Friday, May 31, 2013

Ginger's telling of Nest #1

“We Have A Nest!”

It was Sunday, May 26, 2013, the day before Memorial Day.  John and some friends were taking the boat to Mason’s Inlet to go surfing.  He asked if I wanted to go, but I declined stating it was too cool and windy on the water for me; besides I had some dreaded shopping that I needed to do and did not want to spend Memorial Day doing that.

You can imagine my regret at declining John’s offer when I got his voicemail stating they had spotted a huge leatherback turtle in the ocean in front of Blockade Runner.

I called John back and asked detailed questions to which he had no, or vague, answers (such is the way with men).  Then, all of a sudden, an excitement came over me that I can’t explain.  I said, “John, I think that turtle is going to nest in zone 4 tomorrow morning on the day that we walk the beach!  I’m so excited I think I’m going to cry.”  (You see, the Blockade Runner is in zone 4 and that is the zone that John and I have been walking during our turtle walks for the last four years).

I spent the rest of the day feeling giddy and silly proclaiming that we were going to find a nest the next day.  I called Nancy, our sea turtle project coordinator, to inquire if anyone else had reported seeing the leatherback off our coast.  I told her that I was so excited that I couldn’t stand it and I thought the turtle would nest in our zone.  I said I realized what the odds were, but I felt as hopeful as I had ever felt!

I prepared our turtle monitoring gear and headed for bed, again, telling John how excited I was.  I watched the clock to make sure I put positive thoughts in the universe at exactly 11:11 (ones are meaningful for me, especially the sequence 111).  I asked (well, nagged) John to do the same, and he did.

After a night of excited and restless sleep, we arose at 5:10, donned our turtle nest tracking gear and headed across the drawbridge for Wrightsville Beach. 

On this morning, we chose to park at the north end of our zone because it is the access that is closest to Blockade Runner.  There was a chill in the air as we removed our flip flops to begin walking up access 32.  The sky was stunning in oranges and pinks, just before the sun revealed itself for the day(---what a dramatic entrance the sun makes each day—maybe we should all greet the day like the sun---).  Anyway, back to access 32... the sand was very cold beneath our feet.  In fact, I told John that my feet were beginning to feel numb and jokingly said that I didn’t know if I could walk the whole zone with numb feet.  John said, “Come on, you have to find your turtle nest.”

With that statement, my excitement returned; although, I realized we may not find tracks.  I took out the camera and did a photo shoot of the sunrise, picked up trash, took a picture of John walking under the moon, stopped and picked up more trash, and then I heard John say, “Giiingeerrrr!”  I lifted my head, turned around and looked at him and saw what he saw---the most amazing set of turtle tracks ever!!!! We followed them with our eyes right up to the disturbed sand that indicated a nest!!!!! 

No, they were not leatherback tracks, but I was not disappointed!  In fact, I could not contain myself.  There was so much energy pulsing through my body that I felt I was wiggling from head to toe!  I squealed and jumped and hugged John and just had a sea turtle fit!  I am not ashamed to admit it!  John kissed me and told me to call Nancy while he walked the rest of the zone.  

I called Nancy at 5:48AM to tell her the wonderful news.  I told her we had a nest and waited with eager anticipation for her response.  She said, 

“No you don’t!” 
“Yes, we do!” 
“Ginger, you are kidding.”
 “No, I’m not.  We have a nest!  It is not a leatherback—it’s a loggerhead, but we have a nest!”  

I was so giddy, I sat down and fell on my side in the sand, right there on Wrightsville Beach, under the moon and witnessed by the rising sun! 

Yes, we had a nest!

Nest #1 for Wrightsville Beach and nest #11 for North Carolina.  (look at all those ones—111).

In that moment, I felt connected to all things good, joyful and light.  I am thankful for that.

Then our friends came from their zones and celebrated with us because they had already heard the news as though it had been delivered by the ocean breeze.  Nancy, Dick, Linda, Dr. Doss, Chris, a new friend, Michelle and her husband John, my John and me—we all welcomed this nest to our beach.  We celebrated with the heavens, and with the oceans,  and with the earth!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

week 3 First Clean up for John and Ginger in zone 4. (5/20/13)

I did not sleep at all last night in anticipation of doing our first sea turtle nest walk of the season.  I was so hoping to find a nest!

It felt great to be back on the beach!  We had a beautiful sunrise, were able to watch dolphins play, AND we did not find that much trash!

We benefited from the help of fellow volunteer, Marsha Floyd.  Marsha lives out of town, but when she visits she walks at least half the beach every morning and picks up trash along the way.  See the photo for all the trash she had collected this morning.  Thank you Marsha.

We only found 26 cigarette butts, which is amazing!  Usually we only pick up a few of the cigarettes we see on our walk because there are so many that we don't have time to get them all.  However, this morning, we picked up every butt we saw and only found 27 in our whole zone!  That is a remarkable improvement!  I would say the smoking ban on Wrightsville Beach is effective in decreasing the amount of cigarette litter on the beach.  This makes me excited as less litter is always better.

Interestingly enough, we picked up three cigarette butts by the construction site at Oceanic Pier and lots of plastic bottles and construction debris.  Another volunteer has reported the same thing as far as more plastic bottles around the construction site.  My hope is to improve this by educating about the importance of cleaning up around the site, and especially as it relates to the coastal environment.

We will keep our fingers crossed that sea turtles who wish to nest at our beach will avoid Oceanic Pier until the construction is complete.  I would hate for a turtle to get tangled up in the construction equipment and plastic netting.

The great news about the construction is that Oceanic now has screens that should help reduce the amount of litter (straws, coasters, napkins, sugar packets, plastic stirrers, plastic mint wrappers,etc.) that blows from the restaurant tables.

Here is the total of our collected trash today (May 20, 2013):
26 butts
7 food wrappers (lots of cheese wrappers)
3 plastic lids
19 plastic straws/stirrers
1 plastic spoon
2 pieces of rope
1 balloon with string
1 string without balloon
4 pieces of construction related material
 3 plastic bottles
4 aluminum cans
3 plastic cups
2 socks (not matching)
5 toys


Monday, May 20, 2013

Friday, May 17, Zone 0

Friday, May 13 was my first day of monitoring zone 0, which is from Shell Island Resort north to the end of the inlet. For the past several years, I have been walking in zone 3, which includes Johnnie Mercer's Pier, and the scene on the less-frequented north end is quite different. It was a beautiful morning, and I picked up what was probably my smallest batch of litter ever.

The items I found included:
3 plastic cups (all of which were right in front of Shell Island resort)
3 plastic straws
1 handle from a plastic shovel
1 pair of sunglasses
1 candy bar wrapper
1 maxi pad
an assortment of indistinguishable bits of plastic
2 cigarette butts

Needless to say, these pieces of trash hardly even covered the bottom of my large reusable trash bag!

I enjoyed observing the nesting sea birds in the area, as well as some very interesting patterns in the sand.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

WBSTP and KIC teams with Ocean Conservancy in a pilot program!

fight trash
Dear loyal ocean supporter,

Every spring, mother sea turtles come ashore under the cloak of darkness to lay their eggs on the sandy beaches of North Carolina. And every morning, volunteers look for signs of these nesting sites so they can help monitor and protect them.

Yet on most of these sunrise beach walks, volunteers find more trash on the beach than sea turtle tracks.

It’s alarming, but not surprising, considering that more than 10 million pounds of trash were removed from our ocean and waterways during the 2012 International Coastal Cleanup.

While many man-made obstacles—from coastal development and artificial lighting to fishing and hunting—threaten sea turtles, trash is one threat that travels great distances and is present both on land and in the ocean. It is also entirely preventable.

By studying dead and stranded sea turtles, we’ve learned that they sometimes eat trash in the water—especially items like plastic grocery bags, which can resemble their favorite food: jellyfish. But we don't know much about how sea turtles interact with trash while coming ashore to nest.

That's why we're teaming up with the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project to pilot a new initiative that will put a cleanup data form in the hand of every volunteer monitoring the beach for sea turtle nests. The data they collect will tell us what kinds of items they picked up and, eventually, which stretches of beach are most likely to have trash items that could affect the health of the sea turtles that nest there.

While we’re excited about this new project, we also know that simply cleaning up trash isn't enough. In addition to endangering baby sea turtles on their way back to sea, ocean trash is a threat to our economy and our health. And unless we change our habits, it’s here to stay.

No matter how far you live from the ocean, you can make a difference by taking the pledge to reduce your trash impact.

I hope you’ll join me in the fight for a healthy ocean as we turn the tide on ocean trash.

Nick Mallos, Marine Debris SpecialistSincerely,

Nick Mallos
Marine Debris Specialist
Ocean Conservancy

Nancy Fahey Kicks off the KIC Season!

Nancy Fahey, WB Sea Turtle Project Coordinator,  kicked off the sea turtle nesting season, the KIC clean up season and her birthday all in one day on May 1, 2013.  Happy Birthday Nancy!

Although KIC volunteers work really hard to keep the beach clean of trash during the nesting season, Nancy pretty much does this on her own from May 1 - May 14th.  While riding her ATV, she stopped and collected over 26.5 bags of trash along the shore.

Here is a summary of her finds:
7 pieces of construction material including flagging tape
1 beach umbrella in the bag
11 balloons, some with strings attached
24 plastic bottles
22 plastic cups (including styrofoam b/c that is one of the worse kinds of plastic)
21 flip flops (some matching, some not)
22 toys
7 ziplock bags
2 diapers
28 cigarette butts (including 1 unsmoked pack)
8 articles of clothing (including sock pairs and boxers)
6 plastic bags (boo---let's get a bag ban or bag fee to reduce this product)
3 plastic lids
40+ aluminum cans (23+ in one day)
10 broken beach chairs
6 straws
7 glass bottles
3 bottle caps
8 shoes (some matching, some not)
9 tobacco related debris
7 fishing related debris (including 2 big wads of monofilament line)
1 purse with wallet and mobile phone which she turned into WBPD.
2 goggles
8 towels (plus 30 more left at Holiday Inn which an employee came to gather and took a picture to show the manager)
3 boogie boards

Thank you Nancy.
Come visit our beach mother sea turtles!