The season began slowly but steadily. Entering the peak month of August - after 8 weeks of patrols - turtle numbers were lower than last year, and nesting neophytes were especially low. However, after a surge of activity in August, we have surpassed last year’s records. This season has now seen 65 turtles, including 21 neophytes, compared to 60 turtles and 25 neophytes at this point last year. Overall, nesting has been more inconsistent than it was last year. In 2009, we recorded 18 or more nests in weeks 6, 8, 10, and 12; 2008 saw weeks 6, 8, 9, and 10 with 19 or more nests.
The areas of Pasture Beach receiving the most nesting activity continue to be sectors 5 and 6 (at the bike rack), 18, and 24 and 25 (towards Pasture Point). Historically, these are the most successful sectors for nesting as well. As always, the rocky sector 30, at the far northern end of Pasture Bay, has received the most false crawls.
These turtles have produced a total of 208 nests on the patrolled beaches; 2008 saw 201 nests over the same period. Hawksbills believed to have completed nesting for the season (based on regular, 2 week nesting intervals) have laid an average of 4.3 nests each. Peripheral beaches have received 24 nests, representing 11% of the total number of nests. Over the course of the 2008 season, 21% of nests were on peripheral beaches.
Nests have begun to hatch, as we have passed the 2 month incubation period this season! Thirty nests have hatched so far, with an average of 151 eggs per nest and a hatch success rate of 81%. Altogether, nest excavation data has led to an estimated 4,500 hatchlings emerging from nests already this season, with many more to follow!
A clement hurricane season was predicted this year, which proved true until Bill passed close by, causing unusually high swells. The high tide line, normally at least 4 meters from the vegetation at the bike rack, was level with the vegetation edge. The storm swells resulted in the loss of at least 5 nests, with several more likely to have been affected.
The turtle found attempting to nest with a crushed shell on July 18th (see Egret's Eye View newsletter) was seen one more time on Pasture Beach on July 25th. Like her previous visits, she was not able to dig her nest cavity due to her injury. Unsuccessful, she returned to the water and has not been seen since.