Mother turtle dance + stars and hermit crabs

The night we went to the beach to look for a mother turtle was magical.

We were led by Eddie, a young Italian biologist working among fisherman on the Nicoya peninsula. His mission is to educate them about sustainable fishing as well as to do his part in preserving the sea turtles.

There were no lights other than the red light from his headlamp. Brighter lights disturb the turtles. It was a perfect clear night, and the multitude of stars seemed low enough to reach out and touch.

As we walked almost blindly, there were what seemed to be a lot of rocks or shells. Eddie shone the light at our feet and we were simultaneously delighted and horrified to see thousands of small hermit crabs scurrying around! It was impossible not to step on them, but Eddie said that our weight would just push them into the sand.

Finally, Eddie told us he had spotted an Olive Ridley turtle, but we all needed to stay back while she dug her hole. When she began laying, he said, she would go into a trance and wouldn’t be aware of our presence. When he said we could, we circled around her and watched in wonder. It’s hard to see in this picture, and you can google and see lots of clear pictures, but this is me sharing my experience of this amazing act of nature.

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As we stood in awe, Eddie informed us that he had discovered that the turtle was missing a back rudder, and he suspected that the hole wasn’t deep enough. Turtle eggs are highly susceptible to predators such as raccoons and dogs, who often steal them as they are laid or shortly after. So he said that when she was finished, we would dig them up and relocate them to a deeper nest in a safer place on the beach.

After the eggs were laid, she covered them with sand, and, turning in circles, patted the sand down.  This took about 20 minutes, and we could see that she was hindered by her lack of  a rudder. We followed her as she made her way in the starlight to the ocean, cheering for her as she reached the water, never to see the fruit of her labor.

 

Eddie immediately started digging up the nest, and allowed someone in the group to assist. We were all awestruck as the count went up and up until the total of eggs was 108! The eggs were placed in a bag and passed around so we could all feel it’s weight – quite heavy! Imagine the work – this sea animal, beautiful in the water but awkward on land, hauling her already heavy body, made even heavier with these eggs,50 feet over land before releasing them from her body and returning to the sea.

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While we were engrossed in the task of rescuing these eggs, Eddie spotted another turtle. By the time the last egg was recovered from the first nest, the second turtle had begun laying. We again watched the act with a reverent awe, and as this mother, with all her flippers intact,  began her dance of covering the precious eggs, we could see the perfection. She patted, and twirled, and rested a bit, then repeated this over and over until she was satisfied with her work.

 

After we cheered her on her return trek to the ocean, it was somewhat anticlimactic to  watch Eddie locate a spot to rebury the eggs. It was all a wonder, though, and I will always hold that night in my heart as one of the most amazing I have ever experienced.

Here is a link to a youtube video of an Olive Ridley giving birth, covering the eggs, and going back to the sea. It is very cool, but doesn’t capture the magic of being there on the dark beach under the blanket of stars being a part of the mystery of life.

 

 

The love of dogs and the honesty of cats

I grew up with a Labrador retriever, but as an adult have mostly had cats as pets. In fact, just a few years ago I had five cats. I am currently petless, and have no plans to add animals to my household.

I’ve rather avoided dogs, for the most part. They drool, and lick, and sniff in a sometimes embarrassing way. Small dogs yip, and uncontrolled big dogs can be scary.

It has been said by more than one person  that when you feed a dog they think you are a god, but when you feed a cat they think they are God.

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Ralphie

On my recent trip to Maine, I stayed with a family which included a dog that I fell totally in love with. Once we got past the excitement of meeting a new person, and the mutual acceptance that occurred, Ralphie did what dogs do best. She hung around looking at me soulfully, nuzzled and licked my hand, and I couldn’t resist her. I petted her, and she lay her head on my lap, then curled up at my feet.  Her presence was love.

I wanted to take her home with me. She made me change my mind about having a dog, if I can have one like her, that is for sure!

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.Johnny Depp

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Chapel

 

And then there are cats. Cats just really don’t care what you think. Even when they rub your legs, or sit in your lap, they do it for themselves. In a way, I have related well to cats because of this attitude – “I gotta take care of me.” However, when people act this way all the time, those around them tend to see them as selfish, cold, and uncaring. Which is probably why people are attracted to them. They act like we don’t allow ourselves to, most of the time.

I rescued this beautiful cat when she was small and malnourished, outside a church. She is now well-fed, living with my son in Massachusetts. When I visited her, she showed no sign that she was happy or grateful. She is very pretty and soft, which is the main reason people like having them.

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
Ernest Hemingway

for some fun cat facts check this out:  sorry, but your cat is actually a total jerk