Saturday, May 22, 2010

Nesting turtles, surfing dogs

This is the first sea turtle nest of the season for Rodney and me. (Grateful acknowledgement to Tyrone and Louise: his post this morning provided the inspiration). Despite tragedy (the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico), personal and professional ups and downs (everybody's got 'em) and anything else that may not be right with the world, here's something that is: turtles are still making their ungainly trips ashore in our beautiful Guana and everywhere else they have for millions of years, and laying eggs. And despite financial cutbacks and governmental balance sheet discomfort, the state of Florida with its badly paid staff and dedicated volunteers, is still managing to arrive in the early morning hours and mark the sacred places where the turtles have been. And despite the challenges these tiny baby turtles face when they hatch (lights on the beach confuse them and prevent them finding their way to the ocean, predators eat them, and old-timers will still raid the nests, for it is said that turtle eggs are 5 or 6 times richer than chicken eggs) some of these tiny vulnerable babies do manage to make their ways to the sea, and return again many years later to continue the cycle.

The folks at Guana keep such a close eye on these nests and know so well the time at which the eggs are expected to hatch that they monitor for viability, even sometimes removing the tiny new hatchlings in the evenings and returning them to the beach after nightfall. This gives the babies better odds of surviving their long trip to the water. The nests, as I've tried to show you here, are above the high tide line. Hatchlings must negotiate a wide stretch of beach to reach the water, and each of them is so small as to be able to fit easily in the palm of your hand. It's a considerable distance to cover, with all the obstacles I've mentioned and probably many more I don't even know about. It is indeed a joyful thing to see the protective markers appearing each spring, reminding us that the secret life of turtles goes on and and that in some small way, people are helping ensure this continuity.

Our other unexpected and welcome entertainment came from two nice surfers, a couple, I guessed, and their dog. We passed these folks as we stepped onto the beach this morning, exchanged greetings and commented on their dog, a medium-sized retreiver, and then moved on. We always talk to dog people at the beach, usually because it's too warm to take our own dogs. Boxers have foreshortened noses and sometimes encounter breathing or overheating issues when it's really hot out. Temperatures today were predicted to be in the high 80s, maybe touching 90, so we'd left our dogs at home. We set off on our walk, noticing that the couple with the dog moved away from the knot of people who typically cluster around the walkover. And then we indulged our passion and looked for shark teeth and other bits of bounty from the ocean. About 3/4 of a mile into the walk, I noticed the young couple headed toward the water, boards in hand, dog trotting faithfully along. Then I noticed that the guy was carrying his own board and something that might have been a boogie board. Hmm. There was a nice bed of coquina, usually rich with shark teeth, so I lingerd to look as Rodney continued on his walk.

And here's the fun part: the boogie board was for the dog. I watched as the dog maneuvered himself into position to climb up on the board, a process that seemed completely routine to the little family. Curious, I stopped to watch, my phone camera ready to take terrible pictures (which it totally did, as you can see). When they were far enough out to catch some of the ragged waves, the dog caught his, rode it, lost his board, and promptly paddled out to the guy, whose surfboard seemed to be his next objective. But the guy caught a decent wave and rode it as the woman finished a ride in. I'd lingered long enough by now, and taken enough photos, to suggest the possibility that I was just a freak. And clearly attention wasn't important to them; they just took their dog surfing and didn't invest a lot of effort in overthinking.

The photo just shows the heads of the people and the suggestion of the dog's head. But I went back to talk to them, to tell them about the blog, to ask if I might include them. Her name was Beth; her husband is Steve and the dog, Yeti, has been surfing with Steve since he was a puppy. Except Beth said, "I noticed him swimming along with me, and sort of shooed him toward my husband. But he just likes surfboards now, so he didn't mind surfing with me." She says he surfs better with Steve, but no matter who's board finds him hanging 20, it was a bunch of fun to watch. Here's to that much fun throughout the weekend.


  1. That must have been something to watch! A dog surfboarding! Wish camera phones had a "zoom in" function. Mine takes decent up-close photos, but when I tried to take a photo of mallards standing on one foot while sleeping on a log, I could barely make them out.

  2. Michelle, I have the same issue with my camera - I know you can barely see the dog, but it was so much fun to watch!


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