Posts Tagged ‘miracle’

Tiny Hatchling Beats Cold Front by a Nose

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Three Gram Second-Chance Terrapin Hatchling

“There’s always one more.”  That’s the motto of the Paludal Posse, our terrapin research and conservation team on Outer Cape Cod.  There’s always one more nest to find, one more nest to hatch, one more turtle in the nest, one more hatchling to emerge, one more turtle to save.  In short, there’s always one more.  And so it was proven again this weekend as we prepared our last batch of terrapin hatchlings for release on Tuesday, a promised mild October day.

Terrapin Hatchling and Second-Chance Egg from Nest 996

Sue counted 20 second-chance hatchlings soaking in 70F water to prepare for their sprint to freedom.  Second-chance hatchlings?  What the heck are second-chance hatchlings?  As we harvest emerging nests that have mostly hatched and other nests that have been exposed by predators, we often find a couple of unhatched eggs left behind.  Most of these eggs are in good shape and need only a couple days more incubation.  A few, though, look pretty sad; dimpled, dented, dehydrated, discolored, and so on.  These eggs wouldn’t make it in the wild.  Still, we prefer to give every turtle egg a chance even if it has only a small probability of survival.  So, these long-shot eggs go into our mystical, magical second-chance bucket, filled wtih clean, moist natal sand and warmed first naturally in our sun room until early October and then under a heat lamp in our lab until successfully hatched or all hope is exhausted.  We always have Halloween hatchlings, usually have Thanksgiving babies and occasionally find a pair of cute dark eyes staring up at us on Christmas morning.  (ASIDE:  Can there be a more powerful holiday message?) 

So, as Sue collected the 20 lucky babies for their trip back into the wild, she scanned the second-chance bucket and yelled in exclamation, “We’ve got another one!”  To which I sagely replied, “Yep.  There’s always one more.”

Perfect October Day for Second-Chance Hatchling Release

We made it to Turtle Point on Lieutenant Island while the weather held; 63F, gentle breeze and warming sunshine.  But a careful look at the clouds streaming above reminded us that a storm front approached. 

2nd Chance Hatchling and 20 Siblings Released at Turtle Point

The sand at Turtle Point had baked through the morning and reflected warmth as we sat down to release our 21 charges.  Placing them in a single bunch near the wrack line on the downward sloping dune, we watched as they scattered in random directions and power bursts.  Soon they had all disappeared into the nursery surroundings, some into upland vegetation, others into downland wrack and Spartina salt marsh, and still others burrowed into the warm dune sand.

Last Sailboat Dances with Northeast Blow in Blackfish Creek

Within an hour the weather had closed in.  The cold front arrived with gusts whistling across the narrow Outer Cape peninsula from the North Atlantic.  Clouds massed and grayed; white caps appeared; and we were doused in cold droplets whether from rain or briny spray we couldn’t tell.

“There’s Always One More” Egg in Second-Chance Bucket

Back in our warm, comfortable lab office Tuesday evening we inventoried our terrapin assets.  Tanks empty and ready.  Second-chance bucket filled with potential.  And our hopes high for one more miracle.

Skill + Luck + Patience Yield Best Dune Emergence Sequence

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Skill brings you to the precise location where an extraordinary event MAY occur.  But luck ensures that you reach that spot at the once-in-a-lifetime moment when an extraordinary event DOES occur.  Finally, patience permits you to dwell at the right spot at the right time for that exact instant when everything comes together and a miracle happens.  Watch how these factors brought us to the perfect dune emergence sequence on Saturday.

Hatchling Slaloms Down High Dune

Experience keyed us to a certain set of dunes that lay within a dense diamondback terrapin nesting site.  Skill enabled us to recognize a series of fresh hatchling tracks that crisscrossed the dune face like trolley lines (see above).  But then luck kicked in.  It showed us a stream of tracks that appeared to converge on a single concavitiy in the dune slope (see below). 

Tracks Converge at Possible Emerging Terrapin Nest

Patience gave us to time to wait and to watch the concavity without barging into the scene and disturbing the ongoing miracle of birth.  Seconds ticked by, then minutes, and finally a head poked through the shifting sand … and another one.  Hatchlings popped like slow-motion popcorn under the heat of the midday sun.

Hatchlings Emerge and Scramble to Safety

Spying so many tracks when we arrived, we had hoped that perhaps one hatchling might be left to emerge.  As luck would have it, ten babies remained in the nest and they popped out in ones and twos over the next hour.  As a whole, the event proved our very best documented dune emergence sequence as a beautiful miracle unfolded before our eager camera lens.

Click Here to View Video in High Quality

Best Terrapin Hatchling Emergence Sequence

Getting the Story & Putting You in the Picture

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

The Turtle Journal team gets close to the action to bring you inside the critical natural moment with vivid imagery and compelling video clips. 

Sue Wieber Nourse Snaps Close-Up of Emerging Hatchling

The Sony DSC-F828 serves as our workhorse research camera with a high quality Carl Zeiss lens and a manual zoom ranging from macro to ~ 135 mm telephoto.  We have two F828s, one that shows all the signs of several years of salt water and sand dunes, and a second one with only a single research season under its belt.  The F828 produces excellent digital stills, but also provides the capability to switch quickly to medium quality video to document important research events.

Terrapin Hatchling Pips through Its Eggshell

If the F828 is our workhorse, the Pentax Optio W30 with its built-in underwater capability is our pocket miracle maker.  The underwater housing serves double duty.  Surprisingly, not every field day is sunshine and light.  More days than we wish to remember are filled instead with rain, wind and storms.  For instance, the leatherback necropsy last Sunday was done outdoors (obviously) in a driving rain storm.  The only camera present that could document the post mortem was the Optio W30.  

Don Lewis Zooms In on Emerging Duo for a Close-Up

Having lost three previous digital cameras to salt water, the Optio W30 is perfect to document all action near, above and below the water line.  Its compact shape and light mass allow the camera to slip comfortably into field pockets and even bathing suit pockets.  This camera takes excellent macro video clips in QuickTime format and good quality stills when the F828 isn’t around.

Close-Up of the Emerging Duo

The one drawback with the Optio W30 is the LCD screen.  The camera fell from my swimming suit pocket about 12 inches onto sandy soil during our June field school.  The fall appears to have jarred the LCD screen which has dropped to about 10% functionality.  In essence, the camera now is a point and guess.  Still, the Optio W30 brings home some sweet imagery … when pointed in the right direction and in the right mode of operation.

The most important instrument for capturing the right shot at the right moment has nothing to do with digital anything.  If you can’t get yourself to the perfect spot at the perfect time, your top quality camera will capture a whole lot of sea gulls, sand dunes and fiddler crabs.