might even see a few more make their way out tonight!

Lots of hatchling tracks on their way to the ocean

A couple of eggshells on the surface

 Nest #5 is only a day older that this one, so maybe even more tracks in morning...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nest #3 Inventory

 Steve H., Karen (a visitor) and I arrived at nest #3 to do the inventory.  The rest of our group, Nancy, Joe, Debbie and Dave, opted to walk and check on the other nests.  When we got there we found three egg shells and what appeared to be three Ghost Crab holes as you see above. 
Then we saw what looked like some very faint hatchling tracks which in the picture looks like it is coming from one of the holes to the side of the nest marker.
We opened the nest.  Steve was up to his shoulder before he found the first sign of a nest.  Not egg shells, but a live hatchling.  He put the hatchling on the sand outside the nest.  The shell was flat and there was no egg yoke. Next Steve found a group of hatchlings and covered the nest back up.  We put the egg shells we found on top of the nest back in as we covered the nest. 
After a minute, the little hatchling we had put on the sand next to the nest started straight for the ocean.  The first bit of water rolled him over, but after that he was off and swimming.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nest #3 Still At Large

Apparently Friday morning walkers aren't the only ones who love cruising in the back of Valerie's pick up truck...this adorable little froggy took a ride with us!

We got some really pretty views of the sunrise beyond the shed...first red sunrise we've seen in awhile! No more clouds today!

    The big news of course, is the turtle nest. Nest number three still hasn't hatched yet, no tracks and no depression, however the crab holes are really tunneling in there. Weekend walkers keep an eye out, because it won't be long. :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nothing Yet on Nest #3

With the super moon recently, the high tides have been very high.  Two of our nests, though laid high on the beach, did have a tide wash.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Nest #2 - a Big Surprise!!

We had serious concerns about Nest #2 (the first documented nest laid by turtle # 807 on Waties Island) when we first inventoried the nest on Wednesday, August 6th.  Steve & Barb decided it was best to cover the nest and wait an additional 3 days and inventory again on Saturday (see previous post).  We were really expecting to find a nest of dead baby sea turtles after the Friday team reported a ghost crab hole over the nest and an unpleasant odor coming from it.  So a small group went out on the high tide morning and inventoried the nest.  It was a very deep nest which may have contributed to the difficulties this nest seemed to have.  We were AMAZED at what we found!
94 hatched eggs, 32 unhatched (which included 2 partially developed turtles) and 9 LIVE babies!!  A 74% hatch rate, which is just below average.

These were the first two babies retrieved from the nest...so cute!

They get so excited once they feel the water for the first time, it energizes them and they go even faster to get out to sea.

This little baby #8 to emerge was very deep in the nest which may have contributed to his slightly deformed shell.  He was mighty determined to get to sea and didn't let this extra challenge hold him back!!

The race is on...

Our special sea turtle (#8) gets around just fine.

This is baby #9 (with #8 in the background), he still has the yolk sack attached to him.
Patrick finishing the dig

Patrick, Steve and Tracye counting eggs.  Note how high the tide is, it actually went down a foot or two while we were at the nest.

Final inventory -- Such an exciting morning.  We were all expecting a somber experience and left the beach elated.  This was the Saturday Team's first nest find of the season, so it was great to be the group doing the inventory as well.
Looking forward to nest #3!!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Nest 2 Update

Nothing too eventful on our walk today, however we noticed a large crab hole in the center of our recently almost-inventoried nest, nest number 2.

 There was also clear washover where the tide had swept debris to the front of the cage and filled up our  chamber, along with a pungent odor in the air.
A shot of the tide line (below)

We also noticed two crab holes on Nest 6 close to the post. One can never be too sure of the intentions of crabs, but it may indicate activity.

Thanks to Dave and Valerie for shuttling us out in the back of their pickup truck--it's always a fun ride and a gorgeous view. :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Nest 2 Inventory! 8/6/2014

Today was, as usual, a beautiful day on Waites island. Everyone piled together in Barb and Steve's large pickup truck for the inventory--and it was STILL necessary to make two separate trips. These little turtles have no idea how much excitement they create.

Soon after making our way to the beach, Barb & Steve took us back down to the nest (accompanied by Paulette) and we proceeded to dig. As usual, there were many volunteers to get their hands in the sand for this fabulous event. 
The sand was pretty packed down from all the rain we've had lately. It took a while of digging before we made our way into the egg chamber. There was one perfectly hatched eggshell right at the surface of the pit, but the very next thing we found was...

 A baby sea turtle! Holding one of these little guys never gets old. Of course, as soon as he was pulled out, we quickly got him to the water's edge to begin the start of a long journey.
 Immediately after, however, more turtles were found...
And still more!
After uncovering a fifth turtle, it was decided that some of the soft sand be kicked back in so the clearly relevant numbers could have a chance to climb to the surface on their own--this time with looser sand on top rather than the hard crust the rain had made.

 Those who did make it out, however, were escorted to the water and given a shady trail made by the legs, feet, and outstretched t-shirts of willing volunteers.

Almost there!

All the turtles released swam successfully and made their way out to the water. We all cheered as the final little head came up, took a breath, and then disappeared beneath the breakers. Barb and Steve then made the two trips to return volunteers and guests (all happy from the encounter) back to the shed before returning a third time with a cage to cover the disturbed nest site.

The customary trench from previous seasons was dug, and a cage was planted loosely in the sand to protect the turtles in the coming days in case a predator might disturb the revealed pit.

Meanwhile, I managed to get a shot of a magnificent phenomenon rarely captured on film.
Barb and Steve, our intrepid and impossibly humble leaders, who appear in few photos even when apart--are BOTH IN THE SAME PICTURE.

I'm just waiting for my call from National Geographic.