Final Report on Nest 18
by Jackie Orsulak
After 103 days of incubation, it was time to check Nest #18 for the final time. As you know, our check of the nest on Day 78 had given us hope that we may have some live turtles emerge within the week (see Nest 18 Update). After a week of inaction, though, a nor’easter storm came through and pummeled the beaches for a week and a half. The nest was washed over with waves at least eight times. This concerned us because we know that, in the final week of incubation, turtles still within their eggs require a lot of oxygen to survive. Even though they are still inside their eggs, the overwash can damage them.
Our hopes were dashed when we got to the first eggs. They were no longer big, white and beautiful. Some of them were covered in fungus, and others were dimpled rather than spherical. As the Butler and Lowthan children from Chesterfield, Virginia looked on, Karen Clark, our wildlife educational specialist, opened an egg to find a dead turtle inside. The overwash had indeed killed our little ones. They had survived the overwashes of Hurricane Irene because that storm occurred earlier in their development. But, the overwash late in incubation had denied them much-needed oxygen.
Despite our disappointment with the results of this nest, Mother Nature had one more big surprise for the nest sitters who had put in so much of their time and for the visitors who came to watch our excavation. As we began our excavation, and while Karen Clark was educating all in attendance, she spotted a very rare northern right whale on the horizon [download info on the northern right whale by clicking here]. For ten minutes we watched in awe as this behemoth repeatedly leapt for joy in the ocean. We were all so grateful to Karen for her wealth of knowledge about the creatures of the sea. Of course, we were all aware that the animal that we were seeing was a whale, but only Karen could tell us the species of the whale and how very rare it was—there are only about 400 northern right whales remaining in the world, and we were privileged to see one. If only we had had our camera with the long lens! This will be a vision that will have to remain only as a very special memory of a day on our very special beach.
About the author:
Jackie Orsulak is a volunteer for NEST (Network for
Endangered Sea Turtles).
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