Thursday, July 28, 2011

Turtle Walk Thursday

We started our walk earlier this morning because Amanda Bryant, Biologist and; Sea Turtle Coordinator for SCCF, had told us the second research nest in our zone was due to hatch.  The first one did not hatch on our day.  So, we were hopeful about this one.  We started on the opposite end of our zone in order to get to the research nest sooner.  If it had hatched, it would be important to get the little turtles out before the sun was up to high.

Up ahead, I could see the cage over the research turtle nest.  I thought that the nest looked dark at the bottom of the cage.  But, maybe it just wasn't light enough and my eyes were playing tricks.  The closer we got, the more I was convinced that the dark areas could be baby turtles.  I was getting excited, could we have been lucky enough to have that nest hatch on our watch....
YES, we were!
This is the first nest we found this year that hatched just before our turtle patrol. The neat thing about this one was that all the baby turtles were captured in a wire basket and we were the first to see them :) Most of the time the babies head to the Gulf and all we see are baby turtle footprints.

As soon as we saw the turtles, we called our Permittee, who would come to get the turtles.
In the meantime, there was the rest of our zone to walk.  One of us stayed with the nest and the other finished walking our zone, then returning in time to to help.

These looked like some healthy and energetic babies. :)

The sky was absolutely beautiful this morning!

The Permittee arrived, took the hatchlings from the cage, counted them as he placed them in a bucket of damp sand.  That sand was like the sand in the nest chamber that the little guys had just left.

There were 77 tiny turtles. :)
He picked 10, making sure they were healthy, then placed them in a seperate bucket.

The 10 lucky turtles will be sent to the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton to be studied. When they are about the size of your hand they will determine the sex of the turtles and compare it with the temperature data collected from a probe that had been placed in the nest as soon as it was found. Then the turtles will be taken out into the Atlantic on a Coast Guard vessel and released where other sea turtles of the same size are found.
The other 67 turtles would be held in a dark place, where they could snooze until tonight after dark, when it would be safer for them to be released.

Usually after a hatch, the nest is dug 3 days later to count the empty eggs, eggs that did not hatch, dead turtles and check for any live ones that may not have been able to get out.  All of these things have to be documented.  Since this was a research nest, it was dug immediately.  Below is a picture of the egg chamber with the empty eggs and four eggs that were not good and did not hatch.  All live turtles had been able to climb out. :)
The eggs look like ping pong balls before they hatch.

You can see that the shelling in this area wasn't great this morning.  But, I don't think anyone cared, because they were able to watch some baby Loggerheads instead. :)  A large number of people stopped by to watch and take pictures, but the best part of all was that several children had a unique experience.  Hopefully it will spark an interest in them to want to help save the sea turtles. 

This has to have been my best turtle walk ever! :)

As of July 29, 2011:
Sanibel East-35 nests, 83 false crawls, 8 hatches
Sanibel West- 235 nests, 349 false crawls, 40 hatches
Captiva- 75 nests, 52 false crawls, 36 hatches
As of July 29, 2010:
Sanibel East- 16 nests, 62 false crawls, 1 hatch
Sanibel West- 136 nests, 232 false crawls, 24 hatches

Captiva- 57 nests, 112 false crawls, 16 hatches

As of July 29, 2009:
Sanibel East- 25 nests, 57 false crawls, 3 hatches
Sanibel West- 147 nests, 174 false crawls, 44 hatches
Captiva- 77 nests, 64 false crawls, 27 hatches

Stats provided by:

Amanda Bryant
Biologist, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation


sue in mexico mo said...

I am bursting with excitment! This has to have been a wonderful,, once in a life, time experience. I am so happy for you and for the turtles.

gpc said...

How exciting! How wonderful! What a great way to start the day!

Kim@Snug Harbor said...

OMG-that was amazing and SO cool to get to see. Thank you for posting the video. Did the nest right in front of Pointe Santo (where I met you) hatch yet?

Snowbird said...

That is so cool. Congrats on the hatch.

Shelllady said...

So Cool!! I am back at Sanibel....Oceans Reach and can see the one I believe you found last time I was here in June...I told hubby it should be about time for that one to hatch....How I would love to see that!! My goal is to one day move to Sanibel and do the Turtle walk too!! Thanks so much for sharing the pics and video with us!!


sue in mexico mo said...

I just watched the video again. I wonder how many of the baby turtles are still alive. They look so tiny and vulnerable.