Raine Island - Nature's Cradle on the Edge of the Coral Sea
Satellite Web Cast From Turtle Heaven and Hell
Journal Entry - 02- 01 - 03
Predator Day.

Dominance dance - The is just one of the posture adopted by the herons as they face off against each other at the site of an emergence, as they struggle for position both physical and within the hierarchy.
What else could you call the day. We spent the morning and early afternoon working the tiger sharks and the late afternoon and evening in the heron blind working for more definite material of the herons feeding on the turtle hatchlings.

Once again both species let us know they were here in a big way and more importantly in control of their destiny

A tiger shark.
We were again lucky after several days of strong tidal action to have another turtle float off the beach near the boat. We already had baits in the water and knew there were sharks about so we presumed it wouldn't long before a tiger found the turtle if they hadn't already. Richard and I put on our dive gear, grabbed cameras and slipped into the water. As it turned out there were three tiger sharks in the vicinity of the turtle: a small male, about 2.5 meters, and two larger females, one significantly larger. The females never fed on the turtle, only the male moved in and fed. Surprisingly even after it had fed it remained extremely wary.

A tiger shark eating a turtle.
Interesting behavior for an animal so powerful, if we were too close to the turtle the shark would move off into the gloom for a few minutes and then reappear to assess the situation, moving towards us and then deciding as it reached a point fiver meters from us that it really couldn't handle the pressure of these strange bubble blowing noisy creatures and veer off. It seemed to want to come face to face and really intimidate us but it just couldn't find the courage. It was only at the very end of our session when the shark moved in to feed aggressively that we were able to approach closely without disturbing it. Otherwise the fish controlled the scene underwater as they do in so many situations like these, deciding when to show up at the party and then when to leave early.

The Blind - Richard and Jeremy Hogarth (on left) working on the bird blind at 4:45. Still looks like 1 p.m. doesn't it? Hot as 1 p.m. as well.
We spent forty minutes in the water below the turtle working to get close enough to photograph and film the tiger at work. Richard captured some dynamic sequences and I managed to get close enough to get several reasonable shots of the tiger shark.

Late in the afternoon Richard and I retired to the heron blind, hoping against hope that we had chosen the right place to put the blind - somewhere near where one or two turtle hatchling emergencies would occur . We didn't! We watched as herons way off in the distance attacked hatchling emergencies and then to add insult to injury the on or two times the birds nearest us found a solitary hatchling it seemed to occur within a body pit depression where we couldn't capture it on film or tape. And then the offending heron would promptly take flight to escape its rivals. I am sure there sure there is even a karmic price to be paid for the documenting this sort of behavior with a camera but we'll deal with that later.

Flight - This heron has captured a hatchling and is escaping its rivals in the wing.
And then, two unknown disturbances one after the other caused fully 90% percent of the birds on the beach of take flight and not return. We were not able to figure out what set them off. It may have been that because there was so little hatchling activity that the birds gave up en mass responding to some silent cue, although I doubt this. They took to the air much too suddenly as if some unheard signal has been passed amongst the birds.

All in all, another frustrating but good one!

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