Another group -- sweeping south Playa Grande beach -- did get to see a leatherback, but, like our black turtle, she executed what they call a false crawl: in; change of mind; back out. These false crawls aren't uncommon, and the chances are good that the same turtle will return either later that night or the next night to lay her eggs.
Night patrol goes out three hours before high tide and stays out for three hours after -- 6 hours total. When high tide occurs before, right around, or very shortly after midnight (as it did last night), two people are assigned to the morning walk shift to see if there was any activity after the night patrol finished its sweeps. I went out this morning with one of the biologists, and we found two little olive ridley hatchlings doing their darnedest to get to the water -- yep, they were stragglers from the same nest that produced the large batch the night before! The biologist and I picked up the two tiny things and helped them get to the water a bit more quickly than they might otherwise have arrived there. They were very cute, I must admit: the one I held (remember: all of 2-2.5 inches long) took the opportunity to use its front flippers to wipe the sand out of its eyes -- a total 'awwww' moment.
This afternoon the project manager will give us a presentation on the leatherbacks, and then at 3:00 we're going to the hatchery to participate in the excavation of a nest.
I have beach patrol tonight, and high tide is later than it was last night, so I will be out from approximately 10:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m. It's a late high tide (as I think it will be for the rest of the week), so there will be no morning walk for anyone tomorrow.
Some more Turtle Fun Facts 4 U:
- no one knows for sure what the life expectancy is for a leatherback, but they estimate it to be about 80 years
- olive ridleys lay approximately 100 eggs each session, and close to 80% of those eggs will hatch -- that's a higher percentage of hatchlings than the leatherbacks enjoy
- leatherbacks crawl using both front flippers simultaneously -- they more or less 'swim' through the sand; olive ridleys alternate their front flippers, so they crawl -- who knew?
Lower schoolers: thanks for the questions! I will make sure to ask them at this afternoon's session with the project manager. Look for the answers in a later post.