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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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

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