Baja Sea Turtles, Fathers Day 2018

17 June 2018, mako-ville 5:30 am.  I awake the stars have fled the twilight skies of Baja.  In the quiet background the morning breath of whales can be heard in the distance.  The whales are passing between mako-ville and Isla San Luis is less then 5 miles away.  As the sun glides above the horizon the blows from the whales fly like faire dust into the cool morning air.  The sunlight illuminates them and they appear enchanted and alive.  What a spectacular way to awaken to a new day.

A couple of hours later I felt blessed at the wake up call I had experienced this morning.  Sitting at the restaurant awaiting my morning coffee and breakfast I could still sea the whales passing.  What a glorious morning to be alive.  Yes another great day to be in my beloved Baja.  My leg is healing and life is good.

After breakfast I took a ride in the Rhino to an overlook behind Punta Bufeo this viewpoint is about 4-5 miles from mako-ville.  You are about 100 feet up on top of a cliff overlooking the Sea of Cortez.  If you look to the north you sea Isla San Luis about 8 miles away.   Looking to the south in the fresh morning air you can clearly sea Puerto Refugio and the Isla de  la Guardia about 55 miles away.

This place was magical this morning, you could still sea spouting whales and looking down at the reef below there was a small school of yellowtail chasing bait just outside the rocks and boulders.  Over the reef itself I spotted a couple of cabrilla sitting and sunning themselves over warming rocks in maybe 5 feet of water.  What a view.  Baja magic, but my father’s day was not to be over just yet.

Little did I know how special this day was to be.  In the afternoon I returned to camp.  Having had a full morning, I hydrated and took a nap.  I slept until 4 in the afternoon.  Freshened up with a HOT solar shower just installed by my friend Kai on his last trip through camp a week earlier.  AWESOME.  At dinner time, 6 pm I headed to the restaurant where Clementina was preparing Chile Rellanos stuffed with cream cheese, shrimp and jalapenos, a new favorite of mine.

The magic of Baja struck as I was sipping on a diet coke.   Looking out the front arched windows I saw motion, and it took me a few seconds to realize what was happening.  On the beach in front of me a sea turtle had made her journey from her home waters to the top of the beach.  She crawled over a hundred feet and started digging her nest.  It was the first few flippers full of flying beach sand that had attracted my eyes.

Yelling to Luis and Clementina to come from the kitchen to sea what was happening on THEIR beach.  They were followed by Mari and Ana their kitchen help.  Also present were two residents from Punta Bufeo and sitting on the porch steps were 3 mexican commercial fishermen.  Also there was a family of 8 renting the new house on the beach.  Luis told them all to wait a while and allow her to lay her eggs BEFORE approaching her.

Over an hour later she turned towards the sea and everyone except me went to sea her off.  The three kids from the house had just experienced a small miracle, the birthing cycle had started.  ALL the people on the beach, EVERYONE of them collected big rocks and put a barrier around the nest.  Hopefully 60 days later her eggs will emerge from the sand and travel back to the sea.  Yes I plan on being there.

Many years ago while stationed in Panama with the USAF I experienced a group of sea turtles on a beach on the Island of Contadora.  That too was near sunset but there were many turtles that evening.  This Fathers Day there was only a single turtle, none of her sisters came ashore with her.  She was ALONE.  Last year a turtle laid her eggs in a nest in front of a house at Punta Bufeo and nothing hatched.  This year we will closely observe the nest and maybe this nest will hatch out.  We can only hope, the rest is up to our maker.

I do not know why the Lord graced me with the wonders of this day.  But I feel so humbled by his blessing.  But I do know we as a race are killing our planet, Our seas are dying, our mother ocean is sick, we are raping her.  OUR days are limited by her health.  Wake up people BEFORE it is too late.

I believe the turtle was a green sea turtle, she was about 3 feet long maybe 24 inches wide and weighed about 80 kilos, or almost 200 pounds.   May she prosper, live long and produce MANY offspring.  Turtle populations are dying off all over our world, and MAN is their biggest predator.  They are ALL endangered.  The information below was copied from internet sites and is not mine.

 

 

 Turtles: Five of the world’s eight species of marine turtles feed in the Sea of Cortez: loggerheads, leatherbacks, green sea turtles, olive ridleys,   and hawksbills. Turtles like to hang around dive sites at wrecks. Many migrate from Baja to Japan and back – thanks to conservation efforts.

Information About Sea Turtles: Green Sea Turtle

Common Name: Green sea turtle – named for the green color of the fat under its shell. (In some areas, the Pacific green turtle is also called the black sea turtle.)

Scientific Name: Chelonia mydas

Description: They are easily distinguished from other sea turtles because they have a single pair of prefrontal scales (scales in front of its eyes), rather than two pairs as found on other sea turtles. Head is small and blunt with a serrated jaw. Carapace is bony without ridges and has large, non-overlapping, scutes (scales) present with only 4 lateral scutes. Body is nearly oval and is more depressed (flattened) compared to Pacific green turtles. All flippers have 1 visible claw. The carapace color varies from pale to very dark green and plain to very brilliant yellow, brown and green tones with radiating stripes. The plastron varies from white, dirty white or yellowish in the Atlantic populations to dark grey-bluish-green in the Pacific populations. Hatchlings are dark-brown or nearly black with a white underneath and white flipper margins.

For comparison, the Pacific green turtle (aka Black Sea Turtle) has a body that is strongly elevated or vaulted and looks less round in a frontal view than other green sea turtles. The color is where you see the biggest difference with Pacific greens having a dark grey to black carapace and the hatchlings are a dark-brown or black with narrow white border with white underneath.

Size: Adults are 3 to 4 feet in carapace length (83 – 114 cm). The green turtle is the largest of the Cheloniidae family. The largest green turtle ever found was 5 feet (152 cm) in length and 871 pounds (395 kg).

Weight: Adults weigh between 240 and 420 pounds (110 – 190 kg).

Diet: Changes significantly during its life. When less than 8 to 10 inches in length eat worms, young crustaceans, aquatic insects, grasses and algae. Once green turtles reach 8 to 10 inches in length, they mostly eat sea grass and algae, the only sea turtle that is strictly herbivorous as an adult. Their jaws are finely serrated which aids them in tearing vegetation.

Habitat: Mainly stay near the coastline and around islands and live in bays and protected shores, especially in areas with seagrass beds. Rarely are they observed in the open ocean.

Nesting: Green turtles nest at intervals of about every 2 years, with wide year-to-year fluctuations in numbers of nesting females. Nests between 3 to 5 times per season. Lays an average of 115 eggs in each nest, with the eggs incubating for about 60 days.

Range: Found in all temperate and tropical waters throughout the world.

Status: U.S. – Listed as Threatened (likely to become endangered, in danger of extinction, within the foreseeable future) under the U.S. Federal Endangered Species Act. Green sea turtles were downlisted from Endangered in 2016.  International– Listed as Endangered (facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild in the near future) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Threats to Survival: The greatest threat is from the commercial harvest for eggs and food. Other green turtle parts are used for leather and small turtles are sometimes stuffed for curios. Incidental catch in commercial shrimp trawling is an increasing source of mortality.

Population Estimate*: Between 85,000 and 90,000 nesting females.

Nesting Sites:  All over the world.