Saturday, July 5, 2008

Keji 2008: Sponge Bobbie Squarejacket

June has come and gone, and interpretive programs are now in full-swing! June was a busy month with preparations for summer interpretive programs and Blanding’s turtles were nesting. These turtles are really neat in that once the females mature, they continue to go back to the same site to nest year after year. Volunteers and staff go out nightly for the month, and if a turtle is sighted and lays her eggs, the nest is protected from predators with an enclosure. Hatchlings will come out in the fall, and researchers will monitor the nests once again so that they can mark and release them. Watching the Blanding’s turtles nest was a unique experience. The turtles go into a trance once they start laying their eggs, and become oblivious to all else around them. They lay typically around 10 eggs, and the whole process takes a few hours. First, she digs a hole, then lays her eggs (each time she lays one, her head juts way out, then back into her shell to squeeze the egg out), then she covers the eggs and conceals the nest so that it is practically indistinguishable from the surrounding surface. Afterwards, people sit around the campfire with a beer and snacks, which sometimes happens at a pretty late hour depending on when the turtles have finished nesting for the night.
I took a canoe training course – a level B certification is necessary for doing interpretive paddles. It was a fun day of practicing different strokes and movements in the canoe. The best part was the canoe rescue and in-water portion of the course. If a canoe is submerged, one of the methods to get it to shore is to get in it, full of water, and paddle back, which was a lot of fun! Only, I didn’t realize how large my PFD was, and after I jumped out of the canoe, the back part went right up over my head so that from behind, I looked like a relative of Sponge Bob… Sponge Bobbi Squarejacket!
My first Snake n’ Bake, Shell Raisers and Pirates of the Kejimkujik went smoothly, and the rest of the summer is looking promising. Snake n’ Bake is a hike on snakes of Nova Scotia, with an emphasis on the threatened ribbon snake. Shell Raisers is a paddle on turtles of Keji, with a focus on Blanding’s turtle research, and finally Pirates is a kids paddle (we sing YO HO, YO HO, A PIRATES LIFE FOR ME as loud as we can, or at least we try to get the kids to sing along!)
I’ve been out with researchers, learning more about their turtle and ribbon snake research. There was one day I went for a paddle with a turtle researcher doing GPS logging. We had gone up a brook and reached a point where logs were blocking our progress. I hopped out, and when it was time to get back in… I ended up teetering and falling into the brook – well, it was refreshing anyhow!
Recently, we had a big event at Keji – Blanding’s turtle release day! With over 200 people, the media and important people from all over, I ended up being part of the camera and bbq crew. I swear, I’ve never cooked so many burgers or hotdogs in my life! I was throwing hamburgers on the grill like Frisbees and yelling out “who wants hot dogs!!” to the mile-long line up for food! Turns out most people prefer hamburgers… The event was to celebrate the release of 34 Blanding’s who had been captively reared for the last 2 years (given lots of food and warmth to increase their growth and consequently their survival rates). We’ll be keeping track of their progress with radio transmitters over the summer.
I had a lovely weekend with my aunt Diane – we started off at old friends, the Kidson’s organic farm in Centreville, stayed overnight on their refurbished sailboat in the Dartmouth harbor right by the ferry terminal, toured Halifax, Peggy’s Cove and Hubbards. We visited my grandfather’s grave, shopped at Mountain Equipment Co-op and the market, sat at caf├ęs sipping lattes, drove along the coast to Hubbards, strolled around Peggy’s Cove, and rode the ferry across the harbor with a gorgeous sunset, it was quite the weekend!