Thursday, August 20, 2020

Turtle Mania

Turtle tracks!!!

 Each Beachwalk is unique...

We may walk this beach a thousand times...
But no two will be the same!

Words can not express how happy I am to once again be able to walk this beach in search of turtle tracks.  While I can't go very far...yet...I'm taking full advantage of this distraction.  It's like my whole world is reopening after a long, and painful dormant period.  In this post, I've combined three beach walks because they are short, and subject related.  Turtles!

August 15, 2020 Beach Walk ~ Evening

See where the mamma has thrown the sand around?
I always carry my marking tape!
So happy to be useful for a good cause!

My foot is on the mend, and I'm trying to get out on the beach as often as I can.  Maybe I'm pushing it a little. It is very painful to walk on it, and I feel SO VERY TIRED.  I am shocked that my stamina is so low, that creeping along the beach on a crutch brings my heart rate up to aerobic levels!  I'm moving so slowly, that the Fitbit doesn't even recognize it was walking!!!

But when we stumbled across these fresh turtle tracks... that might be partly responsible for the increase in my heart rate!  Suddenly, my foot is forgotten as I scramble (well, shuffle) over to the palm line to find the nest!  

I'm SO happy to be a part of this again, and I begin marking the nests found, and sending the coordinates to my Turtle Master in Maunabo.  

Busy crab!
The sun sets behind the palms these days, making the beach shaded and cool for an evening walk.
Success again!

We continued our walk, and made it once again to my goal.  This tank is about half a mile from our house, so getting there and back is a mile.  Hey, it's not much, but I'm thankful to be doing this! Baby steps! Also of note, the beach rinse station is back in operation!  It's the little things that mean so much these COVID quarantine days!

August 17, 2020 Beach Walk ~ Morning

Morning walks are the best!  Especially for spotting turtle nests.  The turtles come ashore to lay their eggs some time in the night, so the tracks are much more obvious when they're fresh! After a day of rest, we got back out there again, hoping we hadn't missed any!

Each set of tracks has an exit from the water and a reentry.  Where they meet is the nest!
The nest has broken roots and sticks, and sand thrown onto surrounding leaves.
This nest was further up onto the beach than most!
They are often found beneath the sea grape canopy!

This morning, we encountered two men walking slowly along the tree line.  They carried a machete, a pole and a bucket, among other things.  I took one look and knew that they were hunting the nests as well, but for a different purpose.  

My mind went haywire! I had to do something, but I wasn't sure what would happen if I got between these men and their purpose.  It could be that they make their living selling these eggs.  Or maybe they feed them to their families.  Most Puerto Ricans we've encountered are very gentle people, but I couldn't be sure... Without really planning it, I was suddenly engaged in a conversation with them. 

I asked them if they were hunting turtle eggs.  They nodded yes.  I told them not to take the eggs.  The men exchanged a look, told me they didn't speak English (I tried again in my limited Spanish) and they melted into the palm forest.  I wasn't bold enough to get a photo of them for identification, but I just had to snap this one as the last man entered the treeline.  I reported this to my Turtle Master on the spot.  He told me not to engage with them for our safety.  

Of course that's the best course of action.  But I was just so surprised, and mad!  It's heartbreaking to know that these people are combing this beach and raiding the nests! We continued on to the half-mile marker, and returned to our beach-gate resting spot.  Our little handfull of sea glass entertained me as my mind settled.  

August 20, 2020 ~ Morning

Our next walk was after a day at the dermatologist, and a second day to give the inch-long row of stitches in my  back some time to heal before we got back out on the salty, sweaty beach.  We have been accepted as new patients by a new doctor in town.  Not an easy thing with the COVID closures!  We both had thorough examinations, and several lesions marked for removal!  I got through three on my back but with almost feinting from the more extensive stitches that one of the lesions required, my doctor recommended we come back for more when the stitches come out in two weeks.  

So, hoping to find more turtle nests after a two day layover, we set out once again!

Sadly, very soon we found what appeared to be a raided turtle nest.  A large hole was left in the tree line where one of our markers still waived listlessly in the tree.  

What good is it for us to mark them, if it just makes it easier for the poachers to find the nests???  Of course, they are far better at nest location than we are.  They've probably been doing this all of their lives.  It's just so sad and disheartening...
You can see that they've cut down the palm leaves to make it obvious they've been here...

We didn't find any new nests this time.  But what we did find was more chilling than before.  One of the nests we had marked had the branch cut at the marker.  This seemed to be a clear message that the poachers were not worried about our feeble attempts at all.  I sent a message to the Turtle Master that we had found a raided nest with fresh cut palm leaves scattered around, and that our marked branch had been cut...  He answered back that he had reported our poachers that same day, and that the DRNA officials had made a visit to our beach in the afternoon.  Of course, the poachers were long gone.  But he repeated that we were not to endanger ourselves in any way and not to challenge the poachers again if we encounter them. You don't have to tell me twice!

I must say that all of this distraction has kept my mind off of my painful foot a little bit.  Each day I feel like I've made just a little bit of progress in a forward direction... Well almost.  Maybe two steps forward and one step back.  But still, I'm pushing onward as fast as I can.  Patience is not my strong suit!

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