16 March 2010

Fish Cay

I was invited to go along on a turtling trip today. The destination was Fish Cay (a small island South of here frequented by the fishermen) and Middle Reefs (a series of patch reefs between Long Cay and Six Hills Cay). I got the day started early and was down at the dock waiting a few minutes before the arranged time (8am) this morning. In typical island fashion, though, we set out around 10:30 after running several of errands.

The boat was called "El Cacique" (or "The Chief")

The wind was out of the West today, so the water was very flat behind Long Cay. When we were passing through, I was hoping so much that we'd see the whales. We were in one of the DECR boats instead of one the School's boats, so our range wouldn't have been so limited. I kept an eye out all day, but unfortunately we didn't see them.

The water didn't stay flat all day though, and made much of the ride quite jarring as a result. It wasn't possible to stand (which allows you to absorb much of the shock in your legs), so I just had to sit tight was the boat slammed against the waves.

When we arrived at Fish Cay we went to shore briefly to check for nests. The Turks and Caicos isn't a very popular nesting area (likely due to over-harvesting in the past), but there are a few beaches that are regular nesting sights. I didn't know it until today, but adult females can lay eggs as many as 8 times a year. Though, most years they do it far fewer times and often not at all.

We didn't find any nests, but we did find some tourists that came over for the day from the nearby (and privately owned) Big Ambergris Cay. I bet they came halfway across the world (on a private jet, no doubt) to have that beach to themselves, and there we came trudging over the hill salty and disheveled. You wouldn't have believed the number of diamonds this lady had on her finger - an essential accessory of sunbathing.

We "manta towed" around Fish Cay for a couple hours. I was a little wary of manta towing in that area because of the reputation it has for sharks. The fishermen claim to see Tiger Sharks around there, and it was there that the recent attack happened. Being pulled around by a boat makes you feel a lot like bait. Luckily we didn't see anything more than a Nurse Shark (which do not have teeth and are not predators). We did see lots of Eagles Rays though (which, of course, are harmless).

I had 4 turtle sightings (all Hawksbills) and we had 2 captures. The two that got away may have just been one that got away twice - it was a fairly big Hawksbill both times. I captured the first one (the smallest of them all) with ease. It could barely swim faster than me with it's tiny little flippers. It only took about 10 seconds to get him.

My little Hawksbill. We'll call him Felipe.

The other one that we caught at Fish Cay was also a small Hawksbill, but he really ran for it. He was also in much deeper water, so getting to him was much more difficult. We slipped free from each of our hands once and really tired us out before Tom finally brought him to the surface.

Tom's Hawksbill. We'll call him Manuel.
(Hawksbills often have dirty, algae covered shells).

We wrapped things up at Fish Cay and headed over to Middle Reefs. It's not far from Six Hills Cay (which from our angle looked more like 7 or 8 Hills Cay). I'd never been to that area before. Visibility was quite bad today (likely due to the Westerly wind), but it's probably usually really nice. We only had 1 sighting there, but it was a successful capture. Tom nabbed a little Green that was not much bigger than the one Jessee got last week.

Tom's Green. We'll call him Gustavo.

Releasing Gustavo

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