Bribie Island Turtle Trackers
From BIEPA NEWS Vol 25;1 Jan/Feb 2018
The Bribie Island Turtle Trackers (BITTs) have had another exciting Turtle Nesting Season. From mid-November until 19th April, volunteers have patrolled Bribe Island’s eastern foreshore to identify mother turtle tracks to a nest site; then monitored the nests during their incubation (approx 8 weeks depending on the weather); and were delighted on the mornings when they identified little hatchling tracks fanning out onto the beach from the nest chamber in the dunes. The nests were then excavated by accredited turtle carers and the empty egg shells counted to determine how many hatchlings successfully hatched from each nest. The number of eggs laid in each nest can vary quite significantly.
It is estimated that the average loggerhead clutch is 127. In the 2017-2018 Season, clutches of eggs laid in Bribie’s nests ranged from 87 to 174 eggs. It is believed that the younger turtles may lay fewer eggs and the older turtles lay the larger numbers. If this is correct, it would suggest that we are getting new mother turtles returning to Bribie’s eastern beaches.
This Season, we lost one nest to erosion by king tides. Another was eroded leaving only 18 eggs that were relocated to a safer site and they hatched three weeks later. High tides made the southern sector difficult to access and accurately monitor the nests.
Overnight rain and wind also wiped out signs. Fortunately, two of the nests were identified as hatched and subsequently counted.
The last nest to hatch on 19 April, had 83 eggs hatch successfully from the 87 laid.
However, due to lights in the Woorim Surf Club car park illuminating the beach, hatchlings were discovered in the morning congregating under these street lights. 45 hatchlings were rescued (including 12 from a drain pipe) and released on the beach where they swam strongly towards the ocean currents – much to the delight of all involved in their rescue. It was a very emotional morning for those who had never witnessed the magic of seeing tiny turtle hatchlings scurry across the beach and swim out into that huge ocean. What wonder and joy!! The lucky ones that survive the long circular journey on the currents of the South Pacific Gyre (east to the west coast of South America ) will return 26 – 30 years later to breed on the beaches in the region where they were born. Thanks to everyone who helped in this rescue. Huge thanks and accolades must go to our dedicated BITTs who are on the beach at sunrise every day to monitor nesting & hatching turtle activities.
BIEPA continues to lobby council to address the artificial light pollution on the beach.
From BIEPA NEWS Vol 25;2 May 2018
On the morning of the 25th November 2017, these loggerhead turtle tracks were spotted by one of our Bribie Island Turtle Trackers (BITTs), heralding the beginning of the Bribie Island 2017 – 2018 Turtle Nesting Season. (This nest hatched on 30th January.
The turtle laid a total of 107 eggs and only 3 were undeveloped. That is a 97% success rate, indicating a healthy turtle and dune habitat).
Since then our intrepid TurtleTrackers have been busy early every morning spotting nesting turtle tracks and now turtle hatchling tracks. They monitor Bribie’s eastern foreshore from the 4WD access to the beach to Flag 4 at the most southerly part of Bribie. The Sunshine Coast Turtle Carers take care of the northern end of Bribie and the QPWS Rangers are responsible for recording, reporting and protecting nests laid in the dunes and soft dry sand that are part of Bribe Island’s National Parks, but are at risk from recreational 4WD vehicles on that section of the beach.
When the hatchlings emerge from their nests after approximately 8 weeks of incubation, the nests will be excavated by accredited turtle carers. The empty eggshells are counted and the data recorded for an end of Season report to Dr. Col Limpus at the Queensland Government’s Dept of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP).
We are having an interesting season with many sets of tracks indicating lots of visits by our turtles. Unfortunately, some of our turtles are visiting beach areas where there is an increase in people visiting. These turtles are being disturbed/spooked by excited onlookers causing the turtles to leave the beach before laying.
Our Turtle Trackers would advise that people remain well away and don’t approach nesting turtles. It is also important not to make sudden movements within the sight range of the turtles. Always stay well away and behind the nesting turtle.
One late afternoon, Jill, a Bribie Turtle Tracker, (and BIEPA member), came across one track to the dunes indicating a turtle had not returned to the sea. She quietly approached from behind and saw the turtle was preparing to nest. Very exciting because our Turtle Trackers rarely see nesting turtles – only where they’ve been.
From BIEPA NEWS Vol 26;1 Jan 2019
The 2018 – 2019 Turtle Nesting Season has been less than satisfying for our BITTs. Lots of visits and attempts from our loggerheads, but fewer nests than last season.
Erosion along their favourite nesting areas has created cliff faces turtles can’t negotiate, so they make multiple visits looking for suitable sites – sometimes in the same night or sometimes the next evening they will return to try again.
If their nesting attempts are thwarted too often, they dump that clutch of eggs at sea and get on with producing the next clutch which will take approximately two weeks to develop into fertilised eggs and she will attempt to lay again.
The first nest of the season is due to hatch any day now.
As you most likely read on the BIEPA Facebook and local media, we have managed to tag a nesting loggerhead turtle for the first time on Bribie Island.
We hope eventually that tagging Bribie’s turtles will help answer questions on their movements when not visiting us during the nesting season etc.
TRACKS TO NEST 1 – EGGS LAID 27/11/2018.
NEST 1 – HATCHLINGS EMERGED 01/02/2019 NEST COUNT – TOTAL EGGS LAID = 125.
NEST 10 – HATCHLINGS EMERGED 10/03/2019 NEST COIUNT – TOTAL EGGS LAID = 127
From BIEPA NEWS Vol 26;2 May 2019
The 2018-2019 Turtle Nesting Season was a very different season for the BITTs. This Season our loggerheads laid fewer nests than in previous seasons.
Erosion; artificial light pollution from houses and street lights; increased numbers of people enjoying the beach at night using flash lights, fireworks, etc. all thwarted and aborted nesting attempts.
The BITTs found that the turtles sought out darker, less “busy” areas along the beach. Erosion along the beach especially south of Access 19 (entrance to beach designated for off-leash dog recreation) caused a number of “U-turns”. This section of the beach is historically a very popular area for nesting. Sadly, this Season only one nest was laid along here.
If the turtles’ attempts to lay a clutch of eggs are thwarted too many times, they will dump that clutch at sea. This is a real loss, when considering that the turtles, that depend on Woorim Beach, for safe nesting habitat, are listed as an endangered species.
The BITTs monitor between one kilometre north of the 4WD entrance on Woorim Beach (Flag 13) to Flag 4, 10 km south, east of Red Beach.
This is the first Season that the BITTs have monitored north of the 4WD entrance to the beach. There were 4 nests identified in this kilometre. Three that were laid high in the dunes, hatched successfully.
We also received reports from excited campers and 4W D vi si to rs w h o h ad n o t witnessed nesting turtles and hatchlings before. They supplied the BITTs with GPS readings for the nests and confirmation photos of the turtles laying. The BITTs gave this information to the QPWS Rangers so they could monitor and ensure the nests remained safe from 4WD vehicles.
We reported to you in the January BIEPA News the story of the nest laid in the middle of the berm that separates First Lagoon from the sea. This nest could not be relocated out of the path of 4WD traffic, for reasons explained in our previous article. After close monitoring of the site throughout the incubation period we regret to advise, the nest failed to hatch.
The Council has been extremely collaborative with the design of the sand backpacking system as well as addressing a lot of the artificial light pollution on the beach. With rehabilitation of healthy dunes and darker nesting habitat we are hoping for a great 2019-2020 Turtle Nesting Season