20 June 2008

Cathy's Loggerhead Nest!!

VIP Cathy found her first nest of the year this morning, a loggerhead (Caretta caretta) at Fort Pickens. That brings us to 19 for the season, seven more than all of last year, and we still have two to three months left...

It was the first nest for Michelle, our new SCA intern, as well. Michelle played photographer today with my old camera. Thanks Michelle!

Since this turtle laid her eggs right on a recent high tide line, there was lots of Sargassum and Spartina in the nest. We had to move it to higher, drier ground. It was a good lesson for both Cathy and Michelle.

It would have taken another half hour to run back to the office to grab a cooler, so we moved the eggs in the turtle box to facilitate a safer move for the developing embryos. Each of the 122 eggs was carefully placed in the tub, without rotating it at all, maintaining their temperature and humidity as constant as possible, and keeping them ordered for proper replacement in the new nest.

See what a nice job the mama turtle does leaving air space between the eggs? Somehow, that's harder to recreate when you're doing it by hand...

Michelle and Cathy helped me keep the eggs shaded, covered and counted, while trying to keep the biting flies at bay.

Once all the nests were out of the original nest, I built a new one in a growing sand dune about 100 yards away. Those eggs were a lot heavier in the bin than I remembered...

I try to be a good substitute mama turtle, but I just can't get the right arrangement. It's a pretty good imitation though.

Once the eggs were safe in their new nest, we signed the area to keep park guests from walking over the egg chamber. Cathy added her initials to the post as this is 'her' nest.

Cathy and Michelle made up an impromptu turtle dance to bring more turtles to nest in the park over the next several weeks.

We have a song, too, to the tune of Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz"
Lord, won't you bring me a loggerhead turtle
A green or a ridley, and please make her fertile
Been searching for weeks now, and haven't seen many
Oh Lord, please bring me a fertile sea turtle

It needs a little work, but it's a good start. Anyone want to offer a suggestion?

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