Thursday, March 26, 2009

Backyard Bay

We (Croc Bank gang) are fortunate enough to have the Bay of Bengal as our backyard!

It is a great refreshing experience in the mornings (forcefully by Casper and Akanksha) and in the evenings. 

I have seen loads of weird creatures, shells, fishes, eels, etc. washed ashore.  Also not to forget the hundreds of crabs running around. But sometimes there are more interesting things to see!

I am trying to recall some such experiences.

Croc Bank is involved in Sea turtle nesting survey covering the beach adjacent to our facility. “Turtle walk” is an educational program offered to spread awareness about Sea turtle conservation.These walks serve dual purpose as we take small group of people along with us for the surveys.The turtle walk also consists of some other activities before the walk like educational talks, ppt, documentary, night safari, etc. On the walks, we try to take GPS locations of nests, dead turtles, light disturbances, etc. If we find a dead Sea turtle, we try and take the morphometrical data depending on the condition of the carcass.

With a lot of luck one might see a Sea turtle nesting. And I guess that was a lucky day. We came across a nesting female! She was huge. I didn’t want to disturb her so I directed to switch off all the white-light torches. I turned on my red torch (rather a normal torch with a red plastic film on it; works equally well!). Sea turtles and a few other reptiles are known to be more tolerant of high frequency lights, which is orange to red. I took the reading (Garmin Vista ecX is goood!) and we left her to her tiring job. We completed the 4km long walk which includes answering all the queries by the turtle walk participants. The walk ended but the work didn’t.There are a few egg poachers around and with the tractor-like drag marks anybody can make out where the nest is. So, as a part of our duty, we went back and wiped out all the drag marks! We did our best to camouflage the nest and wished it good luck. That was one of my first such experiences and was truly amazing. The walk back at 01:00 am was quite tiring though.


One morning I had just finished taking temperature readings of the Draceana (Caiman lizards) enclosure and was passing by the counter office. Mr. Mohan (our accountant), was pretty excited when he said that one of our gatekeepers saw some Sea turtle hatchlings on the beach in the morning.


I immediately requested him to get hold of that guy and ask him to take me to the exact spot where he saw the hatchlings. I wanted to take a reading of the location on our GPS. This was immensely important for our survey. I came back in a flash with the GPS, note and a pen.

While walking towards the place, I was thinking of possibilities of seeing some of the hatchlings. We do have some light disturbances on that part of the beach. Some of them might have been disoriented due to this and must have headed towards wrong directions. I guessed that was the reason why that guy found some hatchlings in the morning. We reached the spot and sure enough we found a hatchling trapped / exhausted in the casuarina plantation. We started searching and found 5 dead and 4 live hatchlings. As the temperature rises it becomes difficult for the already exhausted hatchlings to survive. 

Two of the live hatchlings were trapped in a piece of abandoned fishing net. 

 We managed to released them all back in the bay. We searched for more but couldn’t find any.

I've been lucky enough to see Eretmochelys imbricata (Hawksbill sea turtle) on a couple of occassions. Unfotunately both were dead and had washed ashore.


We had one “celebrity” turtle walk. Participants were famous VJs from local channel (S.S. Music). They had some great luck. We took some rest after reaching half way. The walk was getting rather boring as we hadn’t seen anything so far. People were asking about probabilities of seeing something. I kept on saying “I can’t guarantee anything but there’s always a possibility”.

We had just started walking and our local guide Mohan shouted “Baby, baby. Baby turtle” He almost stepped on one!

“Baby! Wow! Search for more. Everyone spread out. Search for more hatchlings. Make sure you don’t step on one.”

One by one we collected 31 hatchlings. Now I wanted to search the nest (again for the GPS location). It took around 25mins to successfully lay our hands on the nest. I also wanted to count the number of eggs. So we dug out the nest and counted 71 eggs that had hatched out and 45 infertile eggs. In all 116 eggs! That is a big clutch from probably a big female. The photo on the left shows how the hatchlings instantly get attracted towards artificial lights, in this case it was my torch while I was making some notes.


 One morning my alarm (Casper) forced me to get up and go for a walk on the beach. I was still quite sleepy and could have done with at least 2 more hours of sleep. While walking towards South, I could see some House crows pecking at something. My eyes turned into binoculars and my mind was making the vague image clearer as we were closing towards it.

I shouted “Sea snake! And moving” and ran. I had to stop as Casper was following me. He’d be in big trouble (or anyone else in that case) if bitten by a Sea snake with very little information available about the venom and no anti-venom serum around. As expected, it was a Enhydrina schistosa (Hook-nosed sea snake); about 3ft in length, not very big for that species. You often come across awesome stuff and don’t have the camera with you; at least I do. I excitedly requested (if “Go, run and get the damn camera” is a request) Akanksha to get the camera, which she hurriedly did. 

I managed to get some good photos and then let it go back into the bay.

Apart from above I have seen dolphins playing very close to the beach once. (One more first for me!)

I am fortunate that I get to do and experience what once was no more than a dream for me. The greatest thing is that these experiences are part of my job and / or time-pass! It is truly great to be here.

I love my backyard bay. It’s awesome!


tank said...

soham i am very happy to know that u are doing an awesome job i want to come as well
can i ha can i ? please

adam-birdwatcher said...

hi, soham now you have expansion of vision and enriching your knowledge...well keep it up...we want to see you as our real snake freaker...yeah buddy..all the best.. God bless you(both)

Madhu Menon said...

Hi Soham, the time we had sent with you at the croc bank recently was after visiting your blog i recollect the beautiful time we spent together. Nisarg has started shifting his facination from snakes to croc now..the best thing in life is to get a chance to do what you love to do ( we both are equally lucky and happy)

Anonymous said...

Hi Soham

Doing a great job keep it up very happy for u God bless u both