Fantastic opening to turtle season
The first Hawksbill turtles of the season have landed on Cousin for nesting. On our very first turtle beach patrol on the 2nd of September, we discovered the relatively fresh tracks of a nesting female but were sadly too late to encounter the turtle herself.
The female had hauled herself up between markers B and C on Big Beach, taken a meandering path in the sand and abandoned two nesting attempts before successfully laying her clutch. Although we didn’t see her and were therefore not able to record measurements and tag details, it was nevertheless very exciting.
We were expecting to see no turtles for some time following this missed meeting, since the season tends to start slowly. We were therefore surprised and enthused to encounter another nesting female the following day. Around breakfast time, the Conservation Manager April Burt spotted a nesting female very close to the research house on her daily journey across the island. This time, we were able to watch her quietly from a distance.
We were too late to catch her in the trance-like state of laying and were therefore unable to measure her and check her tags. It was very exciting for us volunteers to watch her carefully covering her nest site with her powerful flippers. Being the first time any of the volunteers had seen a nesting turtle, we were captivated as we watched the female.
Particularly magical was the moment when she slowly made her way back down the beach, accelerating at the sight of the ocean to meet the crashing waves. Once in a few inches of water, she swam swiftly through the crystalline shallows and was lost in the darkening cerulean of the deeper water within seconds. Two turtles in two days and right at the start of the season. What a fantastic opening.
Since then things have gone a lot quieter, as is to be expected. We had only one other female up to lay on the 11th September. Soon more and more will arrive and we will step up the frequency of our patrols in order to encounter as many as possible of the roughly 250-300 Hawksbill turtles which nest here annually. It is definitely a very exciting time to be volunteering on Cousin Island.
By Sophia Whitlock
Volunteer at Cousin Island Special Reserve