Friday, January 7, 2011

Turtle (and Bird and Monkey) Watching in Nicaragua

We’re on Day Five in magical Nicaragua and we’ve encountered a lot of exotic tropical animals and flowers so far.

Yesterday we left the Island of Ometepe, made up of two connected volcanoes in gigantic Lake Nicaragua.  We sailed to the mainland and drove to San Juan Del Sur where, after driving about half an hour on an unpaved dirt road, we reached our friends’ villa on the beach called Playa del Coco.

Last night we watched a magnificent sunset as tiny hermit crabs scurried on the beach, leaving tracks like a zipper’s teeth.  

This morning the big excitement was when a sea turtle—I believe her species is called Olive Ridley-- landed on the beach and began plodding in to lay her eggs in the sand.

The men who are security guards for this complex of villas are also the turtle police, I discovered. 

They make sure no one gets close enough to the turtle to scare her, and once she digs a nest and lays her eggs and leaves, they will take the eggs to an incubator and keep them safe for forty days until they are ready to hatch. Then they’ll put them back in the nest to hatch and crawl back into the water. 

(I learned in Greece that the walk from the nest to the water is the most dangerous part of baby turtles’ life—they are often eaten by birds—but if you lift the turtles and carry them to the water, they will drown, because they need to develop their muscles on the trek to the water.)

Anyway, this lady turtle,( let’s call her Olive),  was watched from afar by us and the turtle police, (talking to each other by walkie talkies).  They pointed out that she had a chunk out of her shell because she had been bitten by a shark, but was fine anyway.

Unfortunately,  after finding a place for her nest, she was approached by a bird which evidently changed her mind,  and she  staggered slowly back to the water to perhaps  come up on another beach farther down  Olive was a bit off in her timing.  In August and September these turtles  storm ashore in flotillas of 3,000 or more at a time, completely covering the beach—according to  Lonely Planet, Nicaragua.  I just hope that Olive found a safe place to lay her eggs off season.

Yesterday, on the dirt road to Playa del Coco, we encountered some Mono Coco, which our hosts translated as Howler Monkeys. I didn’t hear them howl but was delighted to get a photo.

While still on La Isla de Ometepe we followed a path into the jungle looking for monkeys, but only encountered this baby pig.

 We also had fun eating in the excellent restaurant at Villa Paraiso--our resort of charming thatched-roof casitas--watching the large crested blue birds called Urraca perched near by, waiting to steal our food.  
One of them hopped on a nearby table, expertly removed the Saran wrap cover to the sugar bowl and dove in, evidently working up to a sugar high judging by the loud caws and various begging noises uttered as they begged for more food.  (My computer translates the Urracha as Magpies but I don’t believe it, since Magpies are black and white.  Can anyone tell me the English language name of these birds?)

Here is a photo of a dead fish I found on the beach this morning.  I thought it made a nice design.

Now I’m going out to explore the tide pool.


lactmama said...

you have a great eye, I loved the photos. All I could think of when seeing the clouds and sunset was that these clouds are not schmutz (dirt) as are many similar ones that hover over my city most days.

And nice that the monos did not come over and open your bolsita and steal from you.

Keep posting, that fans enjoy the action. besos

Unknown said...

Great pictures and description!
I am ready for Nicaragua. You are a good ambassador Joan!!!

Anonymous said...

That blue bird is a White-throated Magpie Jay (Calocitta formosa).

You can read more here:

I think urraca should not be the spanish name for that bird though.
I am nicaraguan :)

by Joan Gage said...

Thanks so much for this helpful comment!