There is nothing like seeing your first leatherback of the season! On our first night patrol! Not just one, but three turtles made an appearance for us as we walked on the beach in the full moonlight (which was also the last blue moon until 2020). Our first turtle was a bit of a mystery as we found her as she was sliding down the beach to the water after nesting – we could only read part of her tag (the number 4) as a barnacle was covering the rest of the tag number! We will be on the lookout for her in 9-10 days to positively identify her.
We walked south after finding our first turtle and noticed a dark turtle shape in the clear water, very close to shore. As she lifted her head to breathe, we knew it was a leatherback! She eventually made her way cautiously onto the shoreline while we waited. This was a BIG turtle! She was 166 cm long in her carapace length, her tag number is AAR575 and her name is Jillene (thanks to Peter and Jill White for naming her!). Jillene has been nesting here at Sandy Point since 1995! She was last seen in 2014 and before that, 2011. She nested successfully, despite having wounds on her head and flippers that were consistent with shark bites. Jillene won that battle and the scars are healing. We will expect to see her several more times this year.
While the team was finishing up with data collection for Jillene (measuring the nest etc.), another turtle was spotted to the south of us. This turtle was first seen here at Sandy Point in 2008, although she was originally tagged in Puerto Rico (we sometimes get wanderers!). This turtle is MaryLisa (thanks Tim Mauney and family!), and she was last seen in 2014 and before that, 2011. MaryLisa looked perfect, with no scratches, cuts or injuries to report. She also nested successfully and made quite a disturbance as she covered her nest!
We headed home after one last full patrol, feeling very happy and a little tired. Such a great way to start the season! If you’d like to name a leatherback for someone special, please visit our adoption page! We will keep you posted as your turtle nests throughout the season.
Thanks so much for your interest and support!