Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jalova’s Hawksbills

As we quickly approach the end of Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys cariacea) season, GVI Costa Rica has seen a surprising spike in Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) activity on the beach of Tortuguero National Park. It all began with a hawksbill track spotted on the beach during one of our morning nest checks. The turtle had left the track when she came ashore and didn’t find a suitable place to nest, leaving a distinctive half moon with an asymmetrical pattern on the beach. Possibly the very same turtle half-mooned again during that evenings Night Walk. Field Coordinator Richard Phillips and two week volunteer John Mear saw just the tail end of her as she returned to sea. She finally chose a nesting site the next night. Field staff member Sarah Durose and five week volunteer Marcus Wilkinson worked the turtle just before mile seventeen of the beach. It was Marcus’ first night walk and he reported “I didn’t know what to expect, and then ten minutes away from base we saw this incredibly rare turtle. It was incredible.” Everyone at Jalova was astonished when the next night, yet another Hawksbill came up to nest. She was encountered covering her egg chamber and Scholar Jonathan Groom and volunteers John Mear and Laura Drayton had just enough time to tag her before she went back to sea. The Hawksbill action continued on the next weeks Jag Walk, where the first predated turtle found on the beach was a Hawksbill. Hawksbills are critically endangered and nest opportunistically year around. Three sightings in two weeks is a great record for such a rare species.