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[Ashmore Trip 1] In which there are too many turtles

May 17, 2013

Camp Shane  [This is the seventh in a series of ‘Ashmore Trip 1’ posts, essentially diary entries. Internet was unavailable at the Ashmore Reef, so they are being presented one-day-per-day now that I am back in Melbourne.]

13/04/2013

To avoid long walks over the sandflats with gear, we opted for a late-start, very-late-finish today: on-island at 09:00 (on a rising tide), off at 22:00 (on the next rising tide). I took along a tripod on which to hang bird-bags, which increased my handling speed (as 5 angry birds in bags are a good incentive to work quickly) and decreased colony disturbance (as I now only need to raid the colony once per five birds, instead of once per 2).

Around lunch-time I visited the others, who were deploying GPS loggers on Masked Boobies (truly, the most intimidating boobies I have yet handled). I scribed a little, took photos and painted a bird’s forehead with red nail-polish (for easy identification in the colony). It looked at me with clear malevolence in its eyes.An exemplar of well-used nailpolish

The late finish meant there was a chance to do some night-work. The others were keen to see if Great Frigatebirds are easier to catch by spotlight. En route to the frigatebird colony, we walked through a group of Common Noddies, which were very easily caught by torchlight. I stayed to process them, and the others went night-hunting frigates.

It appears that baby turtles are attracted to torchlights. The first one to sit on my datasheet was cute. The next six were excessive. I put them in a surplus bird-bag while I was working, to stop them getting in the way, and took them down to the shore when I was done.

New handled species of the day: Masked Boobies, some species of turtle. Today was very successful in terms of birds caught – my molecular sample-box is nearly full.The problem with baby turtles is that sensible ones only come out at night, when the lighting is *terrible* for photography

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