07 November 2008

There are Hatchlings in August 20th Nest!!!!

Today is a grey day here in NW Florida, and usually that dampens my spirits a bit. Not today. I heard the best thing ever this morning -- tiny hatchling scratching in our last loggerhead nest, PB8201.

People often look at me with confused expressions when I say that. What exactly do I mean when I say "I hear the hatchlings?" No, they don't talk to me, though I do sometimes talk to them! What happens is that I hear the turtles poke holes in their shells with their egg teeth, crawl out, straighten carapaces that have been curled inside round eggs for two months, and crawl through the sand above their heads to the surface of the beach. Once they're crawling towards the surface, you can hear the sound their tiny flippers make as they sweep sand past their small bodies. It's kind of like crawling through a sandy sea , and it can be noisy!

So, what makes me so excited to hear the wee turtles crawling around beneath the sand? After all, we have already escorted over 3600 hatchlings to the Gulf this year. The end of the season has been sketchy thanks to Fay, Gustav, Ike and an unnamed low pressure system about two weeks ago. These storm systems eroded the beaches, flooded nests and generally made a mess, though none of them hit us directly. This particular nest was flooded, buried under two extra feet of sand, nearly eroded out of the dune system, buried again, washed by waves and subject to very cool weather in the October cold snap. All of these things can be fatal for sea turtle nests. After 80 days of incubation time, we were all about ready to give up on finding any hatchlings in this last nest.

That's why I am so happy today. I don't think the hatchlings will emerge tonight, but they might, so I've loaded up a nest screen and will either screen it myself tonight or see if DJ or Cathy can screen the nest. Since today will be gray and rainy, it will likely slow them down as they sounded pretty deep still and not close enough to the surface to emerge during the darkness of a passing storm. Maybe tomorrow morning though.

I am so excited. I am such a turtle geek!

There were other great things about today too though, like the sea oats in the clouds,

and a pod of dolphin between Perdido Key and Fort Pickens. Looks like a fun life!


Christie said...

Welcome back! I've truly missed your blog. My husband I own a condo on Pensacola beach and I check your blog and Barrier Island Girl often to get my "beach fix". We get down several times a year but never often enough. Your pictures are breath taking and the information about the turtles has been wonderful. I've been fascinated by sea turtles ever since I went a a midnight walk with a park ranger to look for nests / turtles when I was a child at Jekyll Island.

Turtle Girl said...

It's a small world out there. I spent two years each on Jekyll Island (teaching at the 4H center) and on Little Cumberland Island (working with nesting sea turtles) in the 90's. I don't miss the papermills, but I do miss the islands, especially the maritime forests and the drift wood beach up by Clam Creek!

Thanks for reading my blog!


Robert V. Sobczak said...

If baseball pitchers can talk to "baseballs," you are perfectly entitled to talked to "hatchlings." Did you know that dolphins always travel in pods, and rarely by themselves. I just learned that. Great post, and by the way, I just added your new address to my blog roll.

Barrier Island Girl said...

I'm going to miss your fabulous photos from inside the Gulf Islands National Seashore {{{sigh}}}, though hopefully you'll still be in the area and continue to educate us about shore birds and wildlife of Santa Rosa Island.

It's so exciting read about and get first-hand glimpses inside the days/experiences of a Park Ranger. If I was a little kid, you'd surely inspire me to become a marine biologist this time around!


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