Sunday, August 01, 2010
Look what a beauty awaited me at Ft. Pickens this morning!
Yes indeed, a female Loggerhead came ashore to nest sometime during the night. On the right side of the photo above you can see the indentation of her body. Her crawl width was 37" wide, so she was fairly large. An adult Loggerhead can weigh 250-300 lbs or more. Behind the indentation of her body, see the fluffy sand piled up? That is the location of the nest which she covered with sand using her flippers. The eggs are approximately 18" below the surface.
Unfortunately, someone on a UTV -- someone obviously not familiar enough to identify a turtle crawl or nest -- ran over her tracks before dawn. Luckily they were not riding higher on the beach or they could have crushed the eggs.
Once I discovered the nest, I called Monica Hardin, the Bio-tech on duty; staked and flagged the nest to prevent any clean-up crews from disturbing the site; completed the remainder of my patrol; and returned to the nest to write up my report and wait for Monica's arrival.
Monica arrived with our new Bio-tech, Toby Stapleton, and is pointing at the outline of the body pit.
See how large the body pit is!!! If you click on this photo to enlarge it, you will also see a couple of ghost crab holes which had already begun digging near the nest. You can also see the crab tracks all over the fluffy sand of the nest itself. Ghost crabs are natural predators of sea turtle eggs and hatchlings.
Monica and Toby begin carefully searching for the exact location of the egg chamber. The stakes will then be precisely placed to identify the location. They will later GPS the nest.
Ah ha! There it is, the entrance to the egg chamber.
Toby begins placing stakes, while Monica fills in the egg chamber again and smooths over the nest area.
Life is good!!!