Thursday night (July 26th) was a night of firsts, lasts and records! It was Josh’s first night patrol of the trip (after finally receiving his research assistant passport), Sarah’s last night patrol (after 3 long months of hard work), Kate and my first Hawksbill turtle and my first full night as patrol leader. Josh, Kate, Sarah and I began our patrol at 8pm in high spirits with beautiful weather, a bright moon, shooting stars and great company. I was so glad the moon was out for my first full shift as patrol leader because one of my greatest challenges here has been night vision. I’ve gotten way more accustomed to the dark but it still makes me nervous at times.
As we reached the 0 mile marker, we saw our first set of tracks running parallel to the sea. As Sarah and I worked on deciphering this Green turtle’s crazy path of loops, Josh picked it up further south and spotted the turtle body-pitting in the distance. At the point where the Green turtle’s tracks moved further up the beach, we noticed another set of up-tracks, this time from a Hawksbill turtle. So at 8:12pm we ehc0untered the Hawksbill turtle that made our night epic. We split into two teams to keep track of both turtles – Josh and Kate focused on the Green while Sarah set up the kit and helped me with the Hawksbill. While our Green turtle began digging her egg chamber, our Hawksbill continued to move towards the back of the beach. At this point, there is probably about 100m between the sea and the tree line. Eventually, the Green turtle decided to abandoned her egg chamber and she returned to the sea.
By this time, our Hawksbill had begun body pitting at the back of the beach. Unfortunately, this area was very wet and her body pit quickly filled with water so she looked like she was splashing around in a kiddie pool. Despite all the water around her, she continued to try to dig an egg chamber. Since there was very little cover around, we tried to keep our distance as she continued to dig but also anticipated her retreat to the sea. Little did we know that the journey had just begun! When she eventually decided to abandon this egg chamber, I quickly checked for tags. I noticed, however, that she was still heading away from the sea, so I decided that we would wait to see if she tried to nest again, hopefully in a drier spot.
After a couple more of these attempts we decided to name this Hawksbill Patience. Hawksbills are typically relatively quick nesters, in comparison to other species but not Patience. It turned out that she attempted to nest several more times for a total of 7 body pits and 6 attempted nest chambers, each one unfortunately filling with water. So by the end of the night, Patience had earned two more names - one for her consistency in picking spots that filled with water and one for her persistence in trying to nest even after we subjected her to checking her tags, measuring her carapace and conducting a body check. She also demonstrated more patience by stopping each time I took a measurement. She will forever be remembered by our team as Patience Constance Persistence.
By the time Patience returned to the sea it was 2:13am. We had just spent 6 hours with one Hawksbill. Josh is sure this must be a record. Even though we spent our entire night waiting with one turtle, our night with Patience was anything but boring. The weather decided to keep us on our toes, literally at times as we waited out the rain in big puddles. It seemed as though each time we began to dry off, the rain would start again! At one point it got so windy (the windiest I’ve experienced here) that the rain was horizontal. We also met a dog that Josh has named Beanbag. Mostly black, we finally noticed Beanbag hovering around the turtle and when we tried to shoo it away it just wanted to snuggle up to us. You could literally try to shove it away and it would lie down at your feet. At one point I even stepped on it by accident and it still wouldn’t go away. Probably the best part of waiting with Patience was the company. It was awesome spending this time with Josh, Kate and Sarah - sharing stories (even scary ones), laughing and building friendships. I’m thrilled my team was so great. This night will be one of my fondest memories from Cano Palma 2012.