Saturday, October 23, 2010

Extraordinary Nest Check

We started our turtle nest check walk along the soiuthern beach of Tortuguero National Park on a beautiful morning. There was a slight breeze and the sea was very calm. The sun was just rising with an orangey haze. We walked down to mile 18 and on our way back came across a few baby turtles moving down the beach. We walked up towards the vegetation and found the nest and saw there were lots of babies stuck in some roots. So Ian bent down and broke the roots around the babies so that they burst out. We then watched them move down the beach and saw them swim away. At this point I thought this day couldn’t get better as I’d never seen so many babies at once.
We then had quite an uneventful nest check as we only found 5 nests and tracks in total. However, something amazing happened whilst we were approaching mile marker 15 7/8. Ian was in the vegetation and I was a little behind him on the beach. I turned and looked down the beach towards Tortuguero when something very big caught my eye walking away from us. In front of a palm was something sitting a little way out of the vegetation line, under a palm. At this point I shouted “Ian, look!” as I pointed towards the big thing. Ian looked and said “Oh, it’s probably a coati” as he only got a glimpse of it.
I couldn’t believe it as I’d seen one before and the size and colour was all wrong. Without thinking I just started running diagonally across the beach so I could see this animal from the other side of the palm. At this point Ian thinks something is up too, and starts running. We both stop yards from the sea, both staring towards the vegetation behind the palm, just as this big thing comes into view. We are both struck still watching, saying “it’s big, it’s big, it’s big” absolutely in disbelief. We are both thinking it but can’t believe that this could be a jaguar, when it slightly turns to the left and we see this long tail sticking out and curling up at the end. We both say “That’s a jag!” and grab each other’s arms. It slowly walks towards the vegetation and just as it is about three or four feet away it turned its head and looked at us from over its shoulder. It looks back at both of us for a couple of seconds before it turns to face the vegetation, ducks down and vanishes into the under growth. At this point I’m shaking and I turn to Ian and say I need aJustify Full hug because I can’t believe what has just happened. After a very manly embrace of enjoyment, we both look straight back towards where we last saw the jag and start walking towards it to see if we can see where it had gone to. We confirmed what we had just seen when we saw lots of huge paw prints in the sand. We marked the entry point with a stick and followed the prints to the palm and marked where we first saw it too.
After calling base to report this unusual sighting and taking several minutes to comprehend what we had just seen, we carried on with nest check, still in a bit of a daze. Just to finish off one of the most amazing days of my life, as we approaching mile 15 we saw a group of dolphins out to sea jumping in the water.
All in all, mind blowing!
James Blakeman, 5 Week Intern