Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Loggerhead - Surviving Day One

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Walking along the Atlantic coast in Cocoa Beach a few days ago, I encountered a seagull standing in shallow water holding an odd looking crab in its bill.  In a moment, I recognized that the crab was a sea turtle hatchling.  Reflexly, I splashed toward the gull waving my hands, scaring it into the air.  My heart sank as it flew away with its prey.  BUT, in its hurry, it lost its grip and dropped the youngster into the shallows.  The gull and I both swooped for it. I won... and to my amazement held a tiny loggerhead sea turtle in my hands.  She appeared dead but without visible damage so I sat on the beach, cradled her in my palms, blew air on her and pleaded softly for her to revive.  The sun was rising over the Atlantic horizon. 

My imagination ran through what this little creature must have endured since digging out of her sandy nest sometime in the previous night.  Just crossing the beach is treacherous.

I once watched (from too far away) as a Great Blue Heron ate nearly every baby sea turtle in the nest as they came up out of the sand.  I ran, but by the time I got there, only one baby remained.

Ghost crabs who patrol these beaches, consider "turtlets" prized delicacies.
Gulls and osprey cruise the shore.

Lights from the condos, hotels and roads disorient turtle hatchlings and account for many deaths - the little ones stray up onto roads and yards where they dehydrate and die, are eaten or run over.  There are lights-out laws, but they are rarely enforced.

Only one in a thousand makes it to adulthood.
 (Check out

Hurricane Igor, way out near Bermuda, was sending big waves to this coast on this morning.  If the surfers had to fight their way beyond the break, how could a tiny floating sea turtle make it?  It was clearly a tough day to be born.

Loggerhead Hatchling
Then there was a wiggle, soon followed by flapping flippers.  The little loggerhead looked up at me.  I  set her gently on the sand and photographed her second journey to the sea.  Tired and timid at first, the tot got her rhythm and soon was running the gauntlet.

It was a thrill to see her launch into the shallow Atlantic wash, but then the first little shorebreak rolled up and dashed the turtle about before spitting her back onto the beach.  Looking defeated, she sat there for a bit, then tried again.  I imagined once more, the little turtle dodging crabs, being ejected time and again by the raging waves, and finally being snatched up by the sea gull.  Determined to give this one a better chance, I stripped to my bathing suit, scooped up the little loggerhead once more, and swam her out beyond the furthest break.  Now, I thought, all she has to do is cross a few miles of wild Atlantic waters to the relative safety and rich food supply of the weed line at the edge of  the Gulfstream.  I like to think she made it.

Sea Meets Shore to Little Eyes

Loggerhead Leaving

First Swim


Spit Out

Over the next few mornings, I saw no more sea turtles... it is late in the hatching season.  There was one unhatched nest (too close to the water). But I did see birds and people and artsy angles on lovely sunrises.


Anonymous said...

That was a very moving story and incredible pictures.. My brother, told me a story similar to that, where he was in a fishing village .. I am not sure where, and the fishermen brought in their nets with a very large and old sea turtle... who was caught up in the net. My Brother said the men were only interested in the fish, and so left the turtle there struggling to free it self. He watched for a long time until the men were gone and the turtle seemed completely exhausted, went to it and finally helped it to free itself. The turtle was too weak to barely make its way back to the water.. but my brother helped it and before he finally launched himself into the surf, the turtle turned and looked up at my brother for a few moments..... my brother was in tears, because it was truly as if the turtle was thanking him..... there is some truth to the saying :"metakwiasun" a word from the native american culture... meaning 'we are all connected'.

Anonymous said...

Again, my life is enriched, not only by the glory of this first day of autumn, but by the the divine force that supports your generosity and your art. Thank you, for the story of the loggerhead. I will share it with my grandchildren.

Terrie Corbett said...

Beautiful photos - loved the narrative as well.

Anonymous said...

David this is a beautiful and moving story! I like to think that little guy made it too. Maybe one day your pathes will cross again. I can only imagine the story there. Thanks for making my day! Peace, Elaine Grace

Susan in FL said...

What a wonderful story - - - and it was even true! Makes me think of a book I would like to read my kids . . . . . . .

Thanks, David,

Susan in FL said...

What a great story . . . and it was even true! Makes me think of a story that I would like to read my kids . . .

Thanks, David,

Lola said...

Thank you! I loved the story and pictures of the little turtle-- how about us doing a children's book?-- but as photos, I think the ones of sand are the most beautiful.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing experience David! Thank you so much for sharing it with your pictures and words. I hope to see baby sea turtles sometime myself. But... in the meantime, there is nothing better than your pictures. Thank you, thank you! Susan

Anonymous said...

i loved every second of reading your blog...thanks for posting. S

Cindy England said...

Thanks David, enjoyed the pictures and reading about your adventure at the beach. That was one fortunate sea turtle!

David Moynahan said...

Thanks so much for all the compliments and feedback. I loved your stories, that your children and grandchildren would hear my story, and the idea of a children's book. David