Horizon at Sandy Point

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Three marvels before breakfast!

Mt Plaisir, Grande Riviere. Turtle watching expedition. Expectations high. In the daylight, we surveyed the new route of the big mouth Grande Riviere, inches from the picket fence that was once seen "way up the beach" exposing roots of the hundred year old almond trees. And also exposing turtle nests in cross section where the eggs could be plucked by corbeaux or dogs. As it turned out, the significant other turned in after dinner and I decided to stay on the porch elevated above the wide mouth river.
Guest rooms hover above the new bed claimed by Grande Riviere,
tree roots exposed, a sand bank between river and sea

Turtle nest exposed by the meandering mouth of Grande Riviere

Tiny turtle egg on the beach

Pitch black night. Pinpoints of ships' lights on the horizon. Eyes wide to catch light reflected from the waves crashing in a ragged line, peering to catch shadow on shadowed sand, searching for movement of black on black. And to fall asleep to the crescendos of the tumbling surf.

At daylight, time to see the beach on the morning after the night. Camera in hand, I rush to beach. The tracks are written in the sand, a crumpled untidy counterpane. Impressive in the dawn light, so many of them, snaking this way and that, light or deeper impressions, some more deliberate than others, like the footprints of a dancing party. Do we need to see and touch and feel to know what happened here under cover of darkness?
Turtle tracks must tell of their size, weight and speed!

Quick and direct to the sea.

Track on track on track

Can you tell if this track was made coming up or going back?

Each turtle track must be distinctive like a foot print!

At the western end of Grande Riviere beach, two turtle combers are out, clipboard in hand and a large basin to collect hatchlings that may not have made it to the water in the dark. But the corbeaux are there too, looking satisfied by their first breakfast of eggs raided from upturned nests, and a few hatchlings for dessert. There are so many nesters that some invariably dig up nests made earlier in the season. The king corbeaux spread their wings on a tall tree stump.

Red head king corbeaux who take tribute in baby turtles!

One of the turtle watchers is Marcia, the turtle watch woman who had administered permits for access to the beach the night before. She says they counted 70 turtles on the beach overnight. The collection of hatchlings in the morning is a month-old project, in which any hatchlings on the beach at dawn are protected during the day to be released in the water at dark. They are also attempting to monitor viability and the types of predators during the daytime hours - I am sure it is more complex than this gist. It indicates to me that as well as protecting the turtles, there is a measure of observation and science involved, which bodes well for the people and turtles.

Almost to the end of the beach, the two women turn back. No turtles out this morning, they declare. Looks like I have to be satisfied with tracks, I think, disappointment hovering like a cloud. They turn back, I walk on.
No turtles on the beach, she said.

Everywhere this untidy sand reveals deliberate tracks to and from the ocean. I convince myself I don't need to see a turtle to feel its presence. I imagine the size of the turtle making each track. A hopping corbeau. A flick of sand and another flick. And a sandy heaving. A very large turtle. Sandflies all over. A wound on her shoulder. And she's facing the wrong way! No sign of nest. Her powerful front fins are rotating the sand, making two deep holes. Wondering if I could possibly turn her in the right direction, I continue to the end of the beach.
Can you see this turtle's magic maze?

Joy to the sea!

Going home

The second turtle, has a deep circular notch on the front fin. Notchie I name her, is sideways to the sea and still as a rock. I still have time I think to reach the rock at the end of the beach.

Notchie with her notched right fin

The circle maze dance

The sea comes up to meet her

The third turtle, the littlest one, is highest up the beach. She is slowly turning in a big circle but not yet facing the sea.

Turtle Little 

She turns to the tide

Almost there!

A big splashy welcome from the ocean!

I watch each of these fabulous creatures for a few minutes. The heavy breathing, the fins like shovels sinking and turning the sand. The slow circling towards the lip of the beach. Here, each turtle pauses before slip sliding towards the surf. At the edge, another pause, a heavy indrawn breath, a farewell to the land before that graceful glide into the welcoming sea.

After each of the three marvels has returned to her watery home, I walk slowly back, the rising sun dazzling.

I see turtles everywhere. Are we walking on more turtles than can be imagined - the stars of the sea, numberless as the grains of sand. Their cycle of life inexorable as the tide, as long as there is sea and sand and jellyfish.

The last turtle leaves the western end of Grande Riviere beach - around 7 am, June 25, 2012


  1. I feel the splendor of ur morning with these majestic creatures.

  2. So evocative, Pat. Growing up these things were happening under our noses and we had no idea!