Since that was my last day for the week I left without much thought of the weekend. In the gallery that Saturday one of my patrons told me that she had seen a new nest that day in the park. I thought, "since our less experienced, and youngest ranger was on Patrol, I would check it out the next day to make sure he found it".
We were doing a family cookout at my sister's place just down from the park boundary, so we thought checking the nest was a good excuse to slip out and take Sis's granddaughter, Reagan, out for a walk on the beach. She just loves picking up shells. Once we got to the tracks, we found that they had been rained on since the nest was laid, and I thought them odd but...
...the minute I saw the nest itself, I knew. We have a Green Sea Turtle nest. They are rare for our beach and from what I know the only Green Turtle nest on the island so far. We have had a Green Turtle the past 3 years but the year before last, it was laid so late, (they tend to be late nesters), it was frozen our during winter before it could hatch. You may remember what I kept calling our eternal nest. Last year we had another late one, which was totally washed out by an October Nor'easter. This year, our Green has laid early and high, so maybe we will get to see some Green hatchlings.
Looking at the whole picture, you can see that the nest is pretty high up, and in a great location on the ocean front.
I found another nest on Monday; by Tuesday morning Rhonda, a former ranger now working as our girl Tuesday Turtle Patrol, was waiting on me when I got to the gallery. She did not know how to get me on the phone that morning, when she found a Leatherback Turtle nest. WOW!!! It can't get any better! Unless we have a Hawksbill and a Ridley, (that last, we thought we had, but it got washed away by Beryl).
Back to the Leatherback nest, I put my sandals down to show the width of the tracks, which by noon, with wind and the high overhead light, were not as visible. Rhonda had marked it with a very large area just to be sure, but we believe the nest is near the center, from all the signs she left with spray. Leatherback Turtle tracks are over 7 feet wide.
Now, this season is really getting exciting.
In the hard sand below the tide line, you can see the massive track she left a bit better. This is one track not two, as it might appear to you. We think this one may have an injured or even missing right front flipper.
Each day that whole week we found more nests. Most were Loggerheads, and on the oceanside. The beach was still very shelly from the Beryl mess. Though this nest looked more like a Loggerhead, it could be a Green Turtle. It is a fairly large nest, but I still did not think it as massive as a Green 's usually is, so officially I labeled it a Loggerhead.
However, in the shelly beach, the tracks looked a lot like the tracks of a Green turtle. We will have to wait and see on this one.
With all the beach upheaval there have been lots of beach treasures, and I often find beauty in some of the less perfect of the shells. With all the nests to log, and having to get to work, I had very little time to explore.
More Horseshoe crabs but not the large numbers we had seen earlier in the season. This one had an unusually long tail. So often they get broken. The tail is their rudder in life and without this important piece of equipment they don't have a very good chance of survival for very long.
This Dead Man's Finger's seaweed was a precurser for what was to come all this past week.
More nests. I put an X where I think the eggs are in this nest. The reason I think so, is the two crab holes dug right into the nest. Often a clear indication of the egg's location, since the Ghost Crabs do like fresh turtle eggs.
This turtle had a bit of a different pattern to her tracks, although clearly a Loggerhead she seemed to have a longer reach on one side with her front flippers but not on the other side. Usually you don't even see the front flipper marks..
My sister, Susan, has been a big help, as she walks up most mornings and meets me part-way through my run, helping me by driving in the stakes while I write up the reports. I give her a wake up call when I hit the park, and then let her know if there are nests as I make my way down. Nice to have a sister around. We have not lived in the same town since she was 12 years old.
Our nest on the river had been washed out by the storm, but it looks like the mother is back to lay again. She went as high as possible without climbing this escarpment. Usually we have about as many on the river as on the ocean, but not this year. Marie found this one.
Pretty patterns were in the washes near this nest, and I paused a minute to take some photos while the low light was making them much more dramatic than they would be if I waited until I returned.
Sometimes I wonder if this always new, but repeating subject will bore you, but I fear much more that I will get so used to them that I won't see them anymore myself. This Sargassum Sea Weed, which is washed in from many miles offshore, was only the beginning of much to show up.
As to the hints earlier about the Sargassum Sea Weeds' invasion, here is proof, as I surveyed the beach after taking Wednesday off to visit the knee doc for some more cortisone shots. In my absence Marie had continued our winning streak by finding three nests that day. (She is such a show-off.) The beach looked like it had been carpeted by the same carpet I once used in my rental properties, because it didn't show dirt. The higher layer which was left from the day before was starting to dry a bit so already darker in hue. That was all I had to go by when guaging where the last high tide was. We look for the tracks of the turtles starting at the last high tide line.
The turtles were not happy with it either. I had 3 false crawls on Thursday. The Sea Turtles would start in then when they got into all that mess of Sea Weed they would turn around and leave without nesting. I found this on the river and the ocean front. This one looked like she had it made, but still changed her mind. There is a definite strong smell to the piles of seaweed, so possibly that could have been the reason. I'm sure she just came back another day.
Another similar one, but this time she turned around once she hit the deepest of the Sargassum.
Another of Maries nests she had found on Wednesday.
I found this bird which I thought dead but then realized it was still alive. There were several others which were dead. I took it, placing it in an old clothes basket I had found on the beach, but alas it died before I could get it help. I was going to take it to B. E. A. K. S. the local rescue for birds. I didn't realize at the time that we had a major event happening to birds up and down the coastal area.
I found out that they are Shearwaters and are rare to be found in our waters. They are usually only out at sea and one of the few birds which go from the Southern to the Northern Hemisphere, nesting in Canada. What is believed to be happening with these birds is that they have just been blown about by the strong winds we have had, rendering them weak and unable to feed since they are diving birds. Running out of energy they are unable to survive. A sad situation. The weaker ones both old, and the youngest, are not making it. The bad side, besides the seaweed, of the nice cool ocean breezes we have enjoyed the past few of weeks. The knowledgeable ones tell us that relatively few of these birds have survived. Whatever that means, I hope it is still a large number.
On the hopeful side, our Ospreys are busy building a new nest in the spot where their original nest of several years ago was located, right next to their storm damaged one. Each day they are out there expanding it. Hopefully the power company will leave the nest alone, since they have had such a sad year losing all their little ones. We don't know if they will re-nest or not since it is pretty late in the season for that to happen. We will wait and see. Maybe we will get to watch Osprey chicks after all.
Friday revealed two more false crawls on the river.
With rain-laden clouds threatening in the background, the sun was peeking through to give a bright glow to the Spring green Seaoats.
After the two false crawls, we believe this lady finally decided she just could not hold those eggs back any longer and finally found a spot in which to nest. We could tell by the tracks that she had not been gone very long. She must have spent hours on the beach that night deciding to where to lay.
She has a funny track pattern which I have seen before. I think she has one back flipper which has been bitten off, not sure, but something weird is going on with her.
Once around on the oceanside, I find more false crawls, but also the same situation, the turtle decided to go ahead had find a spot to lay. She laid her nest nice and high, which is a very good thing with all the high tides we expect this week.
It was a wonderful turtle week for the whole island, with almost as many nests as last year, with still a month and a half to go. I got a call at 7:00 this morning (Sunday) telling me that we had yet another new nest. I checked with the rangers since it was my day off and they assured me it had been marked. Hatching is about ready to start also in another week. Then things will really be rocking and rolling.
Edited to add' We are fortunate that Debby did not damage any of our nests. I realize that is why a turtle lays several nests a year, she is hedging her bets, but it still is hard to give up even one.