Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seeing Green!

In the past 2 months I have had the privilege to watch and photograph green sea turtles in the Atlantic (Ascension Island) and Pacific (Galapagos Islands) at their nesting sites. Watching an adult green sea turtle crawl from the ocean and dig a huge body pit, and then egg chamber, with her massive flippers is impressive to say the least. Being there as those eggs erupt and turtle hatchlings fight for their lives continues the story. Swimming with green sea turtles in the calm waters of the Galapagos is the culmination of the cycle. I have been lucky enough to see and photograph green, I hope you enjoy the images!
This great blue heron is having a green sea turtle lunch at Bachas beach on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Archipelago. There are over 100 nesting sites throughout the Galapagos and green sea turtles face many predators on land as well as in the sea upon erupting from their nests.
Great frigatebirds swoop in to carry off green sea turtle hatchlings that have made the mistake of erupting from the nest in the daylight rather than waiting for darkness. Green sea turtle hatchlings face a very daunting array of obstacles to make it to adulthood and in fact a very small percentage ever do.
It is April 1st here on Ascension Island in the middle of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and green sea turtle eggs are strewn across the beach from last night's nesting activities. Ascension Island is one of the most important green sea turtle nesting sites in the Atlantic, with so many female turtles coming ashore in the night that they sometimes will accidentally dig up eggs from another clutch.
This green sea turtle hatchling has spent just under 2 months incubating in the warm sands of Ascension Island before erupting from the nest and crawling to the sea. If it survives all the challenges of making it to adulthood (and very few do), it will return to this very beach to mate and possibly crawl ashore to dig her own nest. Interestingly the temperature of the sand determines the sex of the turtle, with warmer temperatures creating females while cooler sand temperatures will make a hatchling a male.

A female green sea turtle depositing eggs in the chamber she has created with her rear flippers. Between December and May hundreds of greens come ashore here on this remote island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. In order to not disturb her efforts we have adopted red lights and are not using flash to photograph this wonderful event.
Green sea turtle tracks leading from the nesting site of an adult female on Ascension Island. Female green sea turtles may lay as many as 100 eggs at a time, and will usually lay several clutches of eggs throughout the nesting season.