Our latest news - September 12, 2022

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Sea turtle hatchling heading to the sea near Lixouri

Argostoli

Beach - Hatching

It has been a fairly busy week for our nesting beaches, with more hatchings and inventories occuring.

Despite Ammes being quite quiet, with only 1 nest that is currently due to hatch, we had over 30 hatchlings coming out in one night, which certainly kept our volunteers busy! After this nest continued to hatch over a few nights, we did a partial inventory on it to see how well the nest was doing. We found 99 hatched eggs, which is an amazing number of hatchlings being helped to sea. As highlighted in our newsletter last week, Ammes is one of the beaches that we monitor overnight on hatchling rescue shifts due to the light pollution which can deter hatchlings from going the right way towards the sea. The number of hatchlings here shows how important hatchling rescue shifts are, to ensure as many hatchlings make it to sea as possible!

Harbour

This week, our volunteers returned to harbour shifts in the evening which are slightly different to the shifts that are carried out during the mornings at harbour. On the morning shifts, our volunteers collect data on the turtle foraging behaviours and the nature of the interactions they have with each other. However, in the evening, our volunteers will count the number of turtles they see around the harbour. This helps us to understand how many turtles will stay in the harbour after the main source of fish, namely the fishing boats and fish markers, have departed for the day.

Recently Syna, one of our turtles that is regularly spotted in the harbour, was found with a fishing net around her neck and front left flipper. After losing eyes on Syna we decided to return to the harbour later when it would be more quiet to try to remove the net. Thankfully, when we returned to remove the net from Syna she had managed to get free and untangle herself from the net. We still performed an in-water examination to ensure that Syna was completely free from the net and that there was nothing in Syna’s mouth or any hooks stuck in her flippers or plastron. We hope to see Syna again soon, happy and healthy!

Synna loggerhead sea turtle with fishing line

Volunteer Activities

Our brilliant volunteers have enjoyed a lovely week packed with fun activity nights. After busy days of collecting data and surveying our nesting beaches, we ordered souvlaki together, had a really fun henna night, and all got quite competitive at games night playing Uno, Dobble and many other card games. We also had a chilled out movie night to give our volunteers a chance to sit back and relax. Some of our volunteers have also spent their free time exploring the island of Kefalonia, with many visiting the Melissani Caves and other sightseeing spots we have here on the island.

Our amazing Field Assistant Emily has also spent most of this week hosting families that are visiting our project. She has accompanied them on a range of shifts including harbour, morning surveys, drone surveys, and has given them a educational presentations on the importance of sea turtles, the threats they face, and how we help them. They have learned the importance of photo identification and how we can use cameras and drone technology to identify and distinguish which turtles we see in the harbour. They have also assisted with data collection, helping us to understand further the foraging behaviours and interactions between our sea turtles.

As the week draws to a close, we want to thank our volunteers for continuing to be so amazing and hardworking and wish them all a safe journey home.

Lixouri

Our nests are hatching faster and faster by the minute here in Lixouri, with hatching events occurring from five new nests this past week alone. We have also finished off nine nests from inventories, bringing our current nest count down to just fourteen.

Morning surveys have been keeping our volunteers on their toes, with hatching events occurring from five new nests across all three of our survey areas and hatchling tracks wandering left, right, and centre of the nests that they emerged from. After many moments of following the tracks to the sea, our volunteers discovered two hatchlings that appeared to be trapped in small craters in the sand. Thankfully, our fast-thinking volunteers were able to spot this when they did and quickly released these two trapped hatchlings into the sea. Incidents like these emphasise how important our work is here at Wildlife Sense and reinforces why we carry out the protocols that we do, such as following each hatchling track to ensure it goes straight to the sea. Two of our Koutala nests also had their first hatchings this week, which is particularly excellent news considering they were both relocated via a kayak earlier in the season. During the inventory of KP9R, we came across numerous egg categories, including hatched, unhatched, alive above, alive within, dead within, embryo eyespot, embryo early, embryo late and pipped dead. Inventories are always of great value to us in terms of data collection, as they allow us a deeper understanding of each particular nest.

Lixouri team after a nest inventory

Despite the lack of hatchling rescue shifts this week, due to all nests being finished on Lepeda, our evenings have been far from quiet as volunteers have been busy on evening inventories, calculating the hatching success rate of each nest, classifying different stages of development and bacteria, and ensuring any hatchlings that may have been trapped within the egg chamber make their way to the sea safely, both strengthening their flippers before swimming and also imprinting into the sand in order to navigate their way back to the same beach once they reach maturity and nest themselves (providing they are female). During inventories this week, we have finished nine nests, meaning there are no longer any nests on Vatsa beach, or Loggos beach. Inventories on beaches over the Lepeda survey area were particularly successful, with LG2 having a hatching success rate of 97% and AG2 92%. Although we no longer have any protected nests to check on these beaches, we are continuing to patrol every beach on each survey area to look out for any nests that may be found by hatching.

In terms of light pollution, we continue to place shading on any nests that have reached forty-five days of incubation and are at risk of hatchlings becoming disoriented by nearby beach bars, streetlamps and hotels. So far, this method has proven to be successful as all hatchling tracks have been recorded as going straight to the sea, rather than being misoriented or disoriented. After placing shading on Vrachanari on Tuesday, we were lucky enough to see nine hatchings going to sea form the nest VR3R. As much as this experience was a special one, we evacuated the beach immediately after placing the shading to avoid causing any disruptions to these hatchlings.

Alongside project commitments of counting hatchling tracks to the sea and classifying non-viable eggs for different types of bacteria and fungus, our volunteers have enjoyed partaking in activity night such as rounders, henna, and cards. Besides organised evening activities, our volunteers have spent any other spare hours snorkelling in search for turtles and various other forms of marine life, also patrolling the Argostoli Harbour in hope to spot some familiar faces like Barb, Halfy, and Syna. Speaking of Syna, a tourist recently observed a thin fishing line attached to her front right flipper. Thankfully our vigilant team over in Argostoli were able to gather team together and conduct a turtle rescue later that same evening. Upon minutes of arrival, with aid of our eagle-eyed team, droning equipment and photo ID, Syna was spotted swimming alongside the harbour wall. Almost immediately, we were able to examine her closely to check for any remaining fishing lines or hooks that may have either been caught or ingested. Thankfully, neither of these items were present on the turtle. Another positive outcome of this turtle rescue was that our volunteers were able to see a different aspect of the project which they wouldn’t normally see as often here in Lixouri, we enjoyed witnessing their interest and enjoyed answering any questions they had for us.

As we approach our penultimate changeover period of the season, we would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all our volunteers. Over the past few weeks, their hard work, motivated attitudes, and sheer passion for turtle conservation have made such a positive contribution to our project; words cannot express how much we appreciate every single one of our volunteers, from cycling to nesting beaches at sunrise to swimming struggling hatchlings out to sea over an evening, none of the work we do here at Wildlife Sense would be possible without their helping hands. Moving into the final few weeks of the season, we are looking forward to meeting our last two groups of volunteers and seeing what the end of the season has in store for us. Whilst the end is nearing, it is by far over yet… so we will be sure to keep you all up to date with regards to hatching events and evening inventories over the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, please feel free to keep yourselves updated on what is occurring via our following social media pages: TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.

Written by Mia Holman and Kathryn Skazick

Skala

For the last week, the seventh group was invited by the turtle team to Argostoli to see a nest inventory. We were lucky to see some baby turtles and we had a great time with our blue shirts friends.

Microplastics volunteers collected by sand sifting

The volunteers had the chance to have two days off in a row which allowed them to spend a night on the beautiful island of ithaka. They enjoyed the incredible landscapes of the island.

The surveys continue and the volunteers are enjoying the sand sifting. This shift is new for our group and we have already collected so much micro plastic!

As for the posidonia, now that it's septembre the leaves appear more brown and we see more dead leaves.

Some lucky volunteers had the opportunity to see common eagle rays during their survey in Skala !

Let's not forget to mention the second pasta night organised by our Italian volunteer: pasta with butter sauce and sage. A recipe adapted to the vegetarian diet of the majority of the group!


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