Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Rare and Exciting Encounter with Nature at its Best

 

Cudjoe Key, Florida (high 85, low72)

 

We’ve been taking advantage of good boating weather the past four days and have been out in the boat every day.

We try to take advantage of those rare days when we get them, but it looks like the run is over for awhile.  We will probably start packing up to leave.  It makes me sad to think about leaving the Keys, but we need to get back to Tampa to see my Mom before we head back to the mountains.

 

A few days ago, we were on the gulf side because it was too rough in the Atlantic.  We were heading to a shallow area we previously found that is nice for snorkeling.

On the way out,  we noticed something odd in the distance.  We wondered at first if it was just a buoy flopping around in the surf but the more we looked, the more it looked like a sea turtle.  It wasn’t behaving naturally and we were concerned that if it was indeed a turtle, it was in trouble.

We are not ones to let an animal suffer if we can help, so we headed to the object, all the while hoping it wasn’t what we thought it was.

This is what it looked like in the distance.  We could see the yellow color which made us think turtle.

 

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We both felt a sense of dread, wondering what we would find.  We have little to no phone or internet service out there and we didn’t know how to contact any of the local wildlife refuges.

The closer we got, the more certain we were that it was indeed a Loggerhead turtle.

Our first thought was that it was tangled in some fishing line or lobster traps.

Logger heads routinely weigh 250-400 pounds but they can get much larger.  

 

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It was struggling violently and appeared to be having trouble keeping his head above water to breathe. 

Turtles live underwater but have to surface for air.  They  normally come up for air every  4 to 5 minutes, but this turtle was over exerting himself and needed to breath more often.

 

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There was a lot of splashing, turning, flipping.  It appeared to be struggling to breathe.

 

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We debated what to do to help but could think of nothing with no cell service to call any of the wildlife rescue organization.

We didn’t think we would be able to cut any tangled lines due to the violent splashing we were seeing, but we drove closer to see what we could do.  Then discovered the most amazing thing.

There were actually two turtles!

You can see in the next picture that they were face to face and one appeared to be biting the face of the one on the right.  Turtles eat hard shelled lobsters, crabs and the like so they have some pretty good teeth and jaws.  We knew we couldn’t get in the middle of this….whatever it was.

 

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At this point we discussed whether they were mating, but they appeared to be stuck together nose to nose and they normally don’t mate from that end.  :)

 

 

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Then Al noticed that there was a board or something below them.  We assumed it was a crab trap and they were somehow both stuck to it.

Then during all the frolicking and splashing, we discovered there were actually three turtles.

Okay, NOW we understand.  This was a threesome and the “board” underneath them was a poor female that they were fighting over and about to drown in the process.

 

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We finally realized that one male was attached to the female who was underneath him and under water, while the two males were fighting on top of her.  We were really concerned the female would drown.

There wasn’t anything we could do, but eventually the female got away for a brief moment before being chased down and caught again by one of the big boys.

 

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We were worried about the female but kept telling ourselves this is probably normal turtle behavior and probably happens all the time. 

 

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After witnessing this mating ritual, I would be that a fair number of females are drowned in this violent act.

 

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We often see turtles when we’re out in the boat.  You usually see their head come up for air but as soon as they see you, they dive underwater.

These guys paid absolutely no attention to us and we were concerned a careless boater could easily run them down.

 

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You can see how close they were to our boat in these two pictures, but most of the photos were taken farther away with my super zoom lens.

 

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After we realized they were mating, we backed off and we enjoyed the rest of the show.

In the picture below I believe these two were the males because the female was a lot smaller.

 

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I think this is the female on the left and trying to get away.  Poor thing.

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The males finally separated but one male was standing by a few yards away while the other male and female were mating.

We wondered if the other male was waiting for another turn at the female.

 

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We watched at a distance for awhile and finally went on to do a little snorkeling.   They were still going at it when we left.  If the female didn’t become pregnant, it wasn’t for lack of trying!

 

We have been out on the ocean many, many times and have never seen such an amazing thing, but yesterday we again were lucky enough to see something else extremely unusual and equally as amazing!

Stay tuned!

You just never know what you are going to see in the Florida Keys!

 

 

Stay tuned to see we saw yesterday.  You’re not going to believe our luck.

15 comments:

  1. no how super cool was that to see...

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  2. That's really amazing, thanks for posting. I can't wait for the next thing you saw. What fun the keys are.

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  3. Truly a rare sight for sure, thanks for sharing.

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  4. Wow - sure glad I'm not that poor female turtle. But what a wonderful experience for you guys.

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  5. Great thing for you guys to witness first hand. Looking forward to what you saw yesterday.
    Kathy almost got too close to a couple of Manatee mating but did see the underwater action.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

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  6. WOWEE! That's amazing! What a blessing to be able to see nature like that!

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  7. I thought you had a G rated blog. Now I know differently... :cD

    Actually, an amazing sight, I bet there are all kinds of scientists that study turtles and have never seen this in person. Nice that you were in the right place at the right time!

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  8. Wow, just like a National Geographic special :) Cool that you caught all the action!

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  9. Nature is incredible for sure. Thanks for sharing, great photos!

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  10. What an experience... for you and sounds like for the turtles as well. Doubt if this is an everyday occurrence for humans to watch.... fascinating!

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  11. Wow, how lucky was that. Definitely something that not everyone gets a chance to see, especially in the wild. Very cool!

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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  12. Nature is AMAZING!!! Great photos!!

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  13. LOVE your header picture. Sure hope that gal enjoyed herself and made it out alive.

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