Day 14: Fly me to the moon
Continuing our beach profiling in search of turtle nesting sites
“Let me play among the stars….”
Frank Sinatra’s classic hit rang through my head as we were lying down on the sandy beach beneath a full moon, waiting for a mama sea turtle to lay her eggs. This was last night after spending all of yesterday morning taking measurements and notes as part of our beach profiling.
Ultimately, all this data would further research of sea turtle nesting sites that, especially here in the Galapagos, is of great importance. This beach is one of the many sites where sea turtles crawl from out of the sea and onto the beach, in search of a perfect spot to lay their eggs. Larissa said we were lucky; you don’t typically see a sea turtle laying her eggs when the moon is at its brightest and the tide is low—when she’s most visible and vulnerable to predators.
It was an incredible find. Split into two groups, at night we walked along the beach in search of sea turtle tracks. We walked and walked and walked some more, sometimes finding holes in the sand thinking they were nesting sites—only to hear the word “dog” whispered by Alizon Llerena, a biologist from the Charles Darwin Foundation.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Alizon walked to the side towards the mangrove trees…she spotted something! We took a closer look and squinted our eyes. There, next to the bushes, was a round figure moving in the sand. It was a sea turtle! She was digging a hole with her front flippers and body (building un nido or nest). For over two or three hours she would dig this hole and lay her eggs. We sat several feet away, quiet as mice so as not to startle her.
Tonight we hope to find something just as amazing. We continued our session of beach profiling this morning, this time with a number of ghost crabs scurrying sideways across the sand, hiding in their holes as we lumbered on.
In just several hours we’re off to the beach once more. Who knows what tonight will bring us. Another sea turtle, perhaps. Another nesting site, we hope. Sites where in just a few months the eggs will hatch and out come baby sea turtles, their eyes on the moon and their tiny bodies crawling towards the sea. But for now we’ll wait. We’ll wait by the sea and in the meantime, Sinatra will sing me another song.