Argostoli Field Station
This week we have been striving forward into the peak of our hatching season with top egg checks and inventories every day. When doing a top egg check, we take a look at the very top of the egg chamber within a nest to see how it is doing. We normally complete a top egg check when a nest seems to be hatching late, or there is an unusual hatching pattern, and sometimes if there has been extreme weather such as a storm. A full inventory takes place 7 days after the first hatching event of a nest and allows us the assess and collect data from the entire nest. In fact, this week we have inventoried our final nest on Palistofida beach in Lassi, meaning we no longer have any known nests in this area. This nest in Paliostafida has done very well with an 84% success rate! We will of course continue to monitor these beaches daily for any adult tracks or the rare nests found by hatchling tracks. The hatchlings from our protected nests are doing very well with many hatchlings making it safely to sea. Particularly, two of our nests exceeded our average hatching rate with a 98% and 97% success rate respectively. It is wonderful to see these nests thrive under our protection.
We also had a surprise daytime hatching on minies beach. Our team rushed down to help, which resulted in 80 of these hatchlings making it safely to sea before they got too hot! See the photo below to play spot the hatchling and see how many you can count!
Even though we have been seeing a lot of our nests come to the end of their incubation and beginning to hatch, we have had another nest laid early this week! Although this nest took us by surprise, we were of course prepared for another nest and our team were quick to relocate the nest to a safer area. Like many of the nests that were laid in the last few weeks, relocation is the safest option due to the incubation time continuing through to storm season. We are very excited to see if this will be our final nest or if more are to come, we will as always be ready on our morning surveys for nesting tracks. Keep an eye on our weekly news updates to see if this will be the end of nesting or not!!
Despite being super busy on our beaches at the moment, we continue to be present at the harbour. Here, we collect data on turtle interactions and foraging behaviours, as well as checking to make sure any injuries are recognised and treated quickly and effectively. Additionally, we recognise and record our tagged turtles, collecting photos to add to our catalogue of turtles we have seen at the harbour. All of this data contributes to our photo ID project which helps us identify which turtles have visited the harbour. This gives us insight into which turtles reside at the harbour and which only visit here for shorter periods of the year. This week many of our volunteers have spotted Barb and Artemis, two females we often see at the harbour. They often display territorial behaviours toward one another as they like to roam the areas in which fish guts are dumped by fishermen and the fish markets. However, fish is extremely bad for loggerhead turtles and also promotes human dependencies as it is not part of their natural diet.
This week has been the first week for many of our current volunteers and they are doing amazing! The volunteers have such enthusiasm for all the work that goes into protecting our sea turtles. They are also participating in many evening activities including rounders, a quiz, sunset swims....
We also have very exciting news for our social media department... we have finally made a TikTok account! Our team is working very hard behind the scenes in getting this up and running and they're also having lots of fun with it too. If you want to keep up to date and see all our videos give us a follow at... https://www.TikTok.com/@wildlifesense?_t=8V03Jogjw7q&_r=1i
Written by Emily Anderson and Claire Roche
Lixouri Field Station
The last week in Lixouri has been filled with all things hatchlings, as nests are hatching left, right, and centre. Our morning survey teams have displayed incredible levels of both vigilance and patience when taking the time to count each individual hatchling track and ensuring they all lead straight to the sea, rather than being misoriented or disoriented. Unfortunately, this was the case for multiple hatchlings, which we suspect were led astray due to nearby light pollution from street lamps, houses, and beach bars. The severity of nearby light pollution has a detrimental effect on these hatchlings, from disorienting them on their journey to the sea to attracting them either back to the beach they emerged from, or one nearby. Thankfully, our eagle-eyed teams managed to follow every one of these lengthy tracks and confirm they all eventually led back to the sea. After assessing the situation, our team decided the placement of shading would decrease the chances of this happening again in the future, which was kindly donated to us by Gentilini Winery. Since placing the shading, we have not yet had any problems with disoriented hatchlings from these particular nests, which indicates how large of an effect light pollution has on our hatchlings making their way to sea safely and staying there too!
Over the past week, we have seen the first hatchlings of 11 nests across all three of our morning survey areas (Vatsa, Megas Lakkos, and Lepeda), including six helped to the sea out of the 17 pipped reburied, which had to be relocated due to inundation after the storm. We also saw the first hatchlings from Cesca’s second nest. For those of you who aren't aware, Cesca was one of our nesting females who sadly passed away due to a fatal propeller strike back in July. Despite the sadness over her passing, it is incredibly rewarding to watch Cesca’s hatchlings crawl to the sea and hope one of them will be the one in a thousand to reach maturity one day!
Evidently, we are moving further away from nesting season day by day, with our last nest being laid on the 7th of August and not having a single emergence on any of our nesting beaches since. Despite the absence of night surveys and nesting females, our evenings have been far from quiet. Our hatchling rescue shifts have required a new level of attention over this past week, with added risk factors such as predators and weddings, increasing both noise and light pollution and further contributing to the pre-existing threats. Ordinarily, we only carry out hatchling rescue shifts on Lepeda beach, due to the magnitude of light pollution from nearby beach bars, streetlamps, and views of Argostoli. Recently, we have added hatchling rescue shifts onto Cape due to high levels of predation, predominantly from pine martens. On Saturday evening, we also sent a hatchling rescue team down to Vatsa so they could ensure all hatchlings made it to the sea safely, despite the severity of both noise and light pollution caused by an evening wedding party on the beach. Unfortunately, the use of nest shading and trench digging was not enough to prevent the hatchlings from becoming disoriented and following the light back onto the beach after they had already entered the water. Thankfully our fast-thinking core team was able to send out some help and the hatchlings were quickly and safely transported over to Megas Lakkos, where they were safely helped to the sea, away from any noise or light pollution.
Outside scheduled fieldwork commitments of patrolling our nesting beaches and ensuring all hatchlings make it to the sea safely, our enthusiastic volunteers have hopped onto extra morning surveys and evening inventories; we are beyond grateful for all your positive attitudes towards the project, none of the work we do here would be possible without you guys!
As we enter a new week, we cannot wait to see what the hatchlings have in store for us and look forward to seeing many more emerge from both currently hatching nests and those approaching their 45 days of incubation. Please be sure to keep your eyes peeled for any evening inventories advertised via our social media pages, we have also created a new Wildlife Sense TikTok account and look forward to keeping you guys posted on all turtle activity in the foreseeable future - be sure to check it out!
Written by Mia Holman and Kathryn Skazick
Skala Field Station
This Thursday we welcomed a new team of volunteers, the 6th group of this summer. Three of them are English and one is Italian.
We are lucky to have three previous volunteers with us to help the new ones during the different surveys.
With all the data we've now collected, we have started to map Mounda and Skala beaches, as well as the sand dunes and the seafloor. We use QGIS software to plot different types of Posidonia: patches on rocks, young Posidonia, dead leaves, etc. We do the same on the sand dunes by plotting the different species of plants with their specific coverage.
The interns will soon use these maps and plottings during a presentation for the Ainos National Park (Εθνικός Δρυμός Αίνου) here in Kefalonia. We are very excited about this, we hope it will help them to manage the protection of sand dune and Posidonia meadows over the next few years!
Written by Julie Mollies