On 20 of January, Careena and I (Andrew) set off for our adventure north at the Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery. After setting up at our luxurious beach front accommodation, we headed out to sweep the entire beach for any old tracks and activities from the previous two weeks since the last survey. We didn’t run into any major problems until we tried to drive back to our hut, where we got stuck down the bottom of a steep hill. Luckily it was only a 20 minute walk back to the hut, but it did mean we could only use the turtle wagon for the top two sections of the survey.
Our run of bad luck continued with both of us coming down with a stomach bug over the weekend (which we are currently still battling). After forcing down a small meal to keep our energy up for the next day, we turned in for the night. Sleep didn’t come easily though, with the wind providing little relief from the hot weather.
After a little sleep in, we got up for the next day of the survey. This proved to be a bit of a challenge, with the temperature rising and the wind dropping. The beach was a bit of a struggle and I very much regretted my decision to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt for the walk. We managed to complete the survey, though it was punctuated with several stops under the meagre shade provided by the few bushes and trees along the beach. At least we ate well that night, as we recovered around the camp fire.
Lesson learnt from the previous day, we aimed to set out earlier to hopefully avoid the heat of the day and to catch the wind before it disappeared for good. I also made sure to wear shorts (with a thick layer of sunscreen). Fortunately our luck had turned around. The weather was more bearable and, after a bit of orienteering, we managed to find an alternative route to get the turtle wagon back to the hut. The fact that we no longer had to worry about getting rescued the next day was a major weight off our shoulders and after a good meal we slept that little bit better.
The final day went off without a hitch, and being able to drive the whole section helped significantly in cutting down the time spent on the beach. After packing up the last of our gear, we headed back home and made it to the Gnaraloo Homestead by 11 AM. It had been a tough few days, with heat stress and continued illness thrown in for good measure, but we still had our share of good times and stories (embellished with slightly exaggerated details) when we returned.
As for the results of the survey, we didn’t find as many nesting activities as previous surveys. Evidence of erosion and damage from tropical cyclone Narelle was present along the beach. This could explain the lack of old tracks remaining from the previous weeks, as they were either washed away or turtles were unable to make it to the beach in the rough, stormy conditions. The sweep on the first day had a total of thirty-one nesting activities recorded, with four being identified as nests. The identified tracks were all predominately Loggerheads, with one old track belonging to a Hawksbill.
Across the next few days, each section had a few nesting activities each day, with the exception of Sub-section 4 which had no nesting activities across the entirety of the survey. A total of eight new Loggerhead nest were recorded for the entire survey area, with no records of Green or Hawksbill activities. Although the number of old nesting activities were significantly lower than the last Farquhar survey (thirty-one compared to eighty-three), the number of new Loggerhead nests was the same. Unlike the previous survey, no turtle mortalities of any kind (eggs, hatchlings or adults) were recorded across the four days of the survey.
The next (and final for the season) Farquhar survey is scheduled to begin in about two weeks, with Danica and I both getting to brave the extremes in weather again. Hopefully I have learnt from my experiences and will definitely pack a pair of shorts for next time.