Woodlands beach, Montserrat - ©Blanca Baranda

Not all that crawls on Montserrat is a mountain chicken… On a Friday night we went down to Woodlands Beach to watch the locals lay their eggs. The local turtles that is. There are four kinds of turtles that nest on the beaches of Montserrat; Leatherback, Green backed, Hawk’s Bill and the Loggerhead. The nesting period is July to September when they come out of the sea a few hours after sunset to bury their eggs in the sand.

Several tracks across the sand from the previous evening seemed very promising and we sat down to spy into the increasing darkness, waiting for the ladies to emerge from the sea. We waited. And we waited.  Then suddenly! A movement! A rustling among the rocks turned out to be an expecting turtle mama, digging her nest in the warm sand… She sure made an impression!She was digging fiercely with her front flappers, squirting sand over all of us.

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting in Montserrat - ©Blanca Baranda

Once the hole was big enough she layed her eggs, then began covering them up with here back flippers. After all of this she took a moment of rest, but the work was far from done. In order to get back to the sea, she had to find her way through no less than three holes dug by her sister nesters. It may be an easy task for say a mole, but for a turtle this size it is a quest! She was digging and digging, sending sand in all directions, but it seemed she was only getting deeper in. It was obvious how tired she was, taking deep breaths and resting her head on the ground from time to time. Would she make it? We started to worry, calculating her weight… maybe we needed to carry her to sea..? Luckily, turtles don’t give up that easy. After 45 minutes of shovelling she was finally on flat ground and started her wriggle towards the surf. Smiling from ear to ear we all crowded around her like a film star (trust us, if she’d done autographs, we’d taken them on our bellies). A few more steps and then the tide started carrying her away back home. We waved her good bye as she poked her head up once for some air before diving into the deep.

Jenny Liman & Blanca Baranda

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