One of the key conservation tasks at this time of year was to record how many turtles were successfully laying on the beach. Next morning I joined Sam on Long Beach. In the clear early morning light, he let his dog off the lead and we started near the turtle ponds and walked the full length of the beach. As you went along, you looked out for turtle tracks. The aim was to count all the tracks and divide by two and that gave you the number of the turtles beaching. But it was a bit more complicated than that. You had to beware of those turtles who might come up on the beach and, for whatever reason, decide not to nest that night or abandon their digging before laying any eggs; so called false crawls. So once you got a track you had to trace where it went and if it led to a nest. So there was much tooing and froing along the beach before we were able to come to the final figure. The fresh nests were easy to spot as the sand was rucked and often still damp.
The remains of last nights’ activity were plain to see. Some previous nests were disturbed and there were what looked like golf balls strewn over the sand. Crabs were busily picking at them in full view. Because the egg laying season was coming to an end, some of the older nests had little tiny footmarks coming out of them and heading mostly for the sea. The hatchlings were starting to emerge from nests and hundreds of tiny flippers had crossed the sand from about twenty nests the night before. I saw one that had not made it, a little dead black body splayed in a hole. And Sam found one poor hatchling who was still alive but had failed to muster enough strength to emerge from his egg.
We made our count and recorded it in Sam’s notebook then headed back to the our respective breakfast tables.