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Volunteer Voice: Sandy Serendipity

By Una Graham 5 years ago
Categories Jalova

It was a day much as any other, each volunteer having been allocated their day’s tasks. The weather had been fickle most of the week and the heavy rain had eventually been replaced by hot sunshine. After lunch I headed out with a staff member, Sateesh, to re-triangulate a couple of new nests on the beach. After about a mile walking along the sand, the beach seemingly all to ourselves, we saw the rangers up ahead. They had stopped their quad bike on the sand and were looking at something. Jaguars?  A fresh kill?  These were the first things that came to mind as we approached them.  However, as we got closer it was clear that they were looking at a turtle: a Hawksbill who had emerged from the sea in the afternoon’s sun to lay her eggs!  ‘Day turtles’ are unusual and are normally seen at dawn so this sight was particularly special.  I had never seen a Hawksbill before and tentatively approached her ensuring that I avoided her eye line. She was actually in the process of laying her eggs oblivious to anyone else and to her environment.  Mesmerized, I stood and observed her.  She really was a stunning creature:  much smaller than the silhouettes of the Green turtles I’d seen on Night Walks and rather well-worn.  Her rearmost marginal scutes were split and rust red algae coloured the layers.  Ivory-coloured barnacles stuck to her carapace, themselves coloured slightly with a purple hue.  I guess you could say she was tinged with the colours of advent . Her flesh was more yellow than I had expected and the individually defined scales on her skin stood out beautifully.  I can only aliken her to an old Chinese painting on a lacquered cabinet.

As I stood silently in her shadow Sateesh called the GVI team back at base hoping they could make it in time to mark her nest and tag her as part of their research work.  She seemed to have ideas of her own and worked away methodically.  I could just about see into her egg chamber and the eggs were noticeably smaller than a Green’s.  Each time she laid a clutch she would pause, bob her beautiful head and sigh.  I could have watched her all day but she was soon carefully covering the nest with her rear flippers.  It was as if she was making bread with eyes in the back of her carapace, scooping the sand, drawing it in and patting it down repeatedly.

All the while we could see the team looming larger on the horizon to actually arrive in time to mark the nest and tag the turtle before she headed back to sea, job done.