Wildlife Sense Kefalonia Report – Early August 2019 Nesting and Hatching News

Lixouri Field Station

This week, the Coast Guard alerted Wildlife Sense to a sea turtle who had emerged on Karavomilos beach in Sami. This is the first recorded nest of the season in this area. This rarity, combined with the female emerging around 11 pm, meant that a large crowd quickly gathered around the female. Despite the presence of locals and tourists and high levels of light pollution, the turtle successfully nested.

Eggs were laid on an area of the beach which was densely packed with rocks and soil. It’s rare that a turtle would persist through these conditions – usually, such obstructions would prompt the abandonment of an egg chamber. Due to the rocky nature of the beach, it was decided that the nest would be relocated to Lixouri to ensure the highest possible chances of hatchling success.

A team travelled over to the beach, carefully removed 84 eggs, and transported them back to Lixouri via van and ferry. The eggs were reburied in a new egg chamber on the Cape – a beach was chosen for its healthy hatching success rate, limited influence from light pollution, and high elevation. We look forward to watching the nest hatch in September!

With the addition of the Sami nest, Lixouri’s record-breaking season continues! The area is now up to 80 nests. While it’s possible that we could find a few new nests during our morning surveys, we’ve officially conducted our final night survey shift of the season. We’re happy to announce that we had 49 turtle encounters during night surveys, and this resulted in a whopping 22 newly tagged nesting females. The more turtles we’re able to tag, the better we’re able to track and understand their behaviour, so this really is great news!

Of course, with the end of night surveys comes the beginning of hatching season! We’ve already conducted one full nest inventory and one partial inventory on Megas Lakkos. The inventories were a great opportunity for some of the new volunteers to spot their first hatchlings. They were delighted to help 26  hatchlings get safely to sea. 

We’re currently conducting hatchling rescue shifts for two Lepeda nests that are scheduled to hatch anytime now, and we’ll start sending a hatchling rescue team to Vatsa at the end of the week to keep one more nest safe. These nests are in areas with severe light pollution, and without our help, it’s unlikely that many of the hatchlings would be able to make it to the sea. 

While we welcomed a new group of wonderful volunteers this week, we also had to bid a fond farewell to the previous group. Thank you for all of your hard work! Luckily Angela, Andy, Kelsey, and Abbie are each staying for three to four weeks – we’ll need their help during this busy time!

The project also welcomed our two new Field Assistants, Owen and Nick, back to Lixouri. Owen first volunteered here back in 2016, while Nick was previously a hatching season FA in Lixouri in 2017 and a Skala volunteer in 2016. They are both absolutely thrilled to return. 

Unfortunately, we also say goodbye this week to Liv and Josh, our incredible nesting season Field Assistants. No one could have done a better job, and everyone here will miss them. They both head back to university, where we know they’ll ace their courses. Good luck, you two!

Written by Liv Wiggins and Nick Miller

Argostoli Field Station

The last week in Argostoli has been a very busy one. We are happy to report we have reached the record-breaking milestone of 100 nests! This is much more than our previous highest number of 86. 

The week started with our injured turtle from last week, now named Seymour, being released into Megali Ammos. Our vets attempted to see to him, but it was decided that the best thing to do was to release him back to sea. We can only hope that Seymour will survive and live out a healthy life.

The changeover period this week has been especially busy due to our new round of field assistants for the hatchling season. However, nesting season is far from over, with numerous nests still being found on the beaches daily. Several of our nests have had to be relocated to safer places, mostly on Avithos, due to being too close to the sea and at risk of inundation. A particularly stressful Thursday morning saw three nests get relocated simultaneously from Avithos to Megali Ammos due to flooding, not from the sea, but due to a portaloo on the beach emptying onto the beach and over the nests. A truck had backed into the portaloo, sending a large volume of human waste and chemicals onto three of our protected nests, meaning that it was essential to relocate the eggs as soon as possible. Luckily our team delved in and managed to retrieve the eggs before the sewage had reached them. Hopefully, they should not be affected by the chemicals and waste that would have otherwise had fatal consequences.

On a positive note, on Tuesday one of our teams went out to survey the Avithos area and were surprised to find a nesting mother turtle on Ai Chelis beach. It is rare to find a turtle nesting this late in the morning, so this was a very incredible sight for some of the volunteers and myself on our first morning shift, and one of the leaving Field Assistant’s last. We waited until the turtle had finished nesting before approaching and successfully tagging her. Apart from some leeches around her neck which were removed, she was a very healthy and large turtle (and took quite a lot of effort to tag!). She was named Star and released back into the sea – hopefully she will nest on Kefalonia again!

Life is due to get even busier over here, as our nests are due to catch up with Lixouri and begin hatching any day now! Our hatchling rescue shifts are well underway, with teams sleeping out on three different beaches and a fourth beach joining the watch at the end of the week. The whole team is eagerly anticipating a flood of loggerhead hatchlings over the coming week!

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Tags: Lourdas, hatchling, research, threats, sea turtle nest, Argostoli, Lixouri, Sami

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