NEST #2 HAS HATCHED!

CF53656E-8B70-4BF5-96B6-3B1F71BE2180.jpegCUE DRUM ROLL PLEASE…NEST 2 HAS HATCHED!!!!

Intern Eliza and I discovered the classic indentation of the sand in nest two during the first patrol of our shift on Monday evening (which was at about 6:40pm). We do a beach patrol during the day specifically for this reason, as well as to re-cover/dig out the nests if the surrounding sand becomes too sparse or abundant.

With closer inspection of the nest we noticed two things: 1) there were a lot of ants around the dent (which is another classic sign of a hatching nest) and 2) the dent was moving!

A5422025-8098-4652-A02B-1C42EB73DA0A

We immediately called Ranger Renee Evans to inform her of the good news, and she instructed us to sit on the nest if/when it began to boil.

At approximately 7:00pm we had our first emergence! This little guy was the only one to come out of the nest for 30 minutes! We weren’t exactly sure why this happened, but we sure were happy to see him! Intern Eliza was able to get some AMAZING pictures of this sweet baby heading towards the ocean for the very first time!

A little before 8:00pm we began to see the little flippers and heads of the hatchlings poking out of the sand, indicating that the nest was about to boil. Within a few minutes, the sand on the nest began to move sporadically until one turtle made it out, followed by another, and then two more, and before we knew it, the nest was BOILING!!!

7A2E7B53-8F33-4A68-8C42-C88B943D4566.jpeg

It was truly an amazing sight to see; there are honestly no words that I can use to describe this wondrous phenomenon that we were so fortunate to witness. I will include as many photos as possible to try and recreate this awesome experience, and I hope that you all enjoy them as much as we do!

B2506C26-12CC-457D-B689-DB7EC8C339762265AE60-23A1-47B1-B318-9B18AF0893D55B12A382-22D9-410C-A13B-D5BE6CADEE7A

Also, if you would like to see the live footage of the nest hatching, go to the Hammocks Beach State Park Facebook page to take a look! Ranger Renee Evans was able to take a time lapse of the nest boiling, which is also on the State Park’s Facebook Page!

Additionally, we performed an inventory of nest 2 today, in which we found some very exciting information! We counted the clutch sized and found that this mama had laid a total of 139 eggs!! And, out of those 139 eggs, 134 of them hatched successfully! That’s a 96% success rate, which is even better than that of nest 1 (92%)! We are so overjoyed at the fact that so many of these babies were able to make it out into the ocean, and we hope to have them back on Bear Island in the next 25-30 years to lay their own nests!

A6D69D30-76AF-4841-B1AD-1979C14BA0FC8056F25C-4B0E-4082-9254-653F05063A29BEFFA624-DA70-4073-8B95-9752116C212572F743E6-17BA-4D36-8D02-402CE456660F43362B39-E0C9-4639-8D77-67525D2D1DE2A41FDC0F-CD5D-4FC6-8304-0D371865F62EA3D7487F-3849-4BD7-8209-CE5A99D3DFF6

As always, stay tuned for nest 16 and the hatching of nest 3 (50 day mark reached on 8/7)!

By: Grace Pigford

Advertisements

Sea Turtle Stranding

*As a preface to this blog post, I would like to let our readers know that this post contains images of an injured sea turtle that are graphic in nature*

Hello fellow turtle lovers,

This blog post brings some sad news. About a week ago Interns Grace, Estefany, and I along with Ranger Renee conducted a stranding report on a dead loggerhead turtle found only a few houses down the waterway from the maintenance area of the state park. This was the first (and hopefully only) stranding report that we will conduct this year. Our procedures for a stranding report are relatively simple, we performed the same procedures that we always do for any turtle we see on Bear Island. We took measurements of the carapace and checked for metal or PIT tags. We did not find either, and the size of the turtle led us to believe that it was a “teenager”.

IMG_8987

This turtle had unfortunately died after being struck by a boat. We could clearly see cuts in the carapace, four in total, with the smallest beginning towards the head and the last resulting in complete fracturing of the carapace and the exposure of the organs underneath.

IMG_8999

After taking measurements and checking for tags, we described the injuries and cause of death as best that we could and provided dates and times for the official stranding database. After gathering all of the information we could, we transported the turtle (who we affectionately named Terry) to Bear Island where we buried him in the dunes.

IMG_1725

Unfortunately, lowering boat strike incidents is not as simple as reducing plastic waste, but there are a few steps that can be taken to lower your chances of hitting a sea turtle (or any other form of marine life) with your boat. Try to stay in deepwater channels, avoid boating over shallow water or marsh grass, and wear polarized sunglasses to help you see in the water more easily. It is also always important to be aware of sea turtle nesting times when boating near beaches.

As the end of our internship draws near, we hope to give you news of Nest #16 soon!

By: Eliza Patterson

Marine Debris Mystery

You have heard us say it time and time again…the amount of marine debris we have been finding on Bear Island is extremely disheartening.  Intern Grace previously wrote an amazing and helpful article about what we can do as a community.

So today’s post is going to be short and sweet. To be honest, we are EXTREMELY confused.

Let me explain.

Over the last 24 hours, our beach has been overtaken by unopened containers of water.

As Janina and I patrolled the beach at 6 pm last night to do our nightly marine debris cleanup, we found an immense amount of unopened single-use water bottles and gallon jugs of water.

20190801_185609

At first we thought maybe campers were leaving them behind, but the numbers were just too high for that to be a possibility.

As the night continued, so did finding more bottles.  In fact, we found an entire 40 pack of bottles deposited on the beach.

20190802_064045

Again, we have no idea where they are coming from, but many are missing labels and the packaging is very faded signifying they have been out in the ocean for quite some time.

In a 24 hour period, we recovered 53 single-use water bottles and 18 gallon jugs, as well as several cleaning clothes, articles of clothing, plastic bags, and balloons.

20190802_064251

Our message is simple: accidents happen. If you accidentally lose a bottle or piece of trash into the water, please try to recover it. And when you visit any area, the beach, a park, even your own home, leave no trace of your visit.  Simply collect the trash and bring it with you until you find a designated receptacle.

If 1,000 people say, “It is just one piece of trash,” there will be 1,000 pieces of litter for someone else to clean up.

Every piece you clean up makes a difference. Together, we can change the state of our world.

By: Jaime Wade

Nest #15

AEBA0057-ACBA-4C96-A352-DD9941905B74

Ladies and gentlemen, nest 15 is here!

After a 4 day dry spell, Intern Eliza, Estefany, and I spotted this sweet girl at about 11:35 on Sunday night! When we arrived at her tracks, there was only one set, signifying that she was still on the beach. When we began our initial assessment, we immediately noticed that she was moving sand around her body pit and decided to give her a few minutes to settle in. Upon closer examination, we were able to determine that she was not constructing her nest but covering it, alluding to the possibility of eggs!

FBFEDFE5-219E-4D12-963B-AFED359813A4

Even though we were unable to get a picture of Tripley on Sunday night, here is a picture of her from nest #10!

As this mama began to leave, we scanned for a PIT tag and discovered that this turtle was Tripley (also known as Luna). As most of you may know by now, Tripley likes Bear Island very much, so much so that she provided us with our 4th and 10th nest!

8215AD82-4601-4542-A763-13328388713D

This is also a picture of Tripley at nest #10!

After we gathered all of our measurements of Tripley, we went back to the nest to assess its placement; we were quick to realize that this nest was far too low on the beach, as the nest was adjacent to the high tide line. We were all in agreement that in order to ensure the most viable number of eggs, we would have to relocate the nest. If you are interested in learning more about nest relocation, you can do so by clicking this link! Nest Relocation

We were unable to get any pictures of Tripley heading back towards the water, as we were focused on relocating her nest as quickly and efficiently as possible. We were, however, able to snap a few pictures of our two false crawls that also occurred during our Sunday night/Monday morning patrol!

The first turtle that false crawled came up at about 11:20pm (a few minutes before we found Tripley). When we discovered her tracks, she had made a “U” shaped crawl and was already heading back toward the ocean. We were able to scan her in time before she reentered the ocean, and we identified her as Roxanne/Venus (the same mama who laid nest #’s 5, 7, and 11)! Our second false crawl occurred at about 2:45am on Monday morning! We were able to get a read on the PIT tag scanner, but this mama has not laid a nest on Bear Island yet, so she does not have a name (but she did false crawl on July 7)!

AND, IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY HEARD,…NEST 1 HAS HATCHED!!! There is an additional blog post written by Jaime Wade explaining the hatchlings’ emergence as well as the inventory of nest 1: ATTENTION: THIS IS NOT A DRILL And, spoiler alert, there is tons of pictures!!! Here’s a sneak peek!

Also we had a beautiful sunset/sunrise on Sunday night into Monday morning that we would like to share!!

As always, stay tuned for nest 16 and for the hatching of nest 2 (which is currently on its 53rd day)!!

By: Grace Pigford

P.S. I would like to recognize Intern Eliza for finding the time to take pictures of these beautiful mamas throughout the rush of collecting all of our data! I would also like to give a shoutout to Estefany for sticking it out with us during that night (there was almost no wind and TONS of bugs) and finding the eggs in nest 15!!!

ATTENTION: THIS IS NOT A DRILL

WE. HAVE. BABIES.

You read that right.  We can finally share our report on nest 1 hatching!

I will go ahead and apologize in advance for the amount of pictures that will be included in this video, but we are absolutely IN LOVE with these tiny creatures.

As we have been reporting throughout the last few weeks, we were noticing ants, ghost crab holes, and other slight disturbances at nest 1.  This signified that something would be happening soon!  That something happened on the night of July 25th.

use2

This is a view of what could be seen at nest 1 the night of the 25th.

We chose to set up camp next to the nest in between our patrols to ensure that we didn’t miss any action that might take place.  That night, two tiny little babies emerged and successfully made their way to the water.  We were expecting a boil (where most of the turtles emerge at once), but that never happened.

Ranger Renee Evans instructed us to sit next to the nest the night of the 26th to see what happened again, wondering if maybe the boil would happen that night.  That night, nine babies sporadically emerged from the nest, but still no boil.

At that point, Ranger Evans decided that we were more than likely looking at a “trickle emergence.” A trickle emergence is when hatchlings leave the nest a few at a time over the course of 3 days. With that, we sat on the nest a final night, the 27th, and saw two more turtles exit.

use-3.jpg

Here is a tiny little hatchling track as it made its way to the ocean.

use1

This gives a better visual of just how tiny their tracks are!

Then we waited.  We had to wait 5 days from the initial emergence to excavate the nest, putting the excavation date at July 30th.  We had absolutely no idea what we would find down there.

With a typical clutch being between 100 and 130 and having counted under 20 emerging, would there be 100 hatchlings under there?  Or with the cooler weather over the past week and overcast days, were they leaving during the day?

Last night at 6pm, the interns headed over to the island with news reporter, family, and staff in tow. None of us new what we would find, but we just couldn’t wait to find out.

use4

As we removed the cage and started digging, we found a large shell above the nest. Upon removing the shell, we found a single tiny hatchling stuck in it.  Its tiny flipper signified that it was alive and well AND READY TO SEE SOME WATER.

 

We quickly removed the little one and put it safely in a bin so that we could continue digging.

 

We grabbed our bins and began sorting. Unhatched eggs went in one and pieces of shells went in the other.  You can see the bins and the start of the sorting process in the picture below.

use9

What we discovered in that nest COULD NOT have made us more happy.  There were no more hatchlings (which some may think would be disappointing to us). As we dug deeper and deeper, we only found 11 unhatched eggs and THE REST WERE PIECES OF EGG.  That means that all of the other hatchlings were healthy and strong enough to make it out of the nest on their own!!!!

20190730_190204

Here is a look into her nest as we began digging.

 

When we did inventory and began to count the numbers, here is what we discovered:

  • There was one living hatchling in the nest.
  • There were 12 unhatched eggs, 5 of which were reburied. (We decide if the eggs are viable based on the color and shape of them.  There are many factors that come into play that will affect whether an egg hatches or not. Some eggs may have simply never been fertilized or may have not been in the best place in the nest.)
  • There were 153 egg shells, signifying that 153 healthy babies emerged from the nest and made their way to the water.
  • Nest 1’s total clutch count was 166 eggs with a success rate of 92%. That is an INCREDIBLE success rate and a LARGE clutch, both things we love to hear.
FB_IMG_1564541636701

We were all very excited to see how many shells were empty and that we had so many healthy babies!

Now back to this tiny little hatchling we discovered in a seashell.  It was time to release this precious baby into the water.  AND WE KNOW THIS IS WHAT YOU ALL CAME TO SEE.

IMG_158520190730_19140120190730_19141820190730_19142720190730_191327

As you can see, we placed that little one on the sand and let it make its long journey down the beach, protecting it from seagulls and crabs.  As tempting as it is for us to help the hatchling and carry it to the water’s edge, it is VERY important to let it make the trip on its own.  As hatchlings make their way to the water, the process is embedded in their brains, allowing them to come back and nest as adults using this experience to guide them.

 

It took a bit for this little beauty to find a good current to pull it out, but it was very smart and persistent.  As soon as it found a tide pool, nature kicked in and it immediately had the mannerisms of an adult turtle, floating, paddling, breathing, just like their much larger counterparts.

FullSizeR5FullSizeR1(1)

FullSizeR6

A very special moment, its first time coming up for air in its new home!

All of the interns were a bit emotional last night.  It was so incredible to have everything come full circle.  There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears put into this internship, and as it is quickly coming to a close, it was incredible to experience all parts of this spectacular life cycle.  Words can’t fully express what it is like to see a mama lay her nest, monitor, guard, and protect that nest, and then see those tiny miracles emerge.

Our night ended perfectly, with a gorgeous sunset.

20190730_200228

We also want to thank Nick Sinopoli from WCTI 12 for coming out and doing an amazing story on the memorable event.

Here is the link to his wonderful story:

Sea Turtle Hatchlings Story

Also, we started our day going down to Topsail to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center to do a behind the scenes tour of the facility!  (If you haven’t done the public tour, it is HIGHLY recommended.  They are doing incredible work there)

imagejpeg_0(9)

THANK YOU TO THE FRIENDS GROUP FOR SETTING THAT UP FOR US.  We are forever grateful for all you do for us.

And I also want to personally thank Sarah Hartman!  I threw my camera at her right as we started to dig and asked her to take some pictures.  She did an amazing job documenting the steps so that we could share them all with you!

That is all for now.  Our hearts are so full, and we really hope that your hearts are, too!  You’ll here from us again soon!  Don’t you worry!

By: Jaime Wade

Nest Abandonment

D5308CE8-0839-4467-B7FB-2327ACC47E4E

As you might have read in the article about nest 13, we recently had an encounter in which a turtle who was laying eggs awoke from her trance and abandoned her nest. We were taken aback by this occurrence, as we had never experienced a situation like this. As previously stated, we called Ranger Renee Evans who informed us that even though this was not a common occurrence, it was not impossible. We did some researching and hypothesizing of our own in attempts to explain both why this happened and why we haven’t encountered this with previous turtles. We hope that this article will be both informative and educational for you all!

B5B799EF-87ED-490E-B4DB-700FE2D780C1.jpegIn previous articles, you may have noticed that we utilize the phrase “trance” to refer to the semi-conscious state that the turtle enters into as she begins to lay her eggs. Though we use this term to describe the state of the nesting turtle, it is distinguishable from a trance in the instance when the turtle feels threatened; in this case, she will abort the nest (conserveturtles.org) regardless of whether or not she is finished laying. There is no further research that we could find to suggest why our previous nesting turtles did not feel disturbed throughout our data collecting process, so we feel obligated to offer our hypothesis to try and explain this phenomenon.

 

Before I begin this explanation, I want to emphasize that we are only interns and we have been working with these turtles for roughly two months. We are far from being sea turtle experts; we just want to try and offer an explanation based off of our knowledge and experience gained from this internship thus far!

Upon our initial examination of the turtle who abandoned her nest, we were unable to find any metal tags or any indication of previous metal tags. We were also unable to find a PIT tag using the scanner. Following the abortion of the nest, we were able to get a straight measurement of the length and width of her carapace; she was ~59cm wide and ~81.5cm long. Considering both the absence of tags and the relatively small carapace (average size is ~80cm wide and ~95cm long), we feel safe to assume that this is a fairly young turtle.

1D53AA09-23FF-461E-9B79-6A941233C1E3.jpeg

Because the turtle we were dealing with was quite young, we felt safe to assume that she has had little to no experience with human interactions. Considering this fact, we believe that she felt threatened if we were the first humans that she had ever encountered, thus explaining why she quickly became distressed when we began our initial data collecting.

We believe that because this turtle was so young and inexperienced, her state of consciousness could have varied significantly from that of older nesting turtles, as the older turtles very rarely become disturbed throughout our interactions. This could also be a main contributor as to why this turtle abandoned her nest. Should this have been her first human encounter, and should she have been lucid whilst laying, it could have easily alarmed her, forcing her to seek refuge in the ocean.

EA44AEDB-9C66-49FB-8A7D-2A4ACAD26667.jpeg

We always wait to begin our examinations until we are absolutely sure that the turtle has begun laying eggs (thus ensuring that her hormones had begun to overtake her consciousness). Furthermore, we take extreme precautions to avoid prolonging our interactions with these turtles because we want to disturb them as little as possible. Considering this, there is no way to prevent a turtle from awaking from their “trance,” but we will continue to collect our data with both caution and ease in order to maintain minimal disturbances.

1A8C5A2D-4AE7-48E8-9930-EE6A72CD874E

By: Grace Pigford

Nest #13 & #14 & Updates on Nest #1

B5B799EF-87ED-490E-B4DB-700FE2D780C1

Ladies and gentlemen, nest 13 is upon us!

Intern Eliza and I discovered this mama at about 11:20pm on Monday night, approximately an hour before high tide. When we saw her tracks, there was a single set which suggested that she was still on the beach. We went to asses where she was in her nesting process and concluded that she was still constructing her pit. We waited for about 20 minutes until we no longer saw any movement of her shell and approached her with caution. We peeked under her carapace, where we saw that her eggs were beginning to drop!

AC66AF21-5146-441D-B10C-910F72FF10E3.jpeg

As we scanned for a pit tag, we noticed that this mama was flinching, which is normal, as the degree of lucidness varies from turtle to turtle whilst laying their eggs. As we concluded our scan, realizing that she neither had a pit or metal tag, her head began to move. Before we knew it, this turtle had snapped out of her trance and started heading back towards the ocean.

This was a very unusual occurrence for us interns, as we had never experienced a situation quite like this. The turtle clearly had not laid all of her eggs, as it usually takes between 10-20 minutes to lay the entirety of them, and she had only been laying for about 5 minutes. Furthermore, the turtle did not attempt to cover up her nest after she awoke from her trance.

1A8C5A2D-4AE7-48E8-9930-EE6A72CD874E

Even though we were stunned, we collected as much data from the turtle as possible (though it was not much) and called Ranger Renee Evans. We notified her of the situation, in which she informed us that although it is not common for a turtle to awaken from her trance, it can still happen. Ranger Renee also instructed us to treat this nest like any other by placing a cage over it and marking it with a sign.

Considering this turtle had only been laying for around 5 minutes, we feel confident in saying that this will be a relatively small clutch size. Although we wish that this turtle would have stayed and laid the rest of her eggs, we are overjoyed to have our 13th nest! If you’re interested in learning more about turtles abandoning their nests, there is a separate article that can be accessed by clicking this link! Nest Abandonment

1D53AA09-23FF-461E-9B79-6A941233C1E3

Something special that we noticed while taking measurements of this turtle was that she was rather small. Her carapace size was very similar to that of one of our false crawls earlier in the nesting season, who we named Minnie. There is no way to confirm this assumption because we were unable to tag Minnie during her false crawl, but we decided to call this turtle Minnie; we like to think that she loved Bear Island so much that she decided to come and lay her eggs here!

Ranger Renee Evans just received information as of today (7/24) that there was a turtle crawl in the bird area sometime last night! We do not patrol near the bird area as the primary nesting zone for turtles in the past has been on the three mile stretch between the bird areas! After some digging, she discovered a nest! NEST 14 IS HERE!!!

99E9990E-45D9-4C1D-89DB-CADB17352E4E.jpeg

Additionally, late on Monday night into early Tuesday morning, there was lots of ghost crab activity in nest 1! We were able to snap a few pictures of the crabs’ track entering and exiting the nest! Also as of this morning (7/24) there was a sizable dent located near the middle of the nest which was being occupied by some ants (two indications of hatching). We hope that we will have some babies emerging soon!

 

Stay tuned for laying nest 15 and the hatching of nest 1!

By: Grace Pigford

Nest #12

Nest 12 is here and we are so grateful!!!  After a few days with no activity at all, we were THRILLED to have a mama visit us on July 19th, around 10:15 pm.

We arrived on the island a little later than usual (more sleep after a fun trip to the aquarium for a behind the scenes tour) and enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the boat ride and at the dock.

20190719_201553

Once we made sure all of the nests were safe and doing well, we began our patrol.  On just our second drive down the beach, we spotted a mama in our tracks and moved around her, quickly shutting off our lights and the truck to not disrupt her.

Upon investigation, we discovered that she had already started (and was almost finished) nesting very close to the rising tide.  We were immediately concerned for the nest’s safety, as we were not sure how high the tide would get that night.

It was unusual that she chose to nest so far from the dunes.  The beach has changed a lot over the last few months and a shelf has formed in the sand in several areas of the beach.

20190720_060045

One hypothesis that Janina thought of is that the turtle may have climbed up the shelf and thought she had just scaled the dune, thus feeling she had found a safe place to nest.

We quickly sprang into action, tagging the turtle (she had no previous tags), but there were some complications PIT tagging her.  We were, however, able to successfully place a metal tag in her flipper and collect DNA from the turtle, which will help us identify and track her in her journeys.

20190719_223406.jpg

We only snapped a single picture of the turtle’s carapace (sorry, the quality is a bit blurry), and then immediately turned our focus to the relocation process.  Because we were not sure if the tide would continue to rise, we wanted to be able to excavate the nest and remove the eggs as quickly as possible.

(If you are interested in the details of relocation, please see our recent blog post for some awesome details and pictures!)

After setting up for the relocation process, we checked and discovered the tide would stay far enough from the nest.  This relieved us of the immense pressure to work quickly, and we were beyond happy that we could take our time with the process.

We moved the nest to a dune directly behind the original nest, ensuring that no high tide or storm surge would ever endanger the nest. There were 96 eggs total.  This is a small clutch size, which makes sense, as the turtle was rather small in size.

20190720_060128

20190720_002124

The moon was very bright that night…here is her path back to the water!

When the relocation process was finished, Janina placed the spray foam in the nest to create a cast.  (This will help marine biologists and students learn more about the size and shapes of nests in relationship to the size of the turtle.)

 

Shortly after we finished the process, we noticed some ants and ghost crab marks on and around nest 1.

20190720_011806.jpg

This can often mean that it is close to time for the hatchlings to leave the nest, so we are on edge waiting for their exit!  (To be honest, we are the MOST excited people on the planet to see these babies emerge!)

Although we didn’t see babies that night, we are sure they will arrive soon!

In the morning, we also had a great sunrise!

20190721_145527

And saw this cool dude in his favorite spot sunning himself!

20190721_145455

All in all, we felt blessed for such a spectacular night on the island!!!

Hopefully coming soon: NEST 13!!!

By: Jaime Wade

Nest #11!

We are excited to announce the arrival of Nest 11! It occurred around 1:00am on Monday, July 15th. The nest came from a repeat turtle for this season, we like to call her Roxanne (or sometimes Venus). This is her third nest of the season on Bear Island, she also had nest #5 and #7. 

 

Intern Grace and I  spotted her coming out of the water under the full moon, and watched her crawl up the beach ahead of us for about 15-20 minutes. She settled in and dug for about another 30-40 minutes, Roxanne was very fussy about her nest and every time we thought she had settled in to lay eggs we would see her backside shift and sand begin to flip into the air again. Finally she was nesting, and we took measurements and checked tags. 

IMG_1581

We knew as soon as she started digging that her nest was going to be too low on the beach. She was about 20 feet away from the dunes and actually nested in some of our old tire tracks from driving the beach. We knew at this point that we were going to have to relocate the nest after she finished. For the information about the relocation process for Nest 11 and general information about relocating, you can visit our blog post titled Nest Relocation (this clickable link will take you right to our post). 

We are anxiously awaiting both Nest 12 and the arrival of our hatchlings from Nest 1! Today (July 19th) is day 61 of the incubation period for Nest 1, so they are due to hatch any night now! We look forward to updating you about all of the exciting turtle happenings of the park soon!

By: Eliza Patterson

 

Nest Relocation

Hi All!

As some may have seen, we recently saw nest #11 on Bear Island here at Hammocks Beach State Park. This is the first (and hopefully only) nest of the season that we determined we needed to move to a new location, known as relocating. This posts details our process of relocation for Nest 11 at the park, the reasons for nest relocation, and the process that is undergone every time a nest is relocated.

Relocation is a measure taken by sea turtle conservationists and volunteers to ensure nest safety throughout the incubation period, which usually lasts around 60 days. Nest relocation is used as a last resort, and is only recommended in times where it would be more dangerous for the nest to stay in its current location than the disruption caused by human intervention. Nests can be relocated in cases such as a nest below the high tide line or in an area in danger of being washed over by very high tides, a nest in an area that is heavily trafficked by humans (such as right in front of boardwalk steps), or a nest in an area susceptible to erosion. In the case of Nest 11, we determined that her nest was too low on the beach, and would be in danger of being washed over during very high tides on Bear Island. 

The nest relocation process is a very long and tedious one, the nest was being covered by the mama at about 2:00am and we were finally finishing the relocation process at about 4:30am. We had three hours after the time of the nest being laid to relocate to a new location. After this time the zygotes inside of the eggs begin to attach to the shell wall, making relocation more disruptive for the eggs. 

We began relocation by taking four plastic bins and filling the bottom with damp sand, to ensure that the eggs would not get too dry during the moving process.

IMG_1592We then began to dig up the nest, and take out each egg one at a time to fill our bins.

This part of the process was very important, as we had to take special measures to ensure that our relocated eggs would have the best chance of survival. Each individual egg had to be taken out and kept in the same position, facing the right side up, through the entire process. The eggs also had to be kept in the same order coming out as going in, so that when we dug our new nest the eggs at the bottom of the original went back in the bottom, and the eggs at the top were the last ones to go in our new nest. This process took careful work, and we maintained a system of removing eggs that would make sure that we were doing everything we could to minimize the disruption of the eggs and eventually the hatchlings.

After excavating the original nest (136 eggs in all!), we dug a new nest at the dunes directly behind the original, as it is best to place a relocated nest as close to original location as possible. We thought like turtles and dug a nest of similar depth and width to the original, and carefully placed each egg back in the reverse order that they came out (bottom eggs on the bottom, top eggs on top!).

After moving the nest, we actually were able to take a casting of the original nest using a simple foam filler. The casting was dug up the next day, giving us this weird and wonderful result!

IMG_1578

If you have any questions about our nest relocation, feel free to leave a comment and we will answer as often as we can!

By: Eliza Patterson