Monday, August 3, 2009

Exciting Monday Event / Baby Leatherbacks

When I woke up today, I didn't realize that I was in for an exciting afternoon and evening. I just thought it was a Kenny Chesney, perfect kind of day, with no where to go and no where to be. email came from our SCCF Sea Turtle Research and Monitoring Program coordinator, Amanda Bryant. It was to inform the sea turtle volunteers that a nest near the Tarpon Bay Rd beach access, had hatched. It was being watched very closely because when the nest was first found, the tracks left behind were not the usual Loggerhead turtle tracks. At that point, it was assumed that this was a nest of a Green Sea Turtle, which we do have a few of. This morning after seeing that this nest had hatched, it was also apparent that ghost crabs were digging into it. So, rather than wait the normal 3 days after the hatch to dig the nest, Amanda did it this morning. As she was digging into it, she realized that it was deeper than the usual nests, when she ended up lying flat on her stomach and reaching as deep as she could. Then she spotted 30 remaining eggs, that were the size of tennis balls. Yes.....There's your sign! It was a Leatherback Sea Turtle nest. There hasn't been a reported nest here on Sanibel before. But someone said that nearly 30 years ago, there was one instance when they thought there was a Leatherback nest, but a hatch wasn't reported. Anyway, this was VERY exciting!! Who knows? Perhaps a nest did hatch here all those years back and this is a hatchling from that nest, returning. There were 94 empty egg shells, and there were 4 live turtles still in the nest.

OK, now we know Amanda dug the nest and that she has four babies in her possession that are being kept in a warm, dark place until they would be released tonight from the area of their nest. Hmmm, well we had a reason to drive out to SCCF anyway, so we thought it would be a good idea to do that this afternoon. :-) What a thrill that trip turned out to be! We got to see the baby Leatherbacks and they were soooo cute! Much larger than the baby Loggerheads that I have seen. But, I guess I should have known they would be, since they grow to nearly the size of a Volkswagen when they are adults. Now I know why they have the name Leatherbacks. They looked like they were made of soft leather. You can see them for yourself.

This photo does not do Amanda justice, but this is her with one of the babies.

We quickly took a few photos, then the sand pail was covered again with a wet towel and placed in a warm room, where the little turtles would wait until the cover of darkness to make their way into the Gulf.

You can even see the underside of one of the little guys here.

Best watched in HD on YouTube by clicking the screen below.

Tonight just before 9:00 we went to the beach near the Tarpon Bay Rd access and Pointe Santo to watch the four baby Leatherback sea turtles make their way into the Gulf. There was a very large crowd there to wittiness this event. There were no lights or cameras, but the little turtles may have heard some oohs and awes and then applause as they disappeared from sight. They even made the Ft Myers news. This was a day I won't soon forget.


gpc said...

How wonderful that you were there to see it! They really are adorable. What amazing little creatures.

bobbie said...

YEA !!!

How exciting for you to see them!