Saturday was a busy day for our NEST volunteers!
For over 3 weeks our wonderful volunteers have been monitoring Nest #4 , and with no signs of activity. What were the turtles doing?! So this Saturday we planned an excavation at day 75 to see what was happening. This was not an easy feat due to the recent full moon, wind and storms that deposited the sand on top of the nest. Our volunteers cleared the two feet of sand off the top, and then kept digging. And digging. Finally eggs appeared, but they were “spacer” eggs. Spacer eggs contain only “egg white” (albumen) but no yolks so they would never develop into hatchlings. No wonder they were so hard to find!
Of the 22 small spacer eggs, 6 were pearl sized (less than 1cm) and one was oddly shaped like a peanut – conjoined twins! This was the first nest we’ve ever encountered with only spacer eggs! Definitely an interesting find!
Nest #5 proved to be equally interesting and challenging! This was the nest that was reported as washing out (eggs rolling away in the surf) earlier this summer due to the full moon and NE winds creating incredibly high tides. By the time the team got to the site, they were able to rescue only 11 eggs which were delicately relocated on August 24th and 25th to a higher spot on the beach. Nest parents checked on the new site every day but we knew the chances of seeing any action were very slim. So, at Day 75 with no signs of hatchlings from the nest site, our team began the excavation, uncovering the 11 relocated eggs. The team opened each of the eggs, finding five with no development and 5 with development that seemed to stop around the time that they nest was probably getting washed out. This ratio was really similar to Nest #1 and also had a leucistic (all white) embryo in the group (like nests 1 and 3). The team was not surprised but then Al, Kathy and KC found one last egg. As they brought it out of the chamber, it seemed to have pipped, but was not moving. Hearts sank thinking it was one lone little hatchling how couldn’t make it out without the team effort of an entire clutch. But then, they thought they saw something move, even just a little. KC looked at Al and Kathy and they all looked back at the hatchling who then confirmed it with a wink! The little baby turtle winked at them and they knew for sure it was alive. So the hatchling was placed in a dark bucket for the rest of the afternoon it completed its emergence, consumed its yolksack, and “Alfie” was released that evening! We say that only one in a hundred hatchlings make it to the gulf stream and after fighting all these odds, we just know that Alfie is the one!