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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

NMB Nest #8---Hurricane Matthew

An unexpected surprise, NMB Nest #8, a late nest, last nest on NMB for the 2016 season was discovered by Jimmy, NMB Sanitation early morning of August 14th.  Mother was still on the beach between 5:30 and 6:30 AM.

Beautiful location, nest was left in situ or natural

Late season nest, emergence was expected sometime during the first or second week of Oct.  NMB STP Volunteers start watching this nest closely starting on Day 50 of incubation.  Slightly cooler nights and a wet August extended the incubation process.

  But mother nature has different plans,  Hurricane Mathew forms and starts coming up the coast from Florida.  Category 3 at times, other times a Cat one, hurricane was predicted to skirt the SC Coast before turning back to the south.  But this Hurricane had other ideas.  At around 11:00 a.m. EDT (15:00 UTC) on October 8, Matthew made landfall at Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, near McClellanville, South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 75 mph (120 km/h).[27] This made Matthew the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States north of Florida in the month of October since Hurricane Hazel in 1954.   Traveling north,  hugging the coast, it finally turning out to sea just north of Wilmington, NC.  NMB and this nest was in her direct path on day 56 of incubation.

Strong winds, blinding, pounding rain, a strong storm surge close to high tide all conspired against this nest.  Sunday morning, calm after the storm.  Nest is checked.  No traces of the nest left on the beach, dunes are eroded.  A pole marking the nest had been placed high in the dunes, the only evidence left of where this nest might be.   Cage, rope and poles protecting the egg cavity are gone.

Egg cavity is found and opened to confirm the nest.  Sadly, instead of eggs, hatchlings are found about 10 inches under the sand, packed together, all heads pointed up toward the top, all stopped in their tracks.  Decision is made to inventory the nest....Day 57........ no apparent emergence......

86 hatchlings are found, 85 are dead, drowned by the storm surge and water laying over the nest for a period of time....then a miracle, ONE LIVE HATCHLING is pulled out, strong and active, he is anxious to be on it's way.

Inventory Results:

Nest laid on August 14th

Hurricane over washed beach and nest on Oct 8, Day 56 of incubation

Egg Chamber is found and inventoried on Sunday, Oct 9th, no evidence of an emergence

94 eggs, 1 egg taken for DNA, 
93 eggs left in nest

7 Whole or unhatched egg shells, 

86 Hatched egg shells

1 live hatchling, 85 dead hatchlings, found half-way up egg chamber, 
drown as result of storm surge.

92.4% hatch success rate

1% hatchling emergence success rate

A sad end to a great nest, great location on the beach.....

Hurricanes are a natural event for sea turtles.  Storms are one of the reason sea turtles lay numerous nests in a season.   

Monday, September 19, 2016

Inventory NMB Nest #7, 46th Ave N

NMB Nest #7 was laid in front of the Buena Vista Condo complex at 40th Ave N, Cherry Grove during the early morning hours of July 25.  

Mother turtle crashed through the sand fence on the back of the dune

and nested on the back side of the dune, very hard sand, lots of vegetation

Eggs are moved to a quieter location at 46th Ave N

On Day 46 of incubation, a large hole is found on top of the egg chamber, ghost crab hole is found behind the chamber

Day 47, one lone hatchling emerges from the egg chamber and runs to the water

Chased out by Ghost Crab?

Ghost crab is seen in it's hole, every once and a while, it throws sand out of it's hole, into the egg chamber,  Soon the original hole or depression in the egg chamber is filled in by the sand the ghost crab is throwing.

Evening of day 47, a fox is spotted running along Ocean Blvd, not far from the beach access leading to the location of this nest

Morning of day 48, another hatchling has emerged and disappeared into the water, leaving only tracks

Sept. 11th, evening of Day 48, another lone hatchling emerges as darkness falls.  An hour later, major boil.....

Soon, only tracks are left

Check of nest the morning after the boil, surprise, 
the fox has been able to crawl under the cage and dig 
into the egg chamber

Two hatched egg shells were found outside the egg chamber

Fox dug under the cage, under the legs of the cage and squeezed in to the cage to dig deep into egg chamber

Cage is removed and reset further into the sand but the fox continued to try to get into the egg chamber for the next three days, until the inventory.....

Day 4 after emergence, Inventory is conducted.

One hatched egg shell is found and then...
one live hatchling

Then a whole pipped egg is pulled out, hatchling head is just delight of all, hatchling is alive
and soon wiggles out of the shell

His body has not quite straightened out so decision is made not to release him just yet, he is reburied on a different beach, away from the fox activity

A second live hatchling is found, deeper in the egg chamber,  the two strong hatchlings are released on the beach to begin the journey into the sea 

Cage and poles are removed, hole from egg chamber is filled in, dunes are put back into order
But the fox is back the next morning, digging up the empty egg chamber
Ghost crab is also back........ looking for left overs

Fox is spotted at 6:30AM, not to far from nest

Sharkey, the live hatchling that was found half in/half out of egg, emerges from his new hole 3 nights later.  Sharkey was reluctant to leave land to go into the water.  He crawls to the water line  and then
crawled back up to his hole.  He is found by STP Volunteers Matt and Ingrid.  With a little encouragement, he finally entered the water.

This nest was one surprise after another.  Mother crashed through dune fence and laid her eggs on the back side of the dunes, sand on egg chamber first depressed on day 46 of incubation, first hatchling emerged on day 47.

Major emergence was the evening of day came along and dug in to the chamber after most hatchlings had left.

Despite the ghost crab and fox activity, all 105 eggs relocated from original nest were accounted for.

Inventory results:

106 eggs in original nest, 105 relocated, one egg used for DNA Study

94 Hatched shells, 10 whole or unhatched of which two died in late development, fully formed turtles in shell
2 pipped eggs of which one was alive and crawled out of shell on it's own (counted as a hatched egg), the other pipped egg, hatchling was dead, counted as unhatched

2 live hatchlings found in the egg chamber, released on the beach, 1 dead hatchling found

The live pipped hatchling was reburied per DNR Instructions, this little guy emerged on it's own 3 nights later and crawled into the ocean.

90% hatch success rate!!!!

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