Thursday, September 18, 2008

A moment of mayhem..

Last night we were on the beach counting and weighing eggs of freshly laid clutches. We had come across 2 females which were laying side-by-side and at a similar stage of nesting. So we waited until they had finished laying and once they started ‘hind flipper filling’ we gently lifted the girls off their nests (they are still in a hypnotic state at this stage and continue on with the ‘filling’ process unaware). Kelsey worked on one nest and I worked on the other, reaching in and pulling out eggs and placing them gently on top of the sand ready for counting, measuring and weighing. The night was serene, still and quiet…..

…and then it began to happen. Within moments we were surrounded by nesting turtles, all starting to throw sand everywhere. Then the 2 girls we had been working on had decided they had finished nesting and were returning to the water – but both wanted to go the long way, straight over all our gear and the eggs we had laid out on the sand! In a frantic display of the ‘turtle 2 step’ we attempted to divert them away from destroying their own eggs (which can be fairly difficult with determined 200lb turtles!)! Then, in the midst of the chaos, dozens of hatchlings started emerging out of the darkness – a new clutch had erupted and all were attracted to our lights! So there we were, trying to divert 2 large turtles, and also trying to save dozens of hatchlings from getting squashed by the adult females! On top of all that, beach stone curlews and rufous night herons arrived ready to feast on the hatchlings!! What to do, who to save? – the big decisions! Talk about mayhem! But somehow we managed to stop any major disasters – turtles went back down the beach, hatchlings made it safely to the water, birds left disappointed and all eggs remained safe. All was quiet again. Kelsey and I were left looking at each other and both repeating the words “what was that?”…

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