Thursday, June 28, 2012

An Adventurous "Fake Crawl"

On Wednesday, June 27, we set out for another day of turtle nest hunting with volunteers Jan and Ken Taylor. When we arrived, Jan informed us that the team members from the U.S. Geological Survey had departed after completing their turtle tracking duties over the past month here in Gulf Shores. Since the beginning of the turtle nesting season on May 1, USGS team members have been scouting the beaches during the early morning hours, flagging off any turtle nests that are located. With their departure, it is now completely up to volunteers to locate the nests during their walking shifts each morning. "This is when the fun really starts for us," said Jan. "Since the tracking team is gone, we now get to walk the beaches and be the first to discover the nests."

During the course of our walk, Jan received a text message stating that two crawls had been located along Laguna Key. After completing our designated section, we rode with the Taylors to the first crawl location.

Once we passed over the dunes, it became quite apparent that this was one adventurous turtle based upon the tracks left behind. The turtle left a large U shaped crawl beginning at the water and not changing directions until the dunes. "During the entire time we have been involved, we have never seen a crawl that reached this far back," said Jan. After some thorough observations of both crawl sites, they concluded that no nestings had occurred; what volunteers like to call a "fake crawl".

The current nests are still under observation, and we will keep you updated on the status of newly discovered nests as we receive information!

Compass Turtle Adventures: Dodging the Storm

On Friday, June 22, 2012, we headed back to the beach for our second turtle adventure. This time, we were greeted by volunteers who shared two common elements: a passion for saving turtles and the name Debbie. 

Debbie Kline and Debbie Willis have been involved with the Turtle Walk program for four years. We walked a four-mile stretch known as Laguna Key, which is broken down into several sections monitored by designated volunteers throughout the week. With Tropical Depression Debby brewing in the Gulf, many were concerned that high winds could raise the tide line and potentially wreak havoc over turtle nesting. A storm will push water in and potentially affect the turtle nests, said volunteer Debbie Willis.  When the tide line rises, the crawl of the turtle is washed away, making it challenging for volunteers to locate nests. However, the biggest fear is the safety of the eggs themselves. As the tide line rises, the risk of water entering the nest and drowning the hatchlings during the incubation period is increased. Debby (the storm, not the volunteer) veered east, sparing the turtles this time.

But, given the added challenges of our Gulf hurricane season, volunteers remain vigilant scouting for turtle nests and doing everything they can to prepare these little guys, and girls, for their big arrival here along the gulf coast.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Compass Media Aides in Sea Turtle Conservation - Day 1

On June 14, 2012, we were ecstatic about beginning our time volunteering with the local Turtle Walk. We arrived on the beach around 6:00 a.m. and were greeted by two veteran volunteers by the names of Jan and Ken Taylor. After a brief introduction, we soon discovered that these two individuals have been involved with the walk for five years now and are quite knowledgeable about the turtle nesting. We then found out even better news; a nest had been located in the early morning hours and was to be moved that very day! 

We were both thrilled to be able to experience this type of action on our first day on the job.  Jan led us down the beach to the site of the nesting, which was flagged off and guarded with caution tape to protect the unborn turtles. From the nest to the water, you could make out a flattened line that looked as though someone had been dragging a boogie board down to the gulf for a quick dip. However, we learned that no child had left that line, but were the prints of a mother turtle crawling to shore to safely leave her eggs. “Once the turtle comes to shore, volunteers from the tag team tag the turtle for tracking, take a blood sample, and generally take a sample of the turtle’s shell,” said volunteer Jan Taylor. 

Once more volunteers arrived to the nesting site to help move the eggs to a safer location farther from the shore, we discovered that the turtle had been named Randi. Randi was about 300 to 400 pounds and based on the crawl width, about 42 inches wide. After about five minutes of digging, volunteers reached the jack pot; the nest of eggs that we had long been anticipating. After strategically placing the eggs into a bucket, it was confirmed that Randi left behind approximately 116 eggs! Now we just have to wait for the 50 to 60 day incubation period to be complete and the baby turtles to hatch. Waiting is tough but well worth it! Needless to say, we had an excellent first day and can’t wait to return this Friday!