Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tag Teams

Thursday night was eventful for the first patrol team on the beach. Haley, with married couple Laura and Will spotted their first turtle at Mile 6/8, where a green was digging her body pit. Excited at the prospect of finally working a turtle, Will unpacked his kit as they settled down to watch. Although she decided to return to sea, Will was not to go through the rest of the night disappointed. Farther up the beach, near Mile 2 6/8, a green had just made her way into the vegetation and was digging her egg chamber. This time, the three worked her from start to finish, with Will egg counting and Laura triangulating.

Satisfied with their efforts, they started to make their way back to Vista al Mar Lodge (the beginning of the survey), expecting to get off the beach a bit late, but not expecting to see a hawksbill happily selecting a nest site, at Mile 3/8. They met her as her long back flippers busily scooped out wet sand for her egg chamber. Even with sand flying everywhere, and lots of trees and roots tripping them up every once in a while, the team merrily completed their data collection, before getting drenched by a passing storm and furiously disguising the nest area by creating false sand-spray and spreading debris all around. After watching the hawksbill disappear into the rough Caribbean waves, the team was at last able to call it a night after seven glorious hours on the beach.

PM2 started their walk off right Thursday night. As Sarah S., Bill, and Katie May headed south to Mile 0, they were taken by surprise to see a green sea turtle nesting at 2/8, just as they got onto the beach. The team was not alone as five onlookers including the manager from Vista al Mar Lodge greeted them. She was already in oviposition, so the team waited to begin their data collection. As they prepared the kit, one of the onlookers began to tell the team that this turtle had not had an ordinary night. Sometime in between PM1 and PM2, the turtle had made her way onto the beach just south of her current position. The manager at Vista al Mar Lodge had been out on the beach when he noticed a rather large white flailing object near the vegetation. After further investigation, he found the turtle flipped over. With some assistance from the lodge’s bartender, Chiki, the turtle was successfully flipped back onto her plastron. She meandered, slightly shaken, to her nesting sight where she was greeted by eager volunteers to work her and ensure that she got safely back to sea.

This is not the first time a turtle has been righted on Playa Norte. See the May 2009 edition of BBC wildlife magazine’s Tales from the Bush, entitled “Turning the turtle”.