December 9, 2015

UNEXPECTED!

Dear Friends,

Thanksgiving is behind us; well the holiday at least. Everyday is a day of thanks giving if we’re thinking right. The fall work is done (see Ranch News September 2015), we’re settled in for winter , and waiting on a baby! Many of you know that Keelia and Blaine are expecting their 2nd child, and Keelia is now on maternity leave.

For the last few years, Dan and I have been taking a short vacation this time of the year, before winter really hits. We chose our favorite destination in Mexico, that Dan has been visiting since 1965. This was a celebration for him, of 50 years of enjoying Zihuatanejo. Boy did we pick a good time to do it! The day we were leaving, it snowed all day with temperatures dropping below freezing, eventually going to single digits, and it hasn’t been above freezing since! Hope it warms up before we get home.

We live life paying attention to the signs of nature all around us: new weeds, changes in animal habits and wildlife territory, changing trends in annual precipitation, and a variety of shifting patterns. Regular readers know I often comment on these observations and the effects they have on our decisions and ranching operation. But we were surprised on our trip to be witness to something both unusual and familiar.

You all know how hard it is to get going on a trip. What a rush to finish up all the necesary details, pack a bag and get to the airport to catch our flight. In fact, once we got in the car, I told Dan I had been moving so fast, that there had been no chance to grab a good book from the den! It’s the rare chance that I get to read something just for fun! Only on a trip like this, so I was bummed.

When we arrived that first afternoon, and walked out on the beach, lying there on an empty chair, was a weathered booked covered in stains. “Unbroken!” What luck! I had found my vacation reading. The next day, I was all set up in my lounge chair under the palapa, loving the view of the bay, watching impromptu soccer games, paddle boarders and boats, and cracking open that book for some relaxation. Pretty soon, I can’t help noticing the sand at the foot of my chair moving. All by itself! Hmmmm, more movement. What’s causing that? I keep watching the moving sand, and pretty soon, these little dark things start appearing. This now has my full attention. First one, and then another appears, one piling on top another, sort of looking like a beach cat had dug a hole right there to do its business, and now those droppings have taken on life and started crawling out! And finally, the recognition that these are baby turtles! Oh my goodness, right there in front of me these turtles have hatched and crawled to the surface and are piling on top of one another!

My excitement attracted more people to the hatching event, and pretty soon, a guy from the facility where we were staying came with all the right equipment to dig out the next and pick up all the baby turtles. The females crawl up on the beach and dig their nests and lay the eggs. The, just like in front of me on this day, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles climb out of the sand and instinctively work their way to the water and on out to the ocean. The hatching program by local volunteers, helps by digging out the nest and collecting the baby turtles. They dig a large circle and very carefully sift through the sand, picking up all the baby turtles, putting them in a big tub with water, and hold them until sunset. They collected about 60 turtles from the nest. At sunset they release them to crawl towards the sun, into the surf and ready to begin their life at sea. They say releasing them late in the day helps the baby turtles orient themselves to the correct direction, locating the water, and give them a better survival chance against predators.

This was such an amazing experience. When we’re at home, I’m always aware and thinking of young animals, whether it’s anticipating the coming lambing and calving season like now, or during those months of birthing late winter/early spring, or the summer as they’re growing alongside their mothers, or when we’re approaching weaning time activities. It seems our lives revolve around the life cycle of animals. I wasn’t expecting that impact on our trip at all! And there it was, birth and life happening right under my palapa! Just as a baby lamb starts trying to find the teat within minutes of taking its first breath, these little turtles make their way out of the shell, up through the sand and take off chugging toward water knowing that’s the answer to life. And at the same time, natal imprinting is cataloguing the beach they will eventually return to (I’m thinging salmon!). I also found it fascinating that our lives are focused on grazing animals on land, and here was an intimate experience with one of the two primary grazers of sea grass beds in the ocean. Turtles are vital to the health of sea grass habitats and in our desert life, we just don’t normally make the connection.

About an hour after settling back into relaxation, I noticed movement again. It was another baby turtle coming up out of the sane. I ran and grabed the same guy, and he dug back in, finding another 20 turtles. They were finally all together awaiting their sunset release. The next day we went through a similar experience, and in discussing the turtle activity, their comment was about the climate. Their air temperatures are about 10 degrees warmer than average, the water is warmer, and they said that the higher temperatures of the sand this year is speeding up the turtle hatch. Interesting observations.

Speaking of babies, we’re about to have another grandchild. We may let Imperial Yarn make the announcement!

Warm Regards,

Jeanne
Turtles