Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stranded on a Sandbar

Everyone bare with me as I attempt to type a whole entry with just on a tablet (thank you Victor for loaning it to me)

August 19: I finally returned back to Costa de Oro and went out on patrol, the bight before I was just too torn up about losing my very special turtling dog' Ready. The patrol began at 8 PM and it was Olivia  (our volunteer from England), Hernaldo (our local who helps us when he can) and me and we had 3 nests.

  • Nest 1- We hadn't walked incredibly far when we came across the first track, there was an up track and a down track, so the turtle was long gone. I grabbed a stick and handed it to Olivia and asked if she wanted to find the eggs. She poked around a little bit before finding the eggs. However, when she began digging them up she found they were right on the surface and that the top egg had been broken. As she collected the eggs, she started showing me how soft they were. Honestly they were of the weirdest eggs I'd seen. We placed them in the backpack to be carried carefully back to the hatchery. It's going to be interesting if these babies hatch.
  • Nest 2- As we approached I could see a big group of people approaching the turtle track as well. We hurried to be the first group to the nest. It is really unfortunate, but despite the fact that it is illegal to collect turtle eggs from the beach people still do it and the policy here is whoever gets to the nest first, gets the eggs. Anyways, I was pretty determined to get the eggs, since I hadn't see a nesting turtle in days and I couldn't fathom letting the eggs be eaten or sold. So as both us and the other group sat on opposite sides of the turtle waiting for her to begin to nest. I wanted to go and talk with the group, but Hernaldo advised me to just wait. After about 10 minutes they called Hernaldo over  and they spoke for awhile before calling me over too. They asked what I had planned for the eggs and I replied I wanted the whole nest in the hatchery and that they could help release the babies. They weren't interested in fighting me for the eggs and walked on in hopes to getting to another nest before us.
    Yellow fungi
    Gooseneck Barnacles
  • Nest 3- By the time the last turtle had finished nesting, the tide was very low. So as we walked towards the house to end the patrol, when we noticed something moving close to the water's edge. When we approached it  we found that it was a turtle trying to nest. She was digging in very wet sand and every time she took a scoop of sand out with her flipper the hole would refill with water. We were pretty sure she would abort the nest and return to the ocean without laying eggs, but with poachers still on the beach we just couldn't leave her until we were sure. After about 20 minutes, she surprised us and walked all the way to the top of the beach and laid a nest. While she was laying I did the normal cursory glance over her and found she was covered in gooseneck barnacles as well as a yellow fungus looking thing on her neck. I snapped  few photos to show Lotti in fear it might be something we should be concerned about.
Fishing boat at sunrise
Part of the day's catch
Early the next morning (around 4:30AM) Victor and I walked to the south end of the beach to help Erik with the fishery stuff. It appeared to be a good night of fishing since we had a lot to measure and the captain of the boat gave us a lot of fish. After doing the normal measuring, we were going out on the PRETOMA boat to help take some water quality measurements.

Miguel teaching me how to tie
a fishing hook.

While we were waiting for Erik and the captain to get the boat ready, I made friends with the captain's 5 year old son who was tying fish hooks for his dad. I watched in amazement while he took the fishing line and wrapped it around a hook, tied it and then using a LARGE
knife cut the tail off. Miguel was so proud of it. He even taught me how to tie them and let me tell you it wasn't as easy as this 5 year old made it look.

By 8:30 we were leaving the estuary on a tiny little boat.  As we approached the open ocean, it became apparent how lucky we were to have a captain who knew the area well. We serpentined as we made out way out to sea and each time we faced a breaking wave Erik would weigh down the bow. I think   it was to keep us from capsizing.

After a few short minutes, we were on past the breakers and headed south towards the Rio Bong river mouth. Erik measured the depth before taking all the other measurements, which included water conductivity, temperature and salinity. We repeated this process for 7 different locations between Rio Bongo and Playa Bejuico. The whole trip took about 2 hours, before we were heading back towards Puerto Coyote.

Parked Boat
As we neared the mouth of the Estuary, I could hear the captain talking to Erik about something being dangerous. I kept looking around not sure was going on. Then I saw it. It was dangerous per say, more of a problem. The tide had gone out and there was a huge sandbar blocking our entry into the estuary. Unsure of what we were going to do as the boat quickly approached the sandbar. As we became beached Erik and the captain gathered their belongings and dismounted the boat. Apparently since the boat was beached and the tide would be coming it the boat would just float back to the dock. So we walked back to the docks leaving the boat behind and hoped for the best.

Sunset that night

Turtle Tracker to date
Nested Turtles: 46
Eggs in the Hatchery: 2977
Nests in the Hatchery: 31
Babies: 0

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