Waties Island Nest Count

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Nest Number Eight!! (and a Serendipitous Encounter)

Watercolor skies presented a beautiful, unassuming backdrop to Friday's walk, which seemed perfectly ordinary until the walkers on the long end saw a line in the sand. From a distance, it's always hard to tell if it's the tell-tale tracks of a mother turtle's crawl, or just leftover prints from an ATV. But excitement still builds as we get closer, and closer, until that moment which was no different than a child catching Santa on Christmas Eve--

"She's still here."

Walkers remained a respectful distance back as the mother turtle completed her nest. Then she moved her enormous body back towards the ocean, escorted by ecstatic Friday walkers as she plunged back into the waves. There's certainly no part of this creature's life cycle that isn't miraculous, but to see the enormity of our cause up close is something none of us will ever forget.

Once the mother was gone, we surveyed the crawl and phoned Barb to come out to the island to probe for the eggs. As all experienced walkers know: in spite of witnessing the turtle's return to sea, we can never be 100% certain there are eggs until we probe the body pit. Fortunately, after seeing exactly where the turtle's back flippers were working the sand, we had a pretty good idea of where to probe.

Carefully we begin probing the pit near the suspected egg chamber

  It took a few tries, but the probe gave towards the middle of the body pit, about where we estimated her back flippers were working. We began digging down, and a comparatively short distance from the surface...

Eureka! The egg nearest to the surface was extracted for DNA.

Now all that's left to do is cover the eggs back over, just like momma turtle did, and plant a sign to mark the spot. 

Nest Eight is currently the furthest one up the long end, behind the tide line but not all the way back to the dunes. Of course, it wasn't the only nest we had to worry about.

Popping over to the short end to position another crab trap on nest number six revealed yet another unexpected guest, though he's more infamous than famous. After evading capture and stealing yet another precious egg, this cradle-robbing ghost crab is no longer at large.
After being pulled out of the hole by hand, the ghost crab will live out his life being chased by net-wielding children all summer at the currently nest-free hog inlet.

Remember, don't be crabby. Thanks so much to the Friday walkers for all their hard work and contributions (including all these great photos). This mother turtle can swim easier knowing her nest is in good hands. Blessed to be a part of such an amazing day.

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