Thursday, September 26, 2013

Gulf coast critters

More vacation pics today -

The most special - and unplanned - event of our recent vacation to Perdido Key was the turtles.  Endangered loggerhead sea turtles nest on this stretch of the Gulf coast.

A nest about a mile up the beach from where we stayed was dated 7/14. Gestation is about 60 days.
Heron at sea turtle nest
Every day we would walk up to the nest to see if they'd hatched yet.  The day we took this photo, we ran into the park ranger, who told us the baby turtles would be released that night and we could watch.

With all the rain the Gulf coast had this summer, the sand was packed too densely for the baby turtles to be able to dig themselves out of the nest, so the Florida state park biologist and turtle volunteers were watching the local nests and helping the babies out when the time came.
Listening to baby turtles
The babies hatch out of the eggs but stay in the nest for 2-3 days while their shells and flippers mature enough for them to come out. You can actually hear them moving around in the nest. That's DH in the orange shirt, listening. That heron could hear them, too, or feel vibrations under his feet.  The volunteers dug a trench through the sand to the water to guide the babies on their run to the sea.

When the biologist brushed the sand away from the nest and opened it, the turtles came out quickly and made their way down the trench to the water. They moved amazingly fast.  They're tiny, shells about 2" in diameter. Flash photography was prohibited because the light would blind them.  By instinct they go toward the brightest light, which should be the moonlit waves, but man-made light on buildings etc. confuses them.

71 babies made it from the nest to the water.  Two more babies were too immature so the biologist took them to allow them to mature for a couple more days.  One egg was cracked open but the turtle wasn't out of it yet; she took that too but she didn't know if it would actually hatch.  You can see the two babies and the egg in the bucket here. Only about one of every 1000 hatchlings lives to adulthood. I hope one of "our" babies makes it.
Immature baby turtles & egg
Seeing the baby turtles hatch and make it to the sea was one of those once-in-a lifetime experiences that we were fortunate to enjoy. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  My soul is richer for this experience; as Bob Seger sings, "Those are the memories that make me a wealthy soul."

By the way, that heron and his friends got breakfast. Fishermen on the beach throw unwanted catch to the herons and they eat well.
Heron with fish

We also visited an alligator farm in Foley AL while we were down there. They provide a refuge for nuisance alligators. They also raise alligators, but not for meat or hides, just for the tourists. They currently have 200 adults and they can eventually accommodate 600. They also have a lot of juveniles, ranging from this year's hatchlings to 5-6 footers almost ready for release into the swamp.
me with little gator
gator in the swamp
feeding time
All in all it was a great trip. Since we had two weeks this year we got to see and do more than we usually do with only one week, and we still had plenty of time on the beach and lots of opportunities to eat seafood. Can't wait to go back!
Linking up with Really Random Thursday over at Live a Colorful Life.

1 comment:

  1. simply amazing! what a miracle to witness. I bet those babies were just adorable.