Hello, Goodnight! Turtle Watching in Barbados

I had the great opportunity to go on a turtle watch walk with CERMES graduate students, led another PhD student, Darren. Darren is a marine turtle expert and works for the Barbados Sea Turtle Project. I mentioned Darren's terrific guest lecture previously.

Our walk and turtle watch was part of the turtle watch program going on all around Barbados while the marine turtles are nesting, from June 1 to the end of October.

We met up at 8:30 pm and were out until past midnight and on our watch we saw a single hawksbill turtle track (a failed attempt of the nesting female to come on land and nest). Darren also got a call that a hotel found some hatchlings running towards and into the
hotel. These hatchlings should have been running towards the sea but they get confused by the lights of all the developments in the area and ran towards the brightest thing they saw. In pre-development days, prior to all the hotel and fast food lights, the turtle hatchlings ran towards the brightest thing they saw, which was the sea reflecting the moon's glow. We let out the little turtles near to the shore, in a darker part of the beach and they scampered to the sea. It was so sweet.

In 2003, in my pre-bloggings days, we lived in Trinidad for six months. We trekked out to Grande Riviere to watch the leatherback turtles nest and we all fell in love with these giants of the sea. Towards the end of our (first) Caribbean stint, we went back and saw the babies come up out of the sand. We had no idea what we were doing and there wasn't really a research agenda going on in Trinidad, at least as far as I can tell. I will say, though, that there were turtle guides. We were strongly discouraged from going out on the beach to look at the leatherbacks on our own. We were told not to use flashlights unless we were told that it was okay. The flashlights spook and annoy the nesting turtles and she may not lay her eggs. We signed up for a turtle guide and we were told to go to sleep "and we'll wake you when we see a turtle." I can still remember the lovely sound of the guide waking us up with a gentle "hello, goodnight, we have a turtle."

The first two photos I took last night and these last few I had
to move over to my Flickr account, I took them in 2003 in Trinidad.

This is sleepy Caleb, all of five years old, posing with a

Caleb woke up very early to try to spot a hatchling and he did! he came running back into the room shouting with glee.

Caleb and Tillie (almost 3 years old here) with a bucket of turtleback hatchlings.

A nesting leatherback, after laying her 100 or so eggs, going back to sea.

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