Conservation in Mexico Monthly Update: January-February 2014
Our first leatherback nest was rescued in November and so January saw the end of the 60 day incubation period and the giant hatchlings arrive (in comparison to the Olive Ridley and Black turtles!). An exciting time for us all and they even managed to arrive on the morning of the 60 days so we were able to get some photos in the light to share with you all.
Throughout January and February we have had four nests hatch and mid-February saw another nest laid so with luck there is plenty of time for our volunteers in April to see some of these spectacular little (big!) guys. The red letter day, however, was with the fourth nest as we were able to release all three of our turtle species hatchlings at the same time. This was really fantastic as you are able to see the differences between the three species from how they look to how they move.
At the beginning of January we were able to start measuring the temperature and humidity of the inside of the nests. Hopefully with these measurements we will be able to really get to grips with the percentage of how many females and males we are able to release. All reptiles have ‘temperature dependant sex determination’ with the easy way to remember it as ‘Cool Guys and Hot Chicks’! This means that by taking the temperature of the nests we will be able to make any miniature adjustments to the hatchery if we need to cool or heat things for a more accurate 50/50 mix of hatchlings to release.
Lagoon Bird Biodiversity Study
The bird surveys have been continuing on the lagoon mainly using our little row boat. The increase in water washing through the lagoon during the wet season has managed to thin the large quantities of weeds and lily pads growing on the lagoon making our job of rowing much easier. One of our favourite spots called ‘Media Luna’ has been frequently visited and there is a current population of about six Snail Kites (Rostrhamus sociabilis) feeding in this pretty small section of the lagoon, and this indicates a very healthy ecosystem in this area.
Nearer the dock where we launch the boat there is a mass of American Coots (Fulica americana) feeding. Our last survey there counted 136 individuals! Another great bird we are regularly seeing in this area is the Limpkin (Aramus guarauna). This, according to National Geographic Birds of North America, only exists on the Eastern Coast, nowhere near our location on the Pacific side! There have also been one or two sightings of the Roseate Spoonbills (Ajaja ajaja) flying overhead but we are waiting in anticipation for them to return in force in a few months’ time.
Crocodile Repopulation Project
The crocodiles have flourished over the Christmas holiday period with regular sightings of the wild ones in the adjacent lagoon – although they seemed to be checking us out as much as we were checking them out! Our main objectives for 2014 are to create a small museum of the flora and fauna found at La Colorada Lagoon. The aim for this museum is to generate as broad a spectrum of local knowledge as possible and as such, our current volunteers have each chosen a subject for an information poster so that any new volunteers in the next few months will be adding to our growing collection.
The bird surveys on the path following the outskirts of the lagoon have been very interesting. Since the start of the year they have yielded a quite a few new birds, including Swanson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), the Rufus Backed Thrush (Turdus rufopalliatus), the Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) and the Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas). We have also seen the return of the Citreoline Trogan (Trogon citreolus) which is a beautiful bird that we generally see flying together in pairs chattering away to each other.
We have really been charging ahead with regular beach clean-ups since the start of the New Year, this has resulted in a very large collection of plastic bottles and strangely enough many old shoes too!
We are also in the process of uncovering large areas of the hatchery that are currently unused due to the end of the peak laying season. The idea is to remove the shade cloths, acting as a bit of a roof, so the sun may truly burn down on the sand and kill off any bacteria in the sand, preparing the area properly for next season’s batch of nests.
Before the hurricane season starts we need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that some of our beach may be lost into the ocean, therefore we are also starting to dismantle one of our old bunk houses and move it further back away from the ocean. Luckily we have quite a few months before the storms can potentially hit so we are slowly moving this process along and have plenty of other space for our volunteers to get a good night’s sleep.
Having had a great start to 2014 I really hope you have enjoyed reading about it and will be coming out to help us with all our exploits this year.
Conservation Manager, Mexico