Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turtle in a hurry

As a child I remember reading stories about wise old turtles, but wisdom is not an attribute that the turtle always displays! When nesting, a turtle is usually constantly on the lookout for danger and can be very picky about where she will lay her eggs. This was not the case last week for a turtle nesting at Petite Marie Louise.

Now this was not an inexperienced young Turtle, as she had some scratches and damage to her shell suggesting that she had been around a bit. She must have nested many times before, but on that day, she had barely reached the high water mark when she made her first attempt. The sand was of course too damp, and so the nest kept collapsing. She moved on, making two more attempts to nest, with the last attempt being made in the sandy soil, amongst the roots of nearby coconut trees.

Hawksbill turtle nesting amongst the coconut trees, photo Marcel Mathiot.

All the time, she appeared to be in great haste working hard to dig out her nest. The roots of the coconut tree impeded her progress somewhat, until in pity, Marcel reached under her from behind and, out of sight, helped by surreptitiously removing a few of the roots. Obviously she was not wise enough to know that less haste means more speed!

She dug a rather shallow egg chamber and then did not straddle it properly, dropping her eggs, not in the chamber, but on the nest wall where they piled up. Once again, Marcel reached under her and rolled the eggs to where they should have been. She seemed totally oblivious to Marcel’s presence but that was because he kept absolutely quiet and completely out of her line of vision. It also helped that turtles tend to go into a sort of trance and will remain so until they have finished laying.

Eggs piling up along the side, photo Marcel Mathiot.

Having laid her eggs, she spent considerable time covering them and flattening the sand down with her flippers, turning around and around not quite on the spot until satisfied that there was no indication of where the nest actually was. She spent a long time doing this, during which, a young man and his dog came onto the beach. He quickly put on flippers and entered the water, probably to look for octopus.

The dog, however, remained on the beach and although aware of the turtle, was apprehensive of Marcel and so kept its distance. After the turtle had returned safely to sea, Marcel, concerned that the eggs were rather shallowly buried, added more sand and tidied up the nesting site, then he too had to leave.

I wonder why this turtle was in such haste. Maybe she had been thwarted in her previous attempts to lay her eggs and just couldn’t wait any longer.

… News from Pat and Marcel.

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