Monday, July 2, 2012

A Rare Treat for Nest Check

The Hawksbill returning to sea

It’s 5am and for me this morning it’s nest check, when we walk along the beach, checking any marked turtle nests and noting any new turtle tracks on the beach. Today I’m in for a special treat, a minute away from base we spot a nest track and we investigate to find the turtle itself still disguising her nest. We seldom get to observe turtles laying in the daylight which makes this a rare opportunity to see a wild turtle really clearly. We even phone base and they come running – some still with bowls of porridge in hand! What makes this even more amazing is that we realize this is one of the rarer species of turtle we study here at Jalova, a Hawksbill, which are spotted far less frequently. Watching the turtle return to sea as the sun rose was just so picturesque and beautiful it made a great start to the morning and is definitely a highlight of my time on this project.

Leatherback embryo inside egg 

Nest check today is interesting for another reason –we are excavating a Leatherback nest. After triangulating the nest, we dig down, remove all the eggs and fragments and then examine them. We weren’t expecting this nest to be particularly successful as no hatchling tracks and no depression on the surface had been found. We did find a lot of predated eggs, mainly by what we thought to be some kind of bacteria growth on the inside of the egg. For un-hatched eggs we also determine the stage of development at which they failed – most of the ones in this nest hadn’t even begun development but one egg contained an egg in stage II -  it had a perfectly formed tiny hatchling inside which was a little sad but really fascinating too. Excavations get rather messy – we came back with sand everywhere and a few eggs even squirted on me as we opened them but it’s all part of the experience here which is not only great fun but also helping protect and save a beautiful species. 

-Sophia, 2-week volunteer