This season M&DTW participated in the annual Flatback Turtle Census to collect information on the nesting and hatching turtles that call Avoid Island home. Avoid Island is a small island located off the coast of Qld between Carmila and Claireview, in the Flat Isles. It is owned and managed by Queensland Trust for Nature and is a permanent nature refuge for the animals that live there and visit. It is also one of the 3 largest Flatback rookeries in the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
While the Island’s beaches are very important for nesting turtles, the Island as a whole is an important nature refuge for countless birds, reptiles and insects. Many species of lizards, skinks and monitors call the island home, sometimes sharing the house with the human visitors! Birds are everywhere, from the kingfishers and swallows to the quails and shore birds, the island is home to many. Interestingly, it is thought that there may be no mammals on the Island with none being sighted or filmed on the various camera traps set up.
This season volunteers from Turtle Watch went over with QTFN staff for a two week period at the end of November/start of December to tag and record nesting turtles as they came ashore to lay their eggs. Despite some rainy weather that delayed the changeover of volunteers halfway through the census, it was a success with 51 nests marked and recorded on the Island. Six of these turtles were primary turtles which means they have not been seen or recorded previously on Avoid Island or any other monitored rookery (No tags or tag scars). There was one nest that hatched on Dec 1st indicating a very early nesting in October.
Most of the turtle work is done after dark leaving the daytime hours for catching up on sleep (hard in the heat!) and exploring the Island. There is a good reason it’s known as Avoid Island with rocks surrounding most of the coastline, low tide reveals many hidden dangers for boats. There are some very interesting rocks and cliffs along the North side of the Island and the view over to Red Clay Island is stunning, especially at sunrise.
After the mammoth efforts of the rain filled 2-week tagging and recording trip, a group of QTFN & Turtle watch members headed back in early February to conduct the hatching census on the marked nests and any other emerged nests that could be identified. This year we were unlucky enough to have a heatwave occurring at the same time so conditions were quite challenging but working in the
very early morning and into the evening made conditions manageable. In total the 51 marked nests plus another 26 were excavated and results of hatching recorded for the QLD Turtle Conservation Project database.
Avoid Island is a beautiful place, and despite the challenging weather conditions over the summer months, it’s invaluable for the animals that call it home and the humans that are fortunate enough to visit it and discover its many secrets.