Turtle Season has ended: Turtle bloopers!
All island managers and conservationist can now take a sigh of relief as the turtle season comes to an end.
After a busy season of patrolling beaches there is something very satisfying in looking back over the seasons data and finalizing it ready for writing the annual turtle report. As I look back over the season there are some turtles that stand out in my memory, I will tell you about these turtles and their interesting stories.
Turtle 1 aka Barnacle Betty: Barnacle Betty was one of the first turtles of the season, she was quite small and un-tagged and was really covered in Barnacles like I’ve never seen before! They didn’t seem to be currently impeding her but I imagine that in the future these friends of hers may do her some damage (*The barnacles add extra weight to the sea turtle, potentially increasing the energy it needs for swimming and affecting its ability to capture prey.)
Turtle 2 aka Two-Chamber Cheryl: Cheryl was a special turtle who was encountered twice during nesting attempts where she hadn’t quite got the chamber digging technique. I can only assume that she had a bump on the head when she was small because instead of digging one chamber using both back flippers she dug two chambers; one per flipper. The turtle digging technique is a marvel to watch, usually one flipper digs then releases the sand/soil to the side then the other flipper digs, then just before the first flipper starts to dig again she flicks the sand/soil which she deposits from her last dig further to the side this way preventing it all falling back in the chamber. This turtle somehow managed to dig two perfect chambers (although slightly lop-sided) but she still wasn’t happy with them so returned to the sea.
Turtle 3 aka Clumsy Chloe: This season there were 3 turtles that were found upside down! Luckily for them the turtle team were always patrolling so they were found before anything bad happened. Chloe was particularly difficult because she had fallen off a small ledge and had got wrapped up in a vine as well as being next to a gap which she was half stuck in. When trying to help her we found out just how strong these turtles are! She was flicking sand in our faces and making it very difficult to help! Eventually we managed to turn her over and she quickly moved back to the sea.
Turtle 4 aka Murex Muriel: One day in January a turtle emerged from the sea and began to dig her chamber, she was one we had encountered 2 weeks before laying eggs but this time she had acquired a rather large parasite in the form of a Murex Gastropod! It was quite a spectacle and everyone came to see her. It didn’t stop her laying her eggs.
Turtle 5: A love affair on Cousine Island. It is nice to talk to other islands during the turtle season about how things are going and whilst talking to Julie Gane the Conservation manager on neighboring Cousine Island I found out about a very strange interaction between a turtle and a tortoise! The turtle had come up to find somewhere to nest and was just on her way back to the sea when one of the resident Giant Land Tortoises took an interest in her; he followed her and must have mistaken her for a small female tortoise because he became quite amorous!
I could go on for hours about all the wonders of the turtle season here on Cousin Island but I’ll leave you with this fact: During the 2013-14 nesting season we have recorded 746 nests and 1399 emergences.
By April Burt, Conservation Officer, Cousin Island Special Reserve