Monday, June 7, 2010

The Air's Thin Up There!

There's a couple girls from the eisa group whose job it is to do research on the whales in the winter, then the turtles in the spring and summer.  They travel to many of the beaches accessible by land, noting new nests (and they actually dig them up, count the eggs, then sometimes move them to a safer location).  I find their numbered stakes all over the place because I go to beaches often.  And for that reason they often solicit me for information (where I've seen fresh nests).

[typical turtle nest]

Usually turtles will make their nests about 5-10m above the high water mark, depending on how deep (inland) the beach extends.  But this next one is just crazy:

[The turtle that made this nest climbed a hill and dug her hole at the top!]

[the nest is on the left]

[note the turtle flipper tracks]

I've marked in red some of the turtle nests on this beach.  Nearly all of the nests fall in the vicinity of the three red marks at the base of the hill.  But if you look closely at the top-most red dot, you can see the stake of the nest.  Turtles are huge and slow.  I can't imagine how long it took this mother to climb that hill.  Neither can I imagine what the survival percentage of her hatchlings will be.  They'll have not only a marathon to cover, but also an imposing obstacle course.


ReBekha said...

Baby turtles!! When do they hatch? I want to come watch!

Dave said...

I think they usually hatch 30-45 days after the eggs are laid? Problem is that they hatch in the middle of the night and they're really small. I've been witness to a few turtles digging their nests, but never yet been privy to seeing the hatchlings. I guess I've just never had the patience to go sit through a night. I have heard that you can narrow down to the night when they'll hatch by listening to the nest in the evening with a stethoscope to see if there is any movement below.

katecoloredglasses said...

dammit, i left my stethoscope at home

Dave said...

I talked with the girl who dug up that nest and she said two things of note: (1) there were only five eggs, which I guess isn't unusual. But that seems like a lot of work for five eggs. (2) local old people apparently say that when turtles build their nests up on that hill, it'll be the year a typhoon hits. I like typhoons, so I'm pulling for the magical 'turtle nest hill' spirits on this one.