Fri, 5 Jul 2024

— Loggerhead & Hawksbill Turtles.

Please check out these blog postings every few days: I’m part way through my series of stories about each of the turtles I’m photographing, in parallel with my Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign to finish my upcoming book — I’m hoping to reach my goal in the next two weeks —  thanks in advance!

Doing a book on all the seven sea turtles of the world has presented many more challenges than I ever expected. Maybe I should have remembered that, if turtles out-survived so many other species in their tens of millions of years on this planet, it’s because they have pretty wily habits hidden under that carapace of apparent nonchalance.

Take the hawksbill, arguably the most elegant of them all, whose beautifully colored, semi-translucent shell plates have been sought by artisans for millennia to carve into delicate ornaments such as hairpins, jewelry and other adornments. It’s a testament to its secretive nesting habits that it has survived at all.

I’ve observed hawksbills only sparingly, always on beautifully colored tropical reefs, from the Maldives (Indian Ocean) to Bali (western Pacific), and Galapagos (eastern Pacific) to Florida (Atlantic Ocean). Each encounter has been precious, like meeting royalty, as the dainty turtles chomp on the most unexpected foods imaginable: sponges riddled with glassy spicules, or sea anemones loaded with millions of explosive stinging cells.

In Panama I was able to stalk Hawksbills surreptitious slipping into jungle-covered shorelines to hide their nests in the dense understory. Photographing them was like spying on some nocturnal thieves, placing my feet carefully as not to create the slightest thud or broken branch, using the absolute minimum amount of light, and then only from behind or once they had finished covering up their nests. 

As always, I was awed by their innate sense of what to do and how to do it, in order for another generation to survive.

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Loggerhead turtles, on the other hand, are not subtle at all. They are built like armored tanks, boxlike, heavy-boned and short-flippered. Their giant heads sport jaws so massively reinforced that that they can crush the hardest bottom dwelling invertebrates, even giant conchs. And they seem to know it too, lumbering heavily along the seafloor on stubby fins, unafraid. 

Unfortunately for them, loggerheads favor slightly cooler waters as well as more temperate nesting sites than their more tropical relatives.  That places the most important nesting beaches in direct competition with some of the hottest coastal development, such as the condominium-lined South Florida shores.

The wonderful thing is that loving sea turtles seems to be a contagious disease, easily transmissible through word of mouth and grassroots education programs, coupled with some county ordinances and active conservation groups working the beaches during the entire nesting season. 

It is truly heartwarming to see how windows and streetlights are shaded as much as possible along the Florida coast, to avoid confusing nesters and nestlings alike, who rely on the sea’s pale reflection for orientation. If only boaters would be willing to slow down to avoid the inevitable collisions when turtles come up for air, the loggerheads could breathe easier.

Still, I’m far from done with photographing both Hawksbills and Loggerheads, heading to Yucatan (Mexico) soon, and maybe Greece in the next few months.  And then there’s the rather mysterious Flatback turtle, who shares its range with giant saltwater crocodiles of northern Australia, and is found nowhere else. That, all being well, will be my next Christmas present… 

Stay tuned! Help me tell their story. 

As you can imagine, despite being very frugal in my travels, getting all the images for a complete ‘Sea Turtles of the World’ book is very costly. 

Please check out my Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign, especially the incentive gift rewards I’m offering… Plus many more photos and details. 

— I’m almost there, but it’s all-or-nothing — 

And remember to return to this blog site for more lively stories of individual turtle encounters in the days to come…

Thank You for your support!