Argostoli Field Station:
As we transition into September, the Argostoli team have faced new challenges and exciting developments alike. Many beaches are slowly waving goodbye to their bamboo and red tape, as nests are reaching the end of their cycle. While success rates vary, it’s a privilege for the core team to see nests come full circle, and to observe the outcome of nests that they’ve ensured the safety of since day one; and similarly for us volunteers, each conclusion is a reminder of how many hatchlings we’ve helped to sea. As of this week, the completion count is fifty- almost the entirety of last year’s nest totals this side of the Island!
As ever, our work is far from over- with seventy still active! Hatchlings from these nests may need more attention as they battle stormier waves. Lightning displays have been a feature of this week’s night shifts: thankfully at a safe distance for now.
Quiet of late, hatchling rehab welcomed some new residents on Monday, rushed from Megali Ammos after they failed to swim. While two were visibly healthy, after washing up with the tide, it soon became clear that one was missing a rear flipper. Fortunately, this doesn’t always send turtles to an early grave. One tagged female, known to us as Peggy, has reached maturity with one rear flipper and has assumedly still been able to reproduce. In fact, this hatchling was the strongest swimmer of the three, who were released safely to see from Minies, just a day after admittance.
Tuesday proved to be an equally busy day for the harbour’s turtles, with a mass fish fight occurring on morning patrol. Though aggressive behaviour between turtles in the wild does occur, data from our harbour patrol proves that violence supersedes the natural norm when fish is involved. While absent from their diet for thousands of years, turtles are, like us, creatures seeking an easy life, and are drawn to the fish they’re fed from tourists and local fishermen- making them territorial and reluctant to leave the harbour. Bordering the rear of the food market, the water of sector three is no stranger to food waste. At 7:40am, a box of dead fish, most of them whole, was dumped into this part of the harbour, and in the space of five minutes, around ten turtles had been lured in. Solitary by nature, this number of adults in one place was shocking to say the least and is perhaps the largest number seen by the project at one time. Frenzied, the turtles soon broke off into four separate sparring groups and became an indistinguishable mass of splashing flippers. Among the rabble, we spotted an adult green turtle, who was attacked by three loggerheads while trying to swim by.
The fighting was prolonged by the fact that these whole fish were proving difficult for the turtles to chew and swallow. This is yet more evidence to suggest that fish are not meant to be a large part of the diet for this species. The aggression lasted for half an hour, after which the group began to disperse. On a positive note, this event saw the return of Kostas, and it’s heart-warming to see that his health is intact despite the old injury to his carapace.
To check the wellbeing of our harbour populace more closely, our third tagging event of hatchling season was held on Wednesday afternoon. With the rest of the team spotting, Nikos successfully caught three males, two of which were known to us. Though impossible to see in the water, Babis’ front left flipper was entangled in a thin fishing line, which was luckily an easy removal. Meanwhile, the unnamed male, though safe from any serious injuries, had a small wound, 1.6 cm across and in-depth, from an unknown source. Denzel was the healthiest of the three, but all were released by the end of the evening. These public events also give us the chance to answer any turtle-related questions that tourists and locals may have This is an equally vital part of what we do, as conservation can only progress with education.
On a sadder note, Wednesday’s event marks the end of Josh’s’ time as FA in Argostoli. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to borrow him from Lixouri for the past month, and we wish him good luck as he enters his final year at Uni on returning to the UK. As this photo shows, he will be sorely missed.
Lixouri Field Station:
The theme for this week has been hatchlings coming up during the day on Megas Lakkos. As loyal news readers know, turtles normally crawl out of their nests during the night, when the sand is cool, the air temperature is more reasonable, and the sun isn’t beating down on them. Occasionally, though, they crawl out during the daytime. This is dangerous for them, and their chances of survival are decreased without human intervention.
Luckily, Megas Lakkos is full of friendly, helpful locals and tourists who love to help us. Each nest that we protect has a sign with an emergency number to call if anything happens. We’ve received a call nearly every day this week. Whenever this happens, the team jumps into our van and heads to the beach as quickly as possible while the caller receives instructions over the phone. When the team reaches the beach, we can better evaluate the situation in person, assist the hatchling, and check if any other hatchlings are likely to emerge that day. While not all hatchlings make it, we are often able to help them - again, with the help of beachgoers! If you happen to see a hatchling on the beach during the daytime, don’t hesitate to give us a call!
When we aren’t out helping turtles or collecting data, we spend quite a bit of time on another important task: eating. Each night, a team of three to four volunteers cooks up a meal for the rest of the group. We’ve been quite fortunate during hatching season. Despite many claims of culinary incompetence, everyone has made fantastic meals! Some of the highlights of the last week include Willow’s Mom’s Soup (which is now internationally famous!), a slightly spicy chana masala spearheaded by Krish, an excellent dhal with tasty bread, a vegetarian paella, and classic fajitas with homemade salsa. All of it is just as delicious as it sounds.
Also, welcome this week to our new field assistant, Soph!