July 27: From Vicki Clarke (Ft Morgan Team)
A4 was an incredibly humbling nest for me as well as an incredible learning nest for me. I am very pleased to say I was wrong about many things regarding this nest and I realize even more clearly that I have only just scratched the surface of sea turtle nesting knowledge and have much, much, much more to learn. I also learned the danger of predicting anything that relates to sea turtles. It was definitely a nest for the Trainer to get trained. Here are a few of the things that A4 taught me:
. A sea turtle nest can be successful despite being seriously washed over with high tides. This nest was laid on the evening of May 25th and was significantly washed over in early June on June 6th thru June 8th (Day 12-14 of development). This high tide event added 6-8 inches of sand to the top of the nest. I was convinced this nest would not hatch as a result. Now Matt had other ideas and felt the inundation of this nest occurred early enough in embryo development, when oxygen needs are lower, that no harmful effects would occur. Needless to say Matt was right and I was wrong. A4 was very successful with 127 of the 142 eggs hatching which is a 89.5% hatch rate. We also had 1 live pipped egg so if we include “Liver” (more on him later) this rate goes up to 90.2%. There were some possible effects from the tidal event of TS Colin as we had 8 of the 13 unopened eggs show fetal development arresting at a very early stage. However 8 out of 142 eggs is a relatively small detrimental effect. I believe A4 shows evidence that seems to support not relocating nests. Would the results be different if this tidal inundation had occurred later in the development process? Possibly. Let’s hope that learning doesn’t happen this season.
. While actively listening and watching A4 I heard very little noises. All I had heard were some faint scratching sounds. We never heard waterfalls or even an increase in the intensity or frequency of the scratching. There was never an indention or visual sign other than increased crab activity. I often will tell visitors that things can change quickly at a sea turtle nest and boy did they at A4. As a result of my preconceived notion this nest would probably not hatch, coupled with my preconceived notion that I was knowledgeable about listening to and interpreting turtle sounds, this nest hatched unexpectedly on Day 60. Thank goodness for our faithful late night checker, Roxy D., who called me at 10:15pm to tell me there was a head out and the sand was moving. The lessons learned were that every nest is different and you don’t always get the typical progression or the typical sound and visual clues. I should have started nest sitting earlier than I did. I also learned that I have lots more to learn about sea turtle nest hatchings. Every single sea turtle nest is different. The good news was things all worked out at the surprise hatching and our babies made it successfully to the water with only 2 STB volunteers and lots of great, helpful visitors. I also learned you can dig a trench rapidly when you see lots of heads at the top of the sand.
. All sea turtle hatchlings deserve unwavering diligence. I was deeply affected by the fact that a hatchling was lost on my watch to a ghost crab. On the evening after the big boil I had been sitting the nest for a long time. I was still hearing sounds but they had seemed to calm down some the decision was made to leave the nest around 11:00pm. I felt a little worried so I went back around 12:30am and just did a visual check and saw nothing. When returning to check the nest in the morning, I saw a perfect set of baby turtle tracks coming out of the nest area, marching down the length of the tarp and traveling 2/3rds of the way down the trench. It was then I spotted significant crab tracks and no more turtle tracks. I was devastated and felt incredibly guilty. I have even had nightmares since about it. So when you are tired and want to go home to bed, or thinking about how early you have to have to get up in the morning for patrol or for work, or how hungry or thirsty you are, or long you have already been sitting there, please think about this lost turtle at A4. This little one will not be able to swim off and try to defy the odds. This little one will not be able to grow up and come back to nest on our beautiful beaches, this little turtle will not be able to reproduce and continue their genetic line and improve the status of this threatened species. All Turtle Lives Matter and the ones that come out on the evenings after a big hatch matter even more so please remain committed and diligent on the 2 evenings between the initial hatch and the excavation. I wish I had been more so. Let’s not forget the lost turtle of A4!
. A4 was our teams Training Nest. As I clearly saw with this nest, my skills needed major refreshing and updating after the long off season. This nest was designed for both new volunteers and experienced volunteers to come and gain some experience and dust off their rusty skills. […Clip…] I wish to say a huge Thank You to Belinda King and Roxy Delatte for their time, their dedication and commitment as volunteers, and their willingness to learn and improve their skills. You ladies are the best!!
Our team has a huge challenge in front of us this season given the number of nests we have and we truly do need all of you to give as much as you possibly can and then dig deeper and give a little bit more. I was personally feeling discouraged last evening at the excavation of A4 and then I had one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. We had found a pipped hatchling that we allowed to crawl out of her shell. After she did, we saw she still had an intact egg sac. The decision was made to rebury her
in the nest and having already lost 1 turtle at this nest I was deeply concerned there would be another. While we were debating the issue, I looked over to where this hatchling was sitting in the little sand pail and there were several children with their heads bowed and their hands folded in prayer saying prayers over “Liver”. Talk about a soul moving experience!! They had named him “Liver” because they were praying she would live and they were asking God to help her be a LIVEr. I am pleased to report “Liver” is still alive and active at A4 due to the prayers of these precious and beautiful children. So you see what wonderful things you can experience by participating at a sea turtle nest. Not only do you get to learn wonderful new things every single time you come out but you get to meet and talk with future scientists, or future teachers, or people who will now be more aware of their environment and all the creatures in it. You will make a difference whether that is by saving a sea turtle or by influencing a visitor in a positive way that might possibly change their lives. I promise you that not only will you make a difference to others, the experience will make a difference to you and touch you in profound ways. So please, make a difference and improve yourself and commit as much time as you possibly can to this incredibly worthwhile cause. You will so glad you did.