Justine and I (Danica) are safely home again from venturing to the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery (GCFR). The GCFR is located about 22km north of the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery (GBR), approximately 30 km from the Gnaraloo homestead area. This is the second year that this rookery is being surveyed and it will be periodically re-visited over the season. The rookery extends from the southernmost to the northern boundary of the Cape Farquhar Marine Sanctuary Zone of the Ningaloo Marine Park.
The rookery is about 14 km long and broken into 4 Sub-sections, compared to the GBR which is 6.7 km in length. Each Sub-section in the GCFR has quite different shorelines. In the southern region, there are calm, flat sandy beaches, while in the northern areas, there are moderate wave energy sandy beaches, with the occasional rocky reef system and a gradually inclining berm, backed by a low lying vegetative dune system.
Upon arrival, we checked into our room at the famous Ocean Hut Lodge and began sweeping the beach. That’s actual sweeping with a broom!! During the sweeping, we record and clear ‘old’ turtle nesting activities within the survey area, so that we can be certain that nesting activities observed and recorded during our 3-day survey period are ‘new’ nesting activities made during that time.
We managed to sweep 8.3 km of beach before returning to bath in our unique spas at the lodge. We could not sweep the entire survey area on the first day as planned as our broom failed us making the work difficult until repairs could be made. The areas we were working in were thriving with marine life and we saw various species of sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus, Triaenodon obesus and Carcharias taurus), blue spotted stingrays (Taeniuria lymma), green turtles (Chelonia mydas), seabirds and terns (Family: Sternidae), ghost crabs (Ocypode convexa and Ocypode ceratophthalma) and an array of fish species in the shallows.
The second day of the survey, we walked the entire 28 km return, completing the beach sweep from the previous day and conducting our first surveys of Sub-sections 2 and 3. The following 2 days were spent surveying the entire rookery (Sub-sections 1 – 4 each day).
During the 4-day survey period, in total we recorded 57 old turtle nesting activities (with the most nesting activities occurring in Sub-section 3) and 24 new nesting activities over the four Sub-sections, with activities from all three species, green (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).
It wasn’t all work though. Each day we overcame the 4WD obstacle course and experienced a pristine drift snorkel.
Till later, Danica