It is just over a year that I started as a Beachkeeper for Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire. This was the first time that the southern beaches of Bonaire were patrolled daily during an entire turtle nesting season. The data collected is crucial in understanding the importance of the island for sea turtle birthing.
The survey stopped last November, the end of nesting season. But the 2013 patrols have started again as I reported in Island Notes, Kickin’ Off The Season. It’s good to be back on the beach. No nest sitings for me yet, but another volunteer has already located two nests on Te Amo and Donkey Beaches near the airport. The season has begun.
Walking the same beach at the start of this second year has been great. It is like visiting an old friend. However, just like seeing a buddy after a time, things have changed. Places that were once full with sand have been eaten away from changing waves patterns and currents. This is especially true near Fishermen’s Hut where the beach erosion has come dangerously close to the structure’s foundation. Last year there was plenty of sand in front of the hut.
Even the color of the sand has changed. This year I’ve noticed appreciably more pink sand at water’s edge. It is stunning to look at in the early morning light. Scientists claim the pink color comes from a protozoan. You know, those one-celled wonders that we all had to stare at through high school microscopes? This specific one, Homotrema rubrum, is unabashedly red. When mixed with the sea gumbo of crushed shells, sea urchins and other backbone-less creatures of the deep, the blend makes for soft, rosy hue on the beach.
This year there are also some human influenced changes along the water line. A statuesque piece of handsome driftwood has been placed near Vista Blue. This exclamation point of a tree is a natural sculpture, perhaps a declaration of love, most certainly a totem pole tantrum. It relentlessly grabs my eye each time I walk by. There is also a stack of rocks that have appeared a hundred yards away. It seems that some divers needed a visual aid to mark their entry point so that upon dive’s return they could easily find their way back. It will be interesting to see how long before the ocean will eliminate these human creations.
Another change has been the absence of the kite surfer that used to carve up the waves at Kite Beach each Thursday at around 8am. I haven’t seen his lime green kite in the air yet this year. But heading home, a blue kite now flies above the water at Pink Beach. Maybe this year the early morning wave rider has changed gear and locations as well.
But much remains the same on the southern beaches. The usual tracks in the sand are there, indicators of birds and lizards, crabs and dogs, mice and men. And most of the avian players have appeared. Herons, ruddy turnstones, egrets, sandpipers and least, common and cayenne terns have all made an appearance. But my cartoon bird, the American oystercatcher, is yet to make an encore. This standup comic always makes me laugh, perched on one leg with yellow eyes and electric orange beak blazing in the sun. I look forward to his new jokes this season.
So it is uncommonly good to return to the sand again, to walk its ever-changing shores, to revel in its uncompromised beauty. I could go all season not finding a turtle nest and that would be all right by me. Don’t get me wrong. Finding a nest is thrilling. But I have also discovered that time spent walking the tide line is reward enough.