Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday's Excitement

When I woke up today, I didn't realize that I was in for an exciting afternoon and evening. I just thought it was a Kenny Chesney, perfect kind of day, with no where to go and no where to be.

Then....an email came from our SCCF Sea Turtle Research and Monitoring Program coordinator, Amanda Bryant. It was to inform the sea turtle volunteers that a nest near the Tarpon Bay Rd beach access, had hatched. It was being watched very closely because when the nest was first found, the tracks left behind were not the usual Loggerhead turtle tracks. At that point, it was assumed that this was a nest of a Green Sea Turtle, which we do have a few of. This morning after seeing that this nest had hatched, it was also apparent that ghost crabs were digging into it. So, rather than wait the normal 3 days after the hatch to dig the nest, Amanda did it this morning. As she was digging into it, she realized that it was deeper than the usual nests, when she ended up lying flat on her stomach and reaching as deep as she could. Then she spotted 30 remaining eggs, that were the size of tennis balls. Yes.....There's your sign! It was a Leatherback Sea Turtle nest. There hasn't been a reported nest here on Sanibel before. But someone said that nearly 30 years ago, there was one instance when they thought there was a Leatherback nest, but a hatch wasn't reported. Anyway, this was VERY exciting!! Who knows? Perhaps a nest did hatch here all those years back and this is a hatchling from that nest, returning. There were 94 empty egg shells, and there were 4 live turtles still in the nest.

OK, now we know Amanda dug the nest and that she has four babies in her possession that are being kept in a warm, dark place until they would be released tonight from the area of their nest. Hmmm, well we had a reason to drive out to SCCF anyway, so we thought it would be a good idea to do that this afternoon. :-) What a thrill that trip turned out to be! We got to see the baby Leatherbacks and they were soooo cute! Much larger than the baby Loggerheads that I have seen. But, I guess I should have known they would be, since they grow to nearly the size of a Volkswagen when they are adults. Now I know why they have the name Leatherbacks. They looked like they were made of soft leather. You can see them for yourself.

This photo does not do Amanda justice, but this is her with one of the babies.


We quickly took a few photos, then the sand pail was covered again with a wet towel and placed in a warm room, where the little turtles would wait until the cover of darkness to make their way into the Gulf.



You can even see the underside of one of the little guys here.


Best watched in HD on YouTube by clicking the screen below.


From there, we drove on out to Blind Pass to see if rumor was true. We heard that rough water had caused a breach around the steel wall and that the pass was now partly opened, letting the water flow the Pine Island Sound to the Gulf, once again.

It is so. :-) These photos and the video were taken from the Blind Pass Bridge.



You could see why there will be more dredging needed shortly after the wall is all removed. There were some areas where the sand was shifting around somewhat.





Tonight just before 9:00 we went to the beach near the Tarpon Bay Rd access and Pointe Santo to watch the four baby Leatherback sea turtles make their way into the Gulf. There was a very large crowd there to wittiness this event. There were no lights or cameras, but the little turtles may have heard some oohs and awes and then applause as they disappeared from sight. They even made the Ft Myers news. This was a day I won't soon forget.

5 comments:

Gayle said...

With all the time and work you put in to help the sea turtles I am sure this must have been a wonderful moment for you. To us uneducated, I had no idea there were turtle the size of a car! That is amazing. I'm glad you were able to see it.

So there is this rumor going around that a certain Alaskan's husbands boss has offered to buy her a ticket to Florida in September when said husband is sent there on work. Now she isn't holding her breath as there are five kids to find care for as well as a multitude of animals (and a home), and the ticket isn't bought yet, but at least she can start making some plans!! :)

ChrisC and JonJ said...

Neat-neat-neat!!!!

Steve said...

Thanks for a wonderful post. We were at the release as well but it's great to read your story of what the day was like prior to the release event. Monday's excitement was truly exciting!

Little Black Scrap Cat said...

Very, very cool!!

Cool for Gayle, too, if a certain Alaskans husbands boss actually purchases the ticket!!!

Tink *~*~* said...

Great report, and you're right - SO EXCITING! Thanks for posting video. They are such cuties!

Tink *~*~*