Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A day as a Sea Turtle Patrol permittee - part 1

Most of my blog is about hitting the trails and birding, however this time of the year the majority of my time is spent on the beach patrolling for Sea Turtles as a volunteer for SCCF (Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation).
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The East end of Sanibel is walked by 6 walkers covering 6 zones for a total of 7 miles....the walkers get on the beach as early as possible so that they may report their sightings before 7:30 a.m. The big bonus for being on the beach at that hour is
being in the moment while the sun rises - bringing to light a new day filled with great a walker I used to love that part of the job. As a 'permittee' I receive the phone calls from the walkers - they are my eyes on the beach and report to me what they have seen. I take copious notes and by 7:30 a.m. I am out the door heading to the various locations where crawls have been seen and reported. I never know what to expect and often times my day is filled with surprises and big puzzles to solve too.  

Here is a clear crawl left on the sand by a Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the track that overlaps is the crawl heading back to the Gulf.
Here is a Loggerhead nest that was done the previous night....some study and training was necessary for me to take in order to be able to conduct nesting surveys and outfit the nests, I learned how to decipher whether a crawl resulted in a nest or a "false crawl", and often times the sea turtle crawl leaves us scratching our head and making us wonder....after all, she is showing us that she knows how to camouflage her nest.

Sometimes a crawl ends in furniture left behind on the beach - a clear violation. A Sea Turtle crawls in a forward motion with no abilities whatsoever to back up, often times getting tangled up in furniture and returning to the sea with it, one of the scenario is that after some time barnacles will grow on the chair making it heavier and eventually making it impossible for the turtle to surface at which time she will folks....don't leave anything on the beach but foot prints.
Here is another crawl - this one a nest.
I first determine where I believe the egg chamber is and proceed by clearing the top layer of sand, once I determine where the chamber is, I refill the cavity and install a self-releasing screen over the top in order to protect it from the Coyotes.
I then take copious notes, enter all the data necessary as well as GPS location. The nest is then assigned a number. Below is the finished process - this nest then gets watched every day until it hatches. There is so much more information on a day-by-day data collection and it is difficult to compress it, however I will bring you more information and let you know what takes place after a nest has been staked....stay tuned.


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