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GTCP training

Turtle track training

Following a very insightful presentation on turtle ID and track ID from Skip our GTCP Trainer for season 2016/17, we all piled into the Turtle Wagon and headed for the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery to learn how it’s done in the field! When we arrived at our survey start point, BP7, Skip firstly took us through the health and safety procedure and data sheets for the beach surveys, we then preceded to start the survey.

As we drove along the track, just off the beach I caught a glimpse of a dolphin’s dorsal fin as it surfaced in the shallows within the reef lagoon near the shore. Different to any dolphin I had seen before, based on the dorsal fin shape it was possibly a snubfin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni). After only minutes of walking the beach it became apparent that this would be yet another action packed real-life wildlife documentary at Gnaraloo. Swimming in the shallows were bait-balls of fish getting obliterated by larger predators like sharks, larger fish and common terns (Sterna longipennis) swooping from above. Further along the beach we started encountering green and loggerhead sea turtles in the shallows, a great sign for things to come!

Once we reached BP8 we ‘mock’ recorded the data for practice and continued to BP9. Along this stretch we encountered an unexpected opportunity to record some data! A deceased and emaciated juvenile green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) lay in the high tide line. We recorded its species, condition and other distinguishing features. When finished we buried the turtle and kept walking the survey. A sad but necessary part of nature. Let’s hope the next one is in a much livelier state!

A short while later, after battling the windy conditions on the return journey we completed our first practice survey! I was in no hurry to leave the Gnaraloo Bay Rookery as the scenery was just stunning and the water was still bubbling with life. I’m glad to say that we still had some work to do, so Skip walked us through how to draw the three different species (loggerhead, green and hawksbill) of turtle track and their direction, and how to imitate them in digging their nests, which all differ slightly. We then went through the 6 signs of a turtle nest (sand misting and camouflage, primary body pit, mounding, Aerated sand at nest, escarpment, and a secondary body pit), then we dug our own nests and filled in the data sheets as if it was the real deal. After all the best way to learn is to do!

We are now all primed and ready to conduct turtle surveys for GTCP 2016/17!
………………………. Right after we fix the flat tyre on the Turtle Wagon………………
Ok, now we are primed and ready to survey for GTCP 2016/17!

Common terns at Gnaraloo Bay
Common terns (Sterna longipennis) along Gnaraloo Bay
Loggerhead sea turtle surfacing at Gnaraloo
A Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) surfaces behind a baitball
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