The 2015/16 GTCP team is excited to finally commence our night time beach surveys, with Research Interns – Kimberley and I being the lucky first to go out in search for nesting sea turtles at the northern section of Gnaraloo Bay Rookery (GBR). The reason why we conduct night surveys is to check whether our morning interpretations of nesting activities based on turtle tracks actually reflect what happens at night. By comparing the night time data with the morning survey, we can determine our error rate. This enables us to correctly estimate the number of nests at GBR at the end of the season.
Kim and I started our search for sea turtles at 9.30 pm and we continued on patrolling until 3 am. The GBR is even more spectacular at night than during the day, with shooting stars and the glow of the moon reflecting on the sea being our main light source. Around 12.30 am, Kim noticed some tracks making their way up the beach which we silently followed while keeping as low as possible. At the end of the track was a nesting loggerhead (Caretta caretta) that was in the middle of making her egg chamber. No matter how many times I get to see it, a turtle coming up on the beach and nesting is always going to be special.
We recorded the GPS position of her nest and witnessed her depositing her eggs. Once she finished, we stood back and watched her return to the sea after a successful nesting attempt. With the first observed nesting activity and evening survey successfully completed, we, the 2015/16 GTCP turtle team, are looking forward to many more successful nights with Gnaraloo’s wonderful nesting sea turtles.
Alistair Skip Green (GTCP Research Intern)