Thursday, July 3, 2008

Babies Emerging

Interesting article from the Island Reporter:

Thursday, July 03, 2008 — Time: 8:27:31 PM EST

Loggerhead babies begin to emerge from local nests

SCCF sea turtle volunteer Sam Landry, who regularly patrols the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva throughout nesting season, holds a baby loggerhead he rescued from its nest.
The next phase of sea turtle nesting season is officially here, as the first two hatched loggerhead nests were excavated on both Sanibel and Captiva on June 26. First-year Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) sea turtle director Amanda Bryant and veteran Captiva volunteer Sam Landry set out that morning to dig up the nests. The Captiva nest, which had been laid on May 5, was located at Blind Pass. The Sanibel nest, near Clam Bayou, had been left on May 2. Eggs typically incubate for 50 to 55 days before SCCF sea turtle volunteers notice signs of hatching, including sunken sand and hatchling flipper prints near the nest. Volunteers dig up and collect data on the nest three days after it hatches. They also rescue any live babies trapped inside the nest.Landry, an SCCF sea turtle volunteer since 1992, patrols the Sanibel area between Bowman’s Beach and Blind Pass as well as Captiva beaches every morning in a red Kawasaki Mule 3000. He brought along Bryant for her first dig. Upon arriving at the Captiva nest, Bryant and Landry removed the stakes and tape demarcating the nest. Landry used his hands to dig into the hole (between one and two feet deep) and remove its contents, while Bryant assisted by sorting the empty shells (110), unhatched “duds” (3), dead hatchlings (2) and dead pips (9), whereby the baby broke open but did not safely emerge from the egg. After the live turtles, shells and carcasses were counted and recorded, they were dumped into the nest and covered with sand.During the dig, Landry discovered four live hatchlings still in the nest. He placed them in a bucket partially filled with sand as a crowd of curious onlookers approached the nest, including a sea camp group from Fort Myers.Both Landry and Bryant explained the nesting process to the children as they peered into the bucket to look at the palm-sized turtles flailing their tiny flippers. Spectators young and old asked an array of questions, which Bryant and Landry took turns answering.With the bucket of baby turtles in tow, Landry and Bryant hopped into the Mule and drove towards Clam Bayou and the second nest. This nest was considerably closer to the shore than the first one, and the numbers reflected the possibility that water had infiltrated the nest. Landry uncovered 96 empty shells, 23 unhatched eggs, four dead hatchlings and eight dead pips. Landry found one live pip inside the nest and noticed the hatchling had absorbed its egg’s yolk, meaning it was mature enough to be released. Landry then removed the turtle from its shell and placed it into the bucket with the other four hatchlings. He moistened the turtles with sea water before putting them back into the vehicle. Landry said he would return to the beach that night to release the turtles under a cloak of darkness to protect them from predators. “The first laid nest, the first nest dig is always special,” he said. “Finding the turtles is a bonus.” Landry was glad to have had the chance to share information about protecting nesting sea turtles with the group of spectators at the Captiva dig. “Once they see a baby turtle, they’ll always do the right thing and make sure the (house) lights are off and the beach furniture is (removed) — everything,” he added.Sea turtle volunteers can make an impact on the public. Landry recalled, “Not long ago, a guy that was 19 years old (yelled) ‘Turtle Man, Turtle Man. You don’t remember me, but when I was a little bitty guy you took me on a turtle run and I saw my first sea turtle.’ So that’s kind of special.”Bryant thought her first turtle dig outing was kind of special, too. “To have seen a live adult sea turtle and compare it to what it was starting out — it is just amazing how big they get,” she remarked.Bryant was also glad to have shared her experience of seeing live baby turtles with tourists and residents, as the SCCF encourages its sea turtle volunteers and staff to educate the public whenever possible. She echoed Landry’s point about exposing people to sea turtle life on Sanibel and Captiva.“The more people that see them, the more people are less likely to do (harmful) things on the beach,” Bryant added.

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